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Life in Britain

Food and Drink

CLICK HERE LEARN MORE ABOUT BRITISH BEER

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE FAVOURITE BRITISH DRINK - TEA!

 

'Tea-time' in a typical British home: scones, cakes (including FLAPJACKS), and, of course, lots of tea! If you would like to read the George Orwell essay on 'how to make the perfect cup of tea' click here ...

 

Although Britain doesn't have the best of reputations for its food,  the people of Britain do in fact enjoy an enormously varied diet. And, although, its cuisine might not be world-renowned it would be a mistake to completely ignore its delights. This page attempts to give the reader an insight into the British diet, way of eating, and includes a few traditional recipes you might even want to try and make yourself. I can whole-heartedly recommend the 'Banana and Carrot Cake' washed down with two or three cups of  tea!

Here are some excerpts from the works of C. S. Lewis describing many of the typical ingredients of a British diet:

"and immediately, mixed with a sizzling sound, there came to Shasta a simply delighful smell. It was one he had never smelled in his life before, but I hope you have. It was in fact, the small of bacon and eggs and mushrooms all frying in a pan"  THE HORSE AND HIS BOY

"She had a vague impression of dwarfs crowding around the fire with frying pans rather bigger than themselves, and the hissing and delicious smell of sausages, and more and more sausages. And not wretched sausages half full of bread and soya bean either, but real meaty, spicy ones, fat and piping hot and burst and just the tiniest bit burnt. And great mugs of frothy chocolate, and roast potatoes and roast chestnuts, and baked apples with raisins stuck in where the cores had been, and then ices just to freshen you up after all the hot things"              THE SILVER CHAIR

"Mrs. Beaver broght out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out"  THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE.

Sunday lunch in the 1960's!!! Most British families still spend Sundays in exactly the same manner as there parents and grandparents ..

 Traditionally many Britons have started the day with something called a 'full English Breakfast'. This typically comprises of the following things: toasted bread, spread with butter, jam, marmalade or honey; followed by a 'fry-up' or cooked breakfast of fried bread, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, eggs and tomatoes. Served with hot tea, with milk added. However, with todays fast lifestyle and an increasing awareness of healthy eating this traditional breakfast is now largely eaten only at the weekend, and has been replaced by another in most British households.  A typical modern breakfast comprises: fruit juice, toast and jam, packet cereal (cornflakes or similar), and tea .

In some households and workplaces this is followed by something called 'elevenses'. This consists of a cup of tea or coffee and some biscuits. Actually 'elevenses' can be taken at anytime of the day, and with most Britons this is usually fairly often! 

'Lunch', can be anytime between 12.30 and 2pm. Some people might have a sandwich, while others will have a full-cooked meal. In schools this meal is referred to as 'dinner'.

'Tea' is served at any time between four and five o'clock and for the majority of the population is a cup of tea, a sandwich or two and some cake. Some families, notably from the working classes, have their main evening meal at this time.

'Dinner' is the usual name for the main evening meal. It can be served anytime between 6pm and 8pm and for most families is the biggest meal of the day. What constitutes a typical dinner is discussed later on this page.

'Supper' is the final meal of the day, and is usually something very light like a sandwich and a cup of tea. Nowadays this meal is usually eaten in front of the television!

Before going to bed many Britons drink a drink made from hot milk. Usually either plain boiled milk, chocolate, or 'Horlicks'/'Ovaltine' (two brand-name drinks made from Barley and Malt).

On Sundays people don't usually have to work so they take the opportunity eat together with their family. Sunday lunch is usually the best meal of the week and many of the meals which are considered typically British are eaten for Sunday lunch. A typical meal  might be eaten between 1pm and 2pm and include roast beef and yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, boiled vegetables, and gravy (meat sauce). However, many families now  eat less beef, so other roast meat is often eaten - lamb, pork, chicken, turkey or duck. Some families will also follow the main meal with a desert such as 'apple pie and custard'.

 

        

Apple Pie and Custard                  Mince Pies                       Haggis from Scotland                      Biscuits         

TRADITIONAL RECIPES

SAVOURY DISHES

Great British 'Fry-Up' Fried Breakfast

Serves: 4

Ingredients
8 pork and leek sausages
2 tomatoes - cut in half
1 tin of baked beans
8 rashers smoked back bacon
4 field mushrooms
6 organic eggs, cracked into a bowl
thick sliced bread for toasting
a knob of butter for toast
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Method
Preheat grill to high, set the oven to 100C and put in 4 plates.

Using a nice large tray put the sausages, tomatoes (cut side up) and mushrooms under the grill, about 5cm from the heat and cook for around 15 mins, turning the sausages once or twice. After this time add to the tray the bacon and black pudding and leave until the bacon is cooked and crispy.

Put the baked beans in a saucepan and warm gently.

Put a non-stick frying pan on a low heat. Add a knob of butter and the eggs with some salt and pepper and stir gently until just scrambled and cooked.

Put the bread down in the toaster, arrange the eggs, sausages, tomatoes and beans with the bacon and mushrooms on the plates and when the
toast pops up, serve with tomato ketchup, HP sauce, Worcester sauce and a pot of tea.

WELSH RAREBIT

A quick and tasty supper dish from Wales.

Preparation and cooking time: 5 minutes.

2 slices of bread

50g cheese, grated

1 teaspoon mustard

2 teaspoons soft butter or margarine

a dash of Worcester sauce

 

Toast the bread on one side. Turn it over and toast until the bread crispens but is not yet brown. Meanwhile, mash the cheese, mustard and butter/margarine together. Spread them over the toast and sprinkle with some Worcester sauce. Grill for 2 minutes until bubbling and brown. Serve immediately.

 

BUBBLE AND SQUEAK

 The name of this dish refers to the sound it makes while cooking. This recipe can be modified by substituting the brussel sprouts with any left-over vegetables you might have in the kitchen (boiled cabbage, carrots, leeks, brussel sprouts etc.). This dish is perfect with 'HP' brown sauce - another British culinary tradition! 

Preparartion time:10 minutes + 30 minutes cooking.

1kg potatoes

500g brussel sprouts, thinly sliced

2 onions, finely chopped

Celery

250g bacon

6 tablespoons thick cream

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon mixed herbs

the juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper

 

Boil potatoes, until soft. Mash the boiled potatoes, and while the potatoes are jot, add butter and cream and mix well. Meanwhile, fry bacon until crisp and remove them from the pan. Add onions to pan and saute until soft. Add celery, herbs, salt and pepper, and brussel sprouts and saute for a further 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, and then combine vegetables with mashed potatoes. Refridgerate for 2 hours. Shape potato mixture into 10 patties, and heat some oil in a pan. Add patties and cook until brown and crispy. Crumble bacon on top and serve immediately.

 

WEST COUNTRY ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP

A popular filling soup from the counties of Devon and Cornwall.

Preparation time: 20 minutes + 30 minutes cooking.

1 kg root vegetables, e.g. leeks, carrots, parsnips, onions, turnips and potatoes, diced.

600 ml water

salt and pepper

 

Put the vegetables and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover tightly and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Mash some of the vegetables against the side of the pan to thicken the soup. Season well before serving.

 

SOMERSET BIRD IN A POT

A delicious dish from the picturesque county of Somerset in the west of England.

Preparation time: 25 minutes + 1.5 hours cooking.

1 leek, sliced

2 turnips, sliced thinly

2 carrots, sliced

2 parsnips, cut into 8

1 swede, diced

1 kg chicken or duck

50g softened butter

a good pinch of dried mixed herbs

1 chicken or vegetable stock cube dissolved in 300ml boiling water.

8 garlic cloves, whole

2 tablespoons oil

salt and pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 190c. Put the vegetables into a large casseroile dish, and place the bird on top. Mix the butter with the mixed herbs and place half of the mixture in the bird's cavity. Dot the rest of the butter mixture over the bird and vegetables. Pour the stock over the bird and vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Put the garlic cloves amongst thee vegetables. Cover and cook for one hour. Turn the oven up to 220c, uncover, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. Serve with roast potatoes and bread.

 

HAGGIS

"But if ye wish her grateful prayers, give her a haggis!" Robert Burns

Haggis is a purely Scottish dish, and is typically served on 'Burns night', 25th January, when Scotland celebrates the birth of its greatest poet, Robert Burns, who was born in Ayrshire on that date in 1759. The haggis is quite simply a large boiling sausage stuffed with a variety of meat and oatmeal, flavoured with onion and seasoning. The following is a completely traditional recipe from Inverness, and is therefore not the simplest recipe for beginners to follow!

Preparation time: 1 hour + 3 hours cooking.

1 sheeps pluck (stomach)

500g minced lamb

1 sheeps liver, chopped finely

1 sheeps heart, chopped finely

2 onions, chopped

1 large egg

175g fine oatmeal

150ml stock (vegetable or beef)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt and pepper

 

Wash stomach well, rub with salt and rinse. Remove membrane and excess fat. Soak in cold salted water for three hours. Turn the stomach inside out prior to stuffing. Boil the liver and heart and parboil the onions. Fry the minced lamb until lightly brown. Add the oatmeal to the pan and continue to fry until it too turns to a light brown colour. Mix all the ingredients together. With the rough surface of the sheeps' stomach outside fill it with the mixture, pressing it down to remove excess air. Leave some space for the expansion of the oatmeal during cooking. Sew the ends of the stomach together with a trussing needle and fine string. Prick the haggis in several places so that it does not burst. Place the haggis on a heatproof plate and put it into a large pan of boiling water. Boil slowly for 3 hours, adding extra water as necessary. Serve with fried potatoes, vegetables, and Scotch whisky! 

 

CHEESE AND ONION PIE

A tradition filled pastry pie. Some families, in the north of England, add potatoes to this recipe. Serve with chips (french fries) and baked beans in tomato sauce.

600 g Cheddar Cheese, grated

4 large onions, chopped

Pastry for upper and lower crusts.

Salt and pepper

 

Boil onions in a little water. When transparent, drain, saving the liguid for later. Mix grated cheese into the hot onions. If mixture seems a little dry, add a little of the reserved stock (the remainder can be frozen for use as soup stock at a later date). Divide pastry in two, roll out and line an 8 inch plate with one half. Spoon mixture into the unbaked pie shell and cover with other round of pastry. Press edges together and brush with 2 tablespoons of milk. Bake at 190c until shell is golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

CHEESE, LEEK AND BACON WELSH CAKE 

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients
Oil for frying
75g streaky bacon, chopped
1 leek, chopped
225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
50g butter
50g cheese, crumbled
6 large eggs
butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 180degreesC/Fan 160degreesC/350F/Gas Mark 4. Add a teaspoon of oil to a frying pan, add the bacon and cook for 3-4mins or until pale golden. Add the leek and cook for a further 2mins. Cool. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the cheese and cooled leeks and bacon.

Beat two of the eggs and stir enough egg into the flour mixture, to make a soft dough. Lightly knead then cut in half. Roll each half out to a 13cm/5 in circle and cut into quarters.

Place a griddle or heavy frying pan over a medium low heat, add four Welsh cakes at a time and cook for 4-5mins or until the base is golden. Turn over and cook for a further 3-4mins. Place on a baking sheet. Cook the remainder in the same way. Bake for 5 mins whilst you prepare the eggs.

Heat 30ml/2tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan, crack in the remaining eggs and fry for 2-3mins or until cooked to your liking. Split the warm Welsh cakes in half, spread with a little butter and top with a fried egg.

 

SWEET DISHES

BANANA AND CARROT CAKE

In Yorkshire this cake is often served buttered!

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 1 hour cooking.

125g self-raising flour

75g ground rice

125g caster sugar

125g soft butter or margarine

2 eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons milk

a pinch of nutmeg

a pinch of cinnamon

1 banana, chopped finely

250g carrots, grated

 

Preheat the oven to 180c. Beat together the flour, ground rice, sugar, butter/margarine, eggs and milk. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Grease a 1kg loaf tin and line it with baking parchment. Spoon the cake mixture in, levelling the top of themixture once it is in the tin by tapping it sharply. bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until the skewer into the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool. Cut into slices and eat!

 

BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING

Popular throughout England. Sometimes served with custard.

Preparation time: 5 minutes + 30 minutes cooking.

10 slices of white bread

25 - 50g butter

2 tablespoons marmalade or jam

300 ml milk

2 eggs, beaten

 

Preheat the oven to 180c. Butter each slice of bread and place half of the slices in a pie dish. Cover with marmalde (or jam) and top with the other slices of bread, butter-side up. Beat together the milk and eggs. Pour them over the bread slices and push the slices down into the milk and egg mixture. Cook for 30 minutes, until well risen and brown.

 

BARA BRITH (Welsh Fruitcake)

The perfect accompliment to a cup of tea!

Cooking time 45 - 55 minutes.

300 g mixed dried fruit (currants, raisins, cherries)

2 cups of hot tea

375 g self-raising flour

1 egg

70 g brown sugar

grated rind of 1 lemon

1 level teaspoon of mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)

 

Soak the mixed dried fruit in 2 cups of hot tea, cover and let stand overnight. Strain the fruit, saving the liquid. Add the brown sugar, grated grind of a lemon, mixed spice, egg, and self-raising flour to the fruit. Add the liquid a bit at a time until the mixture is soft, dropping consistency. Pour into a greased brown paper lined 1 kg (2lb) loaf tin and bake at 190c for 45 - 55 minutes until firm to the touch.

 

FLAPJACKS

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 20 minutes cooking.

125g dark-brown soft sugar

125g soft butter or margarine

1 tablespoon golden syrup

175g porridge oats

 

Preheat the oven to 190c. Melt the sugar, butter/margarine and syrup together. Stir in the porridge oats. Grease an 18 x 28 cm tin and spoon in the mixture. Press the mixture down into the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. When cooked, leave in the tin but mark into 12 portions and leave to cool. When cold, the flapjacks should have crisped up sufficiently so you can remove them from the tin.

  

 

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