British cuisine does not enjoy the lofty reputation that nearby countries such as Italy and France can take for granted. The main reason for this is that food supplies were rationed in the aftermath of the Second World War, and this informed many of the food preparation techniques and ingredient choices long after rationing had ended. Even items that we would regard as staples these days, such as olive oil, were largely unavailable in the decades that followed, and it was not until the 1970s that the UK’s gastronomic reputation began to recover from the post-war gloom.
These days, British cuisine is considered by those in the know to be up there with the best of them, and even British wine, for so long the butt of jokes, has begun to gain international acceptance among connoisseurs. So, to give you an idea of the culinary delights that Great Britain has to offer, here is a guide to some of the more popular regional dishes.
Yorkshire/North England — Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
When you think of British cuisine, it is often this dish that springs to mind. It consists of slow-roasted beef, gravy made from the juices that come out of the meat when cooked, a selection of vegetables such as roast potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, and one or more pastries known as Yorkshire puddings.
London/The South East — Pie and Mash
This traditional dish, which consists of mashed potatoes, a meat or fish pie topped with flaky pastry, and gravy, has long been a popular staple of working people in London and the surrounding area. While many upscale restaurants offer a gentrified version of the dish, it is best enjoyed in one of the capital’s many traditional pie and mash shops, preferably accompanied by a jellied eel.
Scotland — Haggis, Neeps & Tatties
When it is done well, this traditional Highland peasant dish can be nothing short of exquisite. Haggis is a type of large sausage, containing a variety of minced and spiced meats. Neeps are turnips or Swedes, and tatties are potatoes, both of which are usually (but not always) mashed and served with a rich gravy. Much of the enjoyment of the dish comes when the three constituent parts are mashed together with a fork, creating an exciting blend of rich flavours.
Wales — Welsh Rarebit
Welsh rarebit (sometimes called Welsh rabbit) is a dish that consists of a savoury cheese-based sauce served hot over toast. Unlike the continental fondue, with which it shares many similarities, it is usually made with Cheddar rather than Swiss cheese. It can be made in a number of ways, using ingredients such as ale, mustard, paprika, Worcester sauce and cayenne pepper in combination with the basic cheese sauce.
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