The Great Britain Food and Cooking

The Great Britain Food and Cooking – A Rich Cuisine Steeped in Heritage

English food at its best is hearty, simple, delicious fare, developed to fuel an empire that influenced the rest of the world. English cooking is steeped in history, yet the modern face of British food presents a dynamic and thriving cuisine now followed intensely by foodies around the globe.

A Brief History Of Great Britain Food And Cooking

Since ancient times, English food has been influenced by foreign invaders. First came the Vikings, followed by the Romans, and even the French made their mark. All of them brought their own influence to the English table, a melting pot of ingredients and foods.

The impact of the Franco-Normans is clearly reflected in the common use of their spices: saffron, mace, nutmeg, pepper, ginger, and sugar. Medieval English cookery abounds with recipes containing these exotic contributions, and these ingredients are still found in traditional recipes.

The British Empire

The British Empire’s colony in East Asia brought tea to England, and in return, the English took it to India, another one of their colonial outposts. From the English relationship with India came the obsession with curry, spicy sauces, and condiments which now are such an intrinsic part of English cuisine.

The World Wars

Immense 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 essential ingredients—meat, sugar, butter, and eggs—continued until early into the 1950s. It is from these years that England gained a reputation for poor cooking and became a gastronomic joke worldwide.

Back on the Map

Though it has taken many years to overcome, English food is no longer the butt of the joke. England has regained its reputation for some of the finest foods, best chefs, and renowned restaurants.

Several notable upsets in the food world created a change in the English diet, namely Hoof-and-Mouth Disease, the Horse Meat Scandal, and a deep monetary recession in the early part of the 21st century. What emerged was a massive resurgence of traditional English foods, recipes, and cooking, using locally-produced seasonal foods wherever possible. England now leads where once they struggled to be taken seriously.

Traditions and Favorite Great Britain Food Dishes

English food traditions are many and varied. Who hasn’t heard of afternoon tea, the full English breakfast, a Sunday roast, or the hallowed British pub?

So rich and diverse is English food, that England boasts no less than three national dishes: Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, and—their controversial third—chicken tikka masala. Some say this is the new national dish, one that has evolved from the extensive migration into the country from India and Pakistan. Regardless of the debate surrounding it, 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 winter’s day. But puddings are not always sweet, like the savory steak and kidney pudding.

The National Dishes of Britain and Ireland

Each of the four countries, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have their own specific food identity and therefore their own national dishes. These dishes are so familiar (and the countries are in close proximity), so they are eaten in all the countries to some lesser or greater degree. That said, each country clings fiercely to its dish, and some like England, even claim more than one because there are so many to choose from. The dishes are based on history, culinary heritage, native foods, and the landscape of each country. Most are hearty, meat-based dishes that use few and locally sourced ingredients. Learn more about the individual dishes, see which sounds most appealing, and try your hand at a classic and traditional British dish. Use this overview to pick your next recipe.

The National Food Dishes of England

The National Food Dishes of England

There is much dispute about which is truly the English national dish. Number one on the list for many years has been roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, followed closely by fish and chips. There is a vast multi-cultural diversity in Britain much attributed to historical references of the British Empire and years of the British Raj (the rule of the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947). Hence, it is no surprise that chicken tikka masala is also included in the list of England’s national dishes. The reason for this dish being considered a national dish is because chicken tikka was devised for the British; it is not a traditional Indian curry.

The National Food Dishes of Ireland

The National Food Dishes of Ireland

Irish Stew is a thick hearty dish of mutton, potatoes, and onions and undisputedly the national dish of Ireland. Within the dish are many of the ingredients synonymous with the island, potatoes being one of the most recognized. There is debate whether modern translations of the dish containing carrots and other vegetables are truly an Irish stew but the original recipe is the winner of this accolade.

The National Food Dishes of Scotland

The National Food Dishes of Scotland

Haggis is regarded as the Scottish national dish. It is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with offal, suet, onions, and oatmeal. The result is an exotic type of sausage. Though it was traditionally eaten only on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) and Burns’ night, it is now eaten year-round. The haggis is celebrated in Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns in his “Address to a Haggis” poem.

The National Food Dishes of Wales

The National Dishes of Wales

Cawl is the national dish of Wales. It is also a stew and made from bacon, Welsh lamb or beef, cabbage, and leeks. Traditional recipes for Cawl vary from region to region and sometimes even season to season. Cawl can be eaten in one bowl, though often the broth will be served first followed by the meat and vegetables hence the Welsh saying “Cystal yfed o’r cawl â bwyta’s cig,” which translates to “It is as good to drink the broth as to eat the meat.

Britain’s Top Favorite Foods and Drinks

Fish and chips, tea, and Sunday roast are all British staples

Though immigration and globalization have changed British tastes somewhat over the years, there are quite a few classic British dishes (and meals) that remain at the top of the list. If you’re thinking about visiting Great Britain anytime soon, you’ll want to be sure to try at least a few of these popular taste treats.

Roast Dinners

Roast Dinners

Roast dinners—the roast itself, its delicious sides, and of course gravy—are quintessentially British. Sunday lunch in the U.K. also is a Sunday Roast and is the very heart of British food and cooking.

If you’re invited to Sunday dinner, you can expect to be served roasted meat (often lamb), along with roasted potatoes and/or Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, gravy, and vegetables such as parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, or leeks. In addition to the traditional gravy, some families also serve cheese sauce for the veggies.

Cup of Tea

Cup of Tea

If you’re invited to English teatime, be advised that you’ll probably be getting more than just a cuppa. In addition to a strong cup of tea, you might be offered a light snack such as bread and butter, cookies, or tea sandwiches. Another variation on English tea is the “cream tea,” which is usually served in the West Country (Devon and Cornwall). Cream tea includes jam and clotted cream served with scones.

Fish and Chips Britain Food

Fish and Chips Britain Food

England’s beloved fish and chips are deep-fried in a crispy batter and remain one of the U.K.’s favorite fast foods. The fish is usually cod or haddock, although pollack, plaice (also called dab, a member of the flounder family), and even tilapia can be substituted. And chips in England are what Americans call French fries.

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire pudding is often part of the traditional roast dinner and is nothing like an American pudding. In fact, Yorkshire pudding is very much like a giant popover. It’s traditionally made from the drippings of a roast of mutton, which are captured as the meat cooks.

Full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast

The full English breakfast is famous. It’s the perfect weekend breakfast and the ingredients can vary, but usually, it includes eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, beans, grilled tomato, fried mushrooms, fried potatoes, and savory black (blood) and/or white pudding.

Cornish Pasty

Cornish Pasty

A Cornish pasty is a delicious way to eat savory meats and vegetables in a beautiful shortcrust pastry. A classic Cornish pasty includes beef, onion, and potato along with a turnip-like vegetable called a swede.

Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries and Cream

Nothing is better in early summer than strawberries and cream, which are popular as a light dessert across the British Isles.



Crumpets are the perfect afternoon tea treat served warm with jam or butter. Round muffins with a distinctive texture, are soft and crumbly.

Jaffa Cakes

 Jaffa Cakes

These packaged biscuits that have been around since 1927 have a sponge-cake base with an orange marmalade filling and chocolate icing. There are rectangular-shaped copycats, but true Jaffa cakes are round and sold in blue-and-yellow packaging.



Traditional British Fish and Chips

Fish that is deep-fried in a crispy batter served with fat golden chips (French fries) on the side is still one of Britain and Ireland’s favorite meals. The love for fish and chips ranks alongside roast beef and Yorkshire puddings (as well as the recently nominated chicken tikka masala) as an English national dish.

A Brief History

No one knows precisely where or when fish and chips came together. Chips had arrived in Britain from France in the eighteenth century and were known as pommes frites. The first mention of chips was in 1854 when a leading chef included “thin cut potatoes cooked in oil” in his recipe book, Shilling Cookery. Around this time, fish warehouses sold fried fish and bread, with mention of this in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist published in 1830.

Fish and chips gained popularity when the meal helped feed the masses during the First World War. And since fish and potatoes were two of only a few foods not rationed in WW II, the traditional dish maintained its status.

Today, there are about 11,000 fish and chips shops throughout the UK and Ireland, so finding a chippie (a fish and chip shop) is usually easy. Fish and chip shops are now also around the world, including a few shops in New York City, and are especially popular in coastal regions of Spain.

The Origin of the Chippie

There are claims to the first chippie from Lancashire in the North and London in the South of England. No matter who may have opened the first fish and chip shop, the trade grew to feed a rapidly expanding population, reaching a staggering 35,000 shops in the 1930s and more than tripling since then.

The Federation of Fish Friers in the U.K. claims that in 1995 the British consumed 300 million servings of fish and chips, equating to six servings for every man woman, and child in the country. The record for the largest number of portions sold in one day by an independent fish and chip shop is over 4,000.

The Best Ingredients

Great fish and chips are only as good as their ingredients. The U.K.’s favorite fish is still cod and accounts for more than half of the total consumption. Haddock is the second favorite, and there are regional variations include whiting in Northern Ireland and some parts of Scotland, as well as skate and huss in the south of England.

When it comes to the chip, a floury potato is best—waxy potatoes can often result in greasy chips. The best varieties are King Edward, Maris Piper, and Sante. A thick-cut potato absorbs less oil than a thin cut, so the chunkier chips are the healthier ones.

The perfect and traditional fat for frying both the fish and the chips is beef drippings or lard. Both give a crisper and tastier chip and fish batter. However, cooking fish and chips in vegetable or corn oil is now commonplace as it is healthier and more readily available. The oil must be clean and maintained at a constant temperature of 365 F/185 C for the crispiest fish and chips.

Traditional Accompaniments

The classic condiment for fish and chips is vinegar with a sprinkle of salt. And love them or hate them, mushy peas are also traditional on the side. In addition, since the mid-seventies, a curry sauce has also gained favor. The only other sauces considered suitable are a splash of ketchup or in Scotland a brown sauce. Although a continental habit of serving mayonnaise with fish and chips has emerged, very few Britons have adopted this.

The Ultimate Takeaway Dish

Despite the threat from pizza and burgers, fish and chips remain the nation’s favorite takeaway dish, nearly four times more popular than Indian curries. Traditionally, fish and chips were wrapped in greaseproof paper and a thick layer of newspaper which served not only as an insulator but also as a plate to make eating outdoors easier—because of health and safety control; however, chippies are no longer allowed to use paper anymore. Many fish and chip purists, though, declare fish and chips eaten from newspaper outdoors are the only and best way to eat them.

Fat and Calories

Although deep-fried fish and chips not considered a healthy meal, it is better for you than other fast food options. Fish and chips have less fat and calories than the average pizza, as well as a Big Mac or Whopper meal with medium fries.

The British Love of Curry and Curry Food Recipes

The British Love of Curries

The British Love of Curry and Curry Food Recipes

Curries and recipes for curries in Britain and Ireland are as intrinsic to British food; like fish and chips and roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Just how and why this came to be is allied to the presence of the British Raj in India. The British army and civilians working in India developed a liking for the hot, spicy foods of the sub-continent and brought the dishes (curries) home and to other parts of the then British Empire. These foods often adapted to suit the lighter palette in Britain. And dishes that now considered traditional British foods – Mulligatawny soup and Kedgeree being two of the most notable; have their origins in Indian foods.

What Does the Word ‘Curry’ Mean?

The origin of the word ‘curry’, though furiously debated by experts; believed to come from the Tamil word ‘Kari meaning a spiced sauce or stew. Whatever its origins the British love of curries dates back centuries with the first known recipes for ‘Currey’ as it was then known; in Hannah Glasse’s 1747 book, Art of Cookery.

What Is a Curry?

In Britain ‘curries’ have come to mean almost any dish from India though it is not a word used in the sub-continent. Neither is curry spice, but a spicy recipe using spices and herbs with meat, fish, and vegetable dishes from various Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Curries vary in their taste and content both between and within different countries; curries in southern India are remarkably different from ones from the north. In India expect to find coriander, cumin, cardamom, and turmeric used extensively. And throughout Asia recipes using things like chili, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, garam masala, onions, lemongrass, curry leaves, and pepper and mustard seeds.

Britain’s Favorite Curry – Chicken Tikka Masala

Controversy has raged throughout the whole of Britain after former foreign secretary Robin Cooke hailed Chicken Tikka Masala as ‘Britain’s real national dish.’ It is most certainly a national favorite. The dish invented 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India when Punjab conquered by Babur; a descendant of Mongol warlord Genghis Khan. Then it had little resemblance to the Chicken Tikka curries we know now. Massive immigration from the Indian sub-continent in the 1950s saw Indian restaurants spring up across the nation. Chicken Tikka was a huge hit but the British wanted a sauce or gravy to accompany it. And the Masala (the creamy sauce) arrived.

Common Myths About Britain Food And Cooking

British cuisine has long been categorized as “bad” for its supposed poor food; lack of imagination, stodgy puddings, and weak tea. With a history of wartime rationing, industrialization, and now the domination of giant supermarkets; it is no surprise that this false impression has developed.

But like anywhere else in the world; there is both good and bad food throughout England. The supposition that the country’s food is bad comes from the misconception of what people imagine British food to be; not what it actually is. You may discover that many of England’s current dishes actually modern, well-prepared, and quite delicious. So let’s tear down some of those British bad food myths.

Limited Choices

According to the myth; Brits only eat fish and chips and roast beef, and the Scots just consume porridge and haggis. The Irish live on potatoes and the Welsh, leeks.

Yes, the British do eat some of this. But they also eat many other foods, including classic foods that come with a long history. There are meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, bread, fresh fish, and seafood on British menus. The repertoire of British food includes great puddings, pies, pastries, bread, soups, and stews. And who was it that invented the sandwich? The Brits of course.

All of this culminates in a cuisine steeped in history. But with that history also comes diversity. It has encompassed and absorbed the food of many other cultures—the Indian food dish chicken tikka masala is considered the third national dish of England. The explosion of cooking programs on TV, cookbooks, cooking apps, and celebrity chefs also raised the profile of British food and cooking.

There Are Only Four Vegetables In Great Britain Food

As both Great Britain and Ireland are mainly agricultural countries, they do produce more than just the above; in fact, the variety of vegetables is too long to list here.

As for the cooking method, it was jokingly said that before the Sunday roast placed in the oven; the vegetables would be put on to boil. Thankfully those days have gone, and you will find in British food that most vegetables now steamed; or prepared primarily to retain their freshness and nutritional value. Thank goodness for education.

There Is No Decent Place to Dine

It may have been true 30 years ago; British restaurants mainly consisted of steakhouses offering the ubiquitous steak-chips-onion rings combination—but these days, things have changed. And it’s not just in London. Throughout the British Isles and Ireland great places to eat are found everywhere. Just make sure you look at reviews before you choose where to dine.

They may not have completely vanished, but the great British pub is sadly in decline. Most pub owners find that sales from drinks alone no longer pay the bills. Many have turned into “gastro-pubs” where British food is the emphasis, and the community spirit which held a pub together has moved away; making room for more tables. But through the UK and Ireland, decent proper pubs can be found and again; if you don’t know a good local use one of the good pub guides to find one.

RELATED: 19 Clever Tips to Eat Healthy When Eating Out

There Are No Normal Meal Times

Mealtime terms can get confusing, as it depends on where in the U.K. you are. In the north, for example, “dinner” refers to lunch. But that’s not the case in the southern part of the country, where “dinner” more resembles the American dinner meal. “Supper” is an evening meal and a snack before bedtime, so an invitation to supper would mean the arrangement more casual than an invitation to “dinner” (not lunch!); which is usually more formal. To further add to the confusion, the vocabulary varies across the British Isles; the word choice often considered an indicator of social class in Britain. But one thing remains constant: Breakfast, also called brekkie, is the first meal of the day.