International Cooking: Food from England

England doesn’t really need much of an introduction, I’m sure. It is part of the United Kingdom, which I have decided to split up for this challenge because I know I won’t be able to cook all the dishes I’d like to otherwise. England is also part of Great Britain, which is the name of the island the country shares with Scotland and Wales (note that Northern Ireland is not a part of Britain, though it is part of the UK).

England has been inhabited for hundreds of thousands of years, and it hasn’t exactly been a peaceful existence. There have been conflicts with the other countries that make up the United Kingdom today, as well as those who came from further away, such as the Romans and the Saxons.

I feel like England – and the British Empire as a whole – is known for colonizing other countries, and only allowing them independence after war. This did change over the years, with countries finally being able to obtain independence without conflict.

Aside from this, there have also been great accomplishments, one of the earliest of which is the building of Stonehenge, which is older than the pyramids.

What Do People Eat in England?

As an Australian, a lot of British cuisine is pretty familiar to me. This is probably in part because Australia was a British colony, but I also had an English grandfather and perhaps that influenced some of the meals I was exposed to.

English cuisine has developed over many centuries, with some of the earliest recorded dishes from the Middle Ages consisting of purees or stews, sometimes with bits of meat or fish.

Other countries have also influenced the meals enjoyed in England, particularly India, resulting in the popularity of curries and naan bread.

Today, many typical English dishes are, to me, warm and comforting. Roast dinners, casseroles, bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potato), meat-filled pies or pastries, and warm, sweet puddings.

There are also lighter meals, such as finger sandwiches which may be served as part of afternoon tea. They can have a range of fillings, and get their name from their shape – typically, the crusts of the bread are cut off and the sandwiches are cut into strips or ‘fingers’.

Tea is one of, if not the most popular drink in the country, but alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer are also widely consumed.

You might question the absence of some dishes here, but I found that a few I wanted to make are actually better suited to another part of the United Kingdom. Shepherd’s pie, for example, is more Irish, and chicken tikka masala originated in Scotland. So I will make those later in my challenge!

What I Made

Chicken Balti (Chicken Curry)

Chicken balti (chicken curry)

Curry is pretty popular in England and can take many forms. Balti is a dish that was brought to Birmingham in the 1970s by Pakistani residents, who adapted a more traditional recipe to make it more pleasing to the Western palate. It can be made with various types of meat and is flavored with garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, and a range of fragrant spices.

This came together pretty quickly and tasted really good. In England, it would probably be served with rice and naan bread, but I just went with the rice.

I got this recipe from Jamie Oliver.

English Scones

British scones

When people around the world think of scones, they probably are not all picturing the same thing. In the United States, a scone is usually quite sweet (though there are savory versions) and may even be iced or drizzled with a sweet glaze. Additionally, American scones are usually cut into wedges before being baked.

In the United Kingdom, scones are thought to originate in Scotland, but they were made with oats and cut into wedges. In England, they are made with flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, milk, and a little salt, and are cut into rounds. This is also the kind of scone I grew up with in Australia.

These scones are only slightly sweet, and much less buttery than an American scone. This is probably because you don’t generally eat them alone. They are traditionally served with jam and clotted cream, but since clotted cream isn’t available in the US and is quite a process to make, I used whipped cream instead. You could also just go with butter, and they would still be delicious.

Scones like this are a vital component of a traditional English afternoon tea, which would also include finger sandwiches, baked goods such as cakes, pastries, or biscuits (Americans, read: cookies), and, of course, tea.

You can find the recipe for these scones here on my blog.

(Almost) Full English Breakfast

(Almost) Full English Breakfast

A full English breakfast typically includes eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, and black pudding. Some sources say the black pudding is optional, but I’m not so sure about that. I didn’t include mushrooms either since I don’t like them that much, so this is only an ‘almost’ full English breakfast. It was delicious all the same!

For the record, I would be open to trying black pudding but I can’t easily get it here, and even if I could, it would be more than I need for one meal, and then what if I don’t like it? I think I’ll have to wait until I eat breakfast out somewhere that serves it.

There’s no recipe here; just cook your components and put them on the plate. The best baked beans to use would be Heinz I believe, but I couldn’t get them so I used Bush’s. Be sure to get the vegetarian kind; it seemed like all the others contained bacon which isn’t traditional!

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

This is a common Sunday dinner in England (though you could eat it any night of the week if you want and if you have the time). It consists of roast meat, potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, and lots of gravy. I was told on Reddit that traditionally, Yorkshire pudding should only be served with roast beef (though I don’t think that’s a hard and fast rule). I was originally thinking of doing pork or chicken, but then I remembered I did have a small beef roast in the freezer so I used that. I didn’t use a recipe; I just seasoned, seared, and cooked until it was done, then made a gravy based on the drippings.

For the vegetables, I used carrots, Brussels sprouts, and onion, because that was what I had. I was advised to use parsnip but they’re always pretty expensive at the grocery store. I thought I might just buy one, but then I saw that for some reason the parsnips all had their tops cut off, and were soft around the cut. I’m not paying crazy prices for mangled parsnips! So I had to omit them.

This was my very first attempt at making Yorkshire puddings, and although they tasted alright, they were slightly underbaked and didn’t look as nice as I think they’re meant to. At least they weren’t a total fail! I’d love to try again and get it right.

I used a recipe from Serious Eats for the Yorkshire puddings, and I used a cupcake tin.

Lancashire Hotpot (Potato-Topped Casserole)

Lancashire Hotpot (Potato-Topped Casserole)

This is a lamb casserole (though it could also be beef) topped with thinly sliced potatoes. It is baked in the oven until the potatoes are cooked through and crisp.

The casserole itself contains onion, carrot, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and flour. I also added a little thyme. The casserole cooks for a little while before you top the whole thing with thinly sliced potato. This is brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with thyme, before the casserole finishes baking in the oven.

I thought this was delicious, but it was a bit too runny so I would add more flour to help thicken it further next time. I would also cut the potatoes slightly thicker (like, 1 mm thicker). I cut them using my food processor since I feel that’s the best way to get nice even slices. Or, of course, you could use a mandolin, but I’m not allowed to have one because my husband thinks I will slice my fingers off (I am clumsy).

This recipe was from Kitchen Sanctuary.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

This is another English recipe that is pretty common in Australia too, though there it’s known as ‘sticky date pudding’. It can be made as one large pudding, or as individual ones. The latter is more common in England and it was easier to halve the recipe that way, so that is what I did.

First you soak some chopped up dates in boiling water and baking soda. Then you mash them until you get what the recipe I followed so eloquently (but accurately) describes as ‘sloppy porridge’. This gets mixed with the rest of the ingredients: flour, egg, brown sugar, butter, and baking powder. I baked the puddings in ramekins.

I made the sauce when the puddings were nearly done. It’s a simple mixture of brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and butter, cooked on the stove just until it comes together. When the puddings were done, I poked holes in them and poured over some of the sauce. After letting them sit for a bit, they were ready to serve – with more sauce, of course. I also made some whipped cream, which I left unsweetened. I think that was for the best since the pudding and sauce were super sweet.

This was delicious and it was very easy to make. I’m sure I’ll make it again! I followed the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats.

Scotch Eggs (Sausage-Wrapped Eggs)

Scotch Eggs (Sausage-Wrapped Eggs)

I’ve always wanted to try scotch eggs, and now I finally got my chance! Some may think these are Scottish because of the name, but they are actually an English creation, most likely based on food discovered in India. Modern-day Scotch eggs consist of a boiled egg that is wrapped in sausage, breaded, and deep-fried. However, the original version was covered in fish paste rather than sausage. That just doesn’t sound so appealing!

I anticipated all sorts of issues when making these, but it actually went alright. First, I boiled the eggs. I was going for a slightly soft boil, but I didn’t want them too soft because I thought they might fall apart when I tried to form the sausage around them. Then I mixed the sausage with chives, parsley, mustard, salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg.

Next was the tricky part. I coated each egg in flour, then pressed the sausage around it. My first one had too much sausage; I got better with the next few. When the egg was fully enclosed, I coated the sausage with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. I repeated the egg/breadcrumbs and then they were ready to fry.

I deep-fried for 5 minutes rather than 4 as indicated in the recipe, because I cut my first open to test and the sausage wasn’t quite done. The cook time will of course depend on how thick the sausage is.

I’m pretty pleased with how they came out, especially since it was my first time making them. They were delicious, but how could they not be when they’re made of sausage and egg?

I used a Jamie Oliver recipe for this.

Final Thoughts

Everything was delicious but I particularly loved the sticky toffee pudding. It’s probably one of the best desserts I’ve ever made and it was so easy too.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Equatorial Guinea.

Join the Conversation

  1. Hello! I’ve been following along with this blog recently as I am planning on also doing this challenge, and have found this really helpful! As someone from England, I thought I would leave a comment for any other people who are doing this challenge and wanted to know about some of the dishes for England:

    Roast beef w veggies & yorkshire puddings – we normally call this a “roast dinner” and yes this would most typically be eaten on a Sunday, usually at lunch time in a pub! Yorkshire puddings are not just with beef, they are for everyone! This can also be eaten with pork/lamb/nut roast if you are vegetarian.

    Full English Breakfast – we don’t eat black pudding with this very often, you may find it in some cafes/pubs but I wouldn’t say it’s a staple part of a full English. Hash browns should also be included in there though! (+ are very delicious)

    I would replace a Chicken Balti with a Chicken Tikka or just remove it altogether. For something more traditional, maybe a Beef Wellington, though a Beef Wellington is more effort – !

    Scotch eggs, sticky toffee pudding and scones are very true to England ! You have to have a cup of tea with scones, I like to include raisins in my scones as well. Some scones have raisins and cherries in which are delicious. 🙂

    One dish that should definitely be included and isn’t too much effort is Fish & Chips. This is usually fried cod with thick cut fried chips, which is eaten with mushy peas and tartar sauce. You’ll find fish & chip shops everywhere along the coast.

    Other things English are beans on toast, which is beans in a tomato sauce (I like my toast with butter and marmite + beans) – Heinz is the most popular here, but I just use the own bran, Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie and a Cornish Pasty.

    Thanks for all your work looking these up and cooking them, it all looked delicious ! Looking forward to when I am ready to start this challenge for myself…!

    1. Hi Louise! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a detailed comment.

      I was originally planning on making Chicken Tikka but found out it was invented in Glasgow and is still popular there today! So I’m saving that one for Scotland. I really wanted to include a curry since according to all the English media I consume it seems like a common takeout option, and someone on Reddit suggested the Balti.

      There are definitely dishes I would have loved to make but just couldn’t fit into the week. Fish and chips and beans on toast were on my original list before it got culled down. I’m actually not sure what happened with the beans on toast since surely that’s what I did with the other half of the can of beans from the full English breakfast! Maybe I need to include a new section on these posts listing all the dishes that would also be great options but that I didn’t make because of time/ingredient constraints. Some countries definitely have way more interesting dishes than I can make in a week!

      Let me know when you start your challenge; I would love to follow along!

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