Can you guess what the most popular food in Britain is?
You may have several ideas about typical British food, all of which are probably right, but the most popular dish in Britain at the moment is… curry!
This is a spicy dish, made with meat, fish or vegetables, cooked with crushed spices. It has countless variations and degrees of ‘heat’, depending on how much chili pepper you use. One of the finest dishes, and one that is frequently ordered in Indian restaurants in the UK, is chicken tandoori. The chicken is marinated for several days in yogurt and spices and then cooked in a sealed tandoor oven.
Fish and chips may have been the meal which came to mind when you thought of British food. They are the most popular ‘fast food’ in Britain. Fish and chip shops first appeared at the end of the 19th century and since then the dish has been a firm favorite, especially in seaside towns where fresh fish is readily available. A piece of white fish – usually cod, haddock or plaice – is first dipped in a batter made from flour, eggs and water and then deep fried in hot fat. Chips are made from thick batons of potato and deep fried. Salt and vinegar are then added according to taste. Fish and chips are served over the counter wrapped in paper – at one time newspaper was always used – and the experts say they always taste best eaten straight from the paper!
The best-known British dish eaten at home is roast beef, traditionally eaten on Sunday. The dish used to be so popular that the French still refer to the British as ‘les rosbifs’! Roast beef is served with roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy – a sauce made from meat juices and stock, thickened with flour. Yorkshire pudding – batter baked in hot fat in the oven – is a favorite accompaniment to roast beef.
Afternoon tea is an institution – in fact, tea at any time of the day is the drink of choice for a large percentage of the population. Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, is reputed to have thought up the idea of afternoon tea in the early 1800s to stave off hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. There are few towns without at least one tea shop and all manner of sandwiches (slices of bread with various fillings in-between). Scones with jam and cream, and delicious cakes, are served to accompany tea in tea-shops and hotels throughout the land.
As for the drink itself, tea is traditionally brewed in a china tea pot, adding one spoonful of tea per person and one for the pot. Freshly boiled water is then poured onto the leaves and the tea is left to ‘brew’ for a few minutes. Although hundreds of different teas are available, the strong English Breakfast blend is one of the favorites, with added milk, and a little sugar for those with a sweet tooth.
For recipes and articles about British food visit the What's Cooking Britannia or Helen's British Cooking web sites.