Like everyone else on the internet, we have Olympic fever. We’ll admit it. We’re obsessed with the drama, the showmanship, the nail-biting moments, but perhaps most importantly, with the food. Which is why we’re dedicating this edition of First Bites to the spectacular hosts of the 2012 games, Great Britain. So pause your DVR and take a few moments to catch up on how our red, white, and blue brothers and sisters across the pond dine as we take a look at what makes British food so wonderfully, well, British.
Bangers and Mash – A fabulously fun name for mashed potatoes and sausages. Bangers and mash is typically served with a rich onion gravy and sometimes includes fried onions. The term “bangers” was first used around WW1 when (due to meat rationing) sausages were stuffed with meat scraps, cereal and water which caused them to hiss and pop when cooked.
Fish and Chips – Don’t expect a side of Doritos with this order. What we call “chips” in America are known as “crisps” in the UK. The “chips” in “fish and chips” are the British version of french fries and they are a staple of British culture. White fish is battered and deep fried and served with a sizzling order of chips. Add a little salt and vinegar for an authentic treat.
Shepherd’s Pie – Kind of like the American “pot pie” only SO. MUCH. BETTER. Shepherd’s Pie, also known as Cottage Pie, is a meat pie (usually lamb or mutton,but you can find beef as well) that’s topped with a mashedpotato crust. Let me say that it again so it sinks in…a mashed potato crust! That’s right, a layer of meat (often mixed with carrots, peas, corn or onions) is topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes and then it’s baked until the potatoes are a crispy golden brown. This dish is savory comfort food at its best.
Curries – While not native to England, curries in the UK date back more than 200 years! With such a long history, it is easy to see why Brits are so crazy for these saucy dishes. The popularity of curries rivals, if not exceeds that of more traditional English faire like fish and chips or bangers and mash. British and Indian curries use very similar spices; however British curries often also include more adventurous ingredients such as pineapple, tomatoes or raisins. Want the full scoop on curries? Check out our FirstBites – Indian Food for the low down!
Spotted Dick – My coworkers were up in arms when I typed this gem into a Google search bar to prove it actually existed. Rest assured, this is not a pervy typo, but rather a very common British pudding served with breakfast or as dessert. Spotted Dick is pastry dough that is mixed with currants or raisins (and sometimes lemon zest or brown sugar). The dough is then steamed to puffy, golden perfection and served with custard.
Fruit cake – Not just a holiday gift from a less-than-favorite relative or acquaintance, fruit cake is a staple of British celebrations. Traditional British wedding cake is actually fruit cake. In fact, at last year’s royal wedding between the ever-posh Prince William and Kate Middleton, the wedding cake was a actually a tiered fruit cake. Typical cakes are very moist and include roasted nuts, raisins, sultanas, currants, grated oranges, lemons and spices, and are drenched in brandy. Some include a thick layer of frosting, but the booze soak is the key factor to keeping the cake moist.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste for how the British dine, be sure to head out and sample some of the cuisine before the Olympics are over. Or, feel free to grab a burger and keep cheering on Team USA. Either way, you’ll be celebrating with something delicious. Have you tried British food? What did you think? Share your experiences and suggestions below!
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