Cuisine in UK & Ireland
Cuisine in UK and Ireland can seem like a series of cryptic and hard to solve riddles – what with dishes named toad in the hole, bangers ‘n’ mash, haggis and bubble and squeak. But, look beyond the quirky and confusing names and the bad rep (undeservedly, we may add) it has received from its more culinary-savvy European neighbors and you will notice a cuisine that is wholesome and hearty. British cuisine has had a makeover of sorts over the past 20-odd years, a resurgence, if you may, thanks to the efforts of world-renowned British chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsey, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Tom Aikens.
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Traditional British cuisine is comfort food at its best and the perfect example of this is the ‘full English breakfast’ (or Scottish, Irish or Welsh, depending on which country you are in) or ‘fry up’ as it is locally called consisting of fried eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, black or white pudding, toast and tea or coffee. An island nation, fish and other seafood form a big part of the country’s diet. The ever-popular fish and chips is one of the most-loved takeaway foods in the country and is best enjoyed the sea side along with a chilled glass of beer.
London is a stellar showcase of cuisines from all over the world but for a quintessentially British experience, indulge in a charming afternoon tea session, first introduced by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford in 1840, at one of the many posh hotels in the city. Sip on exquisite teas served in fine china cups and snack on light-as-air scones, dainty sandwiches, and decadent pastries.
The UK and Ireland are big on traditions and customs with food strongly tied to religious events and celebrations. Hot cross buns (yes, from the nursery rhyme!) are had on Good Friday, and the Simnel Cake, a light fruit cake made with almond paste and topped with a circle of marzipan eggs is popular during Mothering Sunday, a holiday celebrated a few weeks before Easter. Christmas dinners feature roast turkey served with stuffing, gravy and roast potatoes, along with traditional desserts such as Christmas pudding and trifles. Sundays call for the ‘Sunday Roast’ which is roast beef, pork, lamb or chicken served with its matching sauces and relishes.
Inspired by the Empire
Britain’s cuisine is strongly influenced by its colonial history and you can trace the roots of many of the country’s dishes to Commonwealth countries. Adopted from China and Sri Lanka, tea is now very much a British tradition. India’s strong influence is seen throughout the country’s many fusion dishes – from spicy chutneys to delicately flavored and peppery mulligatawny soups to the popular kedgeree, a breakfast dish made with fish, rice, hard-boiled eggs and flavored with curry powder. So deep is the subcontinent’s influence on local cuisine that it is widely believed that chicken tikka masala was invented in Glasgow, Scotland and curry is now considered to be the national dish of Britain!
Here are some of the region’s most popular and unique dishes.
- Haggis – a Scottish savory pudding made from sheep’s heart, lungs, liver, oatmeal, onions, and spices.
- Bangers and Mash – is what the British call sausages and mashed potatoes.
- Welsh Cawl – a hearty soup with pieces of bacon and lamb and chunks of cabbage, potatoes, and leek.
- Sticky Toffee Pudding – is a sponge cake drenched in toffee sauce and served with vanilla ice cream and custard.
- Cornish Pasties – is a baked pastry stuffed with diced beef, potato and swede (a root vegetable that is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage).
- Yorkshire Pudding – is a baked pudding made from eggs, flour, and milk and is served with a meat dish and some gravy.
- Shepherd’s Pie – is a minced red meat pie cooked in a gravy and topped with a generous layer of mashed potatoes and baked in the oven
- Scotch Eggs – is a whole soft or hard-boiled egg that is wrapped in sausage meat, dipped in a coating of bread crumbs and baked or deep fried
- Eton Mess – Strawberries dunked in broken meringue served with a generous slathering of whipped double cream
- Crumpets – is a soft and crumbly griddle cake, best eaten warm with jam during afternoon tea.
- Irish Stew – is a hearty soup made with a combination of meats and vegetables including lamb, mutton, potatoes, onions and other ingredients.
- Irish Soda Bread – is a crusty bread found across Ireland that is an integral part of the St.Patrick’s Day meal
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