English food at its best is hearty, simple, delicious fare, with the food and cooking of England developed to feed the colonial empire, which in its time influenced the rest of the world. The food and cooking of England is steeped in history and heritage, and the modern face of British food presents a dynamic and thriving cuisine.
A Brief HistoryThe Invaders
Since ancient times English food has been influenced by foreign invaders. First the Vikings, then the Romans and even the French brought to the English table a melting pot of ingredients and foods.
The invasion of the Franco-Normans brought spices of saffron, mace, nutmeg, pepper, ginger and sugar. Medieval English cookery abounds with recipes containing the exotic fare. The route of these ingredients can be traced to the modern day in traditional recipes such as Plum Pudding (Christmas Pudding), Christmas Cake and Hot Cross Buns.
For centuries the English aristocracy ate only French food as a source of distinction from the peasants.
The British Empire
The British Empire’s colony in East Asia brought tea back to England, and in return the English took it to India another colonial outpost. From India came the English obsession with curry, spicy sauces and condiments which now are an intrinsic part of English cuisine.
Much damage was inflicted on English cookery throughout two world wars; the war effort used up all available goods and services, leaving little for private consumption. During the Second World War food rationing of the most basic ingredients - meat, sugar, butter and eggs - continued until early into the 1950’s. It is from these years that England gained a reputation for poor cooking and became a gastronomic joke worldwide.
Food TodayThough it has taken many years, that joke is now forgotten as England has regained its reputation for some of the finest foods, best chefs, and renowned restaurants.
Throughout England today there is a massive resurgence of traditional foods, recipes and cooking, using wherever possible locally produced, seasonal foods.
Food TraditionsEnglish food traditions are many and varied. Who has not heard of its National Dishes, Afternoon Tea, The Full English Breakfast, Sunday Lunch and the tradition of the great British Pub; the inclination to drink ones beer in the evening in the company of others.
Favourite DishesEngland boasts no less than three national dishes. Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings and Fish and Chips, but argument rages within its shores over the third, Chicken Tikka Masala. Some say this is the new national dish; one that has evolved from the extensive ethic migration into the country from India and Pakistan. It is most certainly an English favorite.
British puddings are renowned, often steamed or baked as in Spotted Dick and served with custard, they are the perfect dish on a wet, winters' day. But, puddings are not always sweet. Steak and Kidney Pudding and Yorkshire Pudding are most certainly savory.
Pies and Pasties are another English favorite, again sweet and savory. Pork Pies, Steak Pies, Cornish pasties were all created for ease of carrying and eating when farm workers were in the field. No pasty, however, is complete without a dollop of English pickled onions or chutney.