Many small towns and regions boast their own sausages, ie the beloved "banger", named from the sausages made during the ration period after World War I, when the content of sausages included so much fat that, when heated, the sausage skin burst.
The English are very good at combining cheap, simple ingredients to maximise flavours and make a little go a long way, but sophisticated flavours are also very much part of English food. With Roman influences and England’s own vast empires; the English used herbs and spices from all over the world (rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, pepper and mustard seed are favourites).
"Meat and three veg" originated in the UK, with dishes like classic roast beef, beef wellington, steak and kidney pie, jugged hare and many more. Many quintessential English dishes often make good use of secondary cuts of meat, such as brawn, shanks and pig's ears or trotters. Dishes made with leftover meat are adored – bubble and squeak and shepherd’s pie are just a couple of examples.
"Nursery food" or "comfort food" is much loved by the English and puddings are a highlight. The term "pudding" includes a vast range of dishes and products that have little to nothing in common. The oldest type of pudding, coming from the French word "boudin" is pudding in skins, most famously black pudding – England’s blood sausage that's a component of the hearty English breakfast. Puddings boiled in cloth proved easier to boiling in skin, such as Christmas pudding which still adorns many festive tables. The tradition of dripping pan pudding is kept alive by the Yorkshire pudding, although modern Yorkshire pud is baked in the oven rather than with the batter sitting in a toss-pan under the spit of roasting meat.
In England, no meal is complete without dessert, often a bread and butter pudding is key. It’s a delicious winter warmer with the added virtue of being cheap to make, and in this "waste-not-want-not" culture, it’s a handy use of stale bread. Chilled berry puddings like the vibrant summer pudding are a variation on a similar theme – again relying on stale bread to soak up the tart and sweet flavours of the fresh berry juices and coulis.
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This dish is a wonderful way of using up leftover meat. Alice’s recipe has a few additions to add extra flavour, like a dash of soy sauce for saltiness, cider for a little sweetness and lemon zest for a slight tang. As well as leftover meat, Alice says you can add other leftovers from the fridge such as peas, gravy and leeks. Topped with creamy mashed potato that forms a crispy crust when baked, this dish is delicious at any time of the day.
A rollmop is traditionally a pickled herring that is rolled up, usually around a pickled cucumber or onion, secured with a toothpick and eaten as an appetiser or as part of a light meal.
Originally known as "hydropathic pudding" this 19th century dessert is said to have been served at health spas and resorts as an alternative to the less healthy pastry desserts. It has become a very popular, classic English pudding as it is easy to make, it uses up slightly stale bread and makes the most of the rich colour and tangy flavours of delicious summer berries. For an added burst of flavour, chef Matthew Kemp cooks his berries with a touch of mint.
The beer batter in this recipe gives a beautifully crisp coating that not only helps steam the fish, it also keeps it moist during frying. Make sure you buy firm, thick, white fish fillets such as flathead. The secret of the best chips is in the double cooking! It's also a good idea to use a variety of potato that has a low water content.
Sean Connolly's recipe for this British classic is just lovely. The meat becomes tender and full of flavour and the puddings act as little cups for the gravy, which is made with a good pinot. Yorkshire puddings were traditionally served as a filler before the main roast but they make an excellent accompaniment. The secret of the puddings is to make sure the fat in the muffin tins is smoking before pouring in the batter. If you don’t have any dripping on hand, speak to your butcher who could give you some beef fat to render down.