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BRITISH CUISINE    
British cuisine is shaped partly by the country's temperate climate and its island geography; and partly by its history; first through interactions with other European countries, and then through the import of ingredients and ideas from places such as North America, China and India that were gathered during the time of the British Empire.

Sunday roast consisting of roast beef, roast potatoes, vegetables and yorkshire pudding

 

As such, traditional foods with ancient origins, such as bread and cheese, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, and freshwater and saltwater fish, are now matched in popularity by potatoes, tomatoes and chillies from the Americas , spices and curries from India and Bangladesh , and stir-fries based on Chinese and Thai cooking. French cuisine and Italian cuisine, once considered alien, are also now admired and copied. Britain was also quick to adopt the innovation of fast food from the United States , and continues to absorb culinary ideas from all over the world.

Industrial-era foods
The Industrial Revolution that began in Britain in the 18th century is responsible for the former very poor reputation of British food. Unlike the populations of most other countries, by the mid 19th century the majority of the British population were working in city factories and living in very poor housing. The new working classes had lost contact with the land and the standard of cooking declined as a result.

Chicken Tikka MasalaIn the home, food was indeed frequently reduced to "meat and two veg," perhaps with stew and soup. The rationing of most foods during (and for some years after) World War II did little to assist the situation, though it did raise the average nutritional standards of the population to levels never previously achieved — from which they have since declined. However post-war population movements, foreign holidays and immigration to the UK led to the increasing absorption of influences from former colonies (e.g. India ) and from Europe (particularly France and Italy ). The books of Elizabeth David introduced many new recipes and ingredients from the Mediterranean . Italian-American influence is now ubiquitous and pasta or pizza make a significant contribution to many diets. Berni Inns introduced the British public to prawn cocktail and steak, chips and peas, and Wimpy Bars did the same for the Hamburger.

These trends are exemplified by the ubiquitous spaghetti bolognese (known colloquially as Spag Bol or Spag Bog) which has been a common family meal in Britain since at least the 1960s. More recently there has been a huge growth in the popularity of dishes like chicken tikka masala and lemon chicken, dishes with Indian (Bangladeshi) and Chinese origins respectively, though modified to suit British tastes. Indeed, chicken tikka masala was first prepared in Britain rather than in India . The British curry, essentially a hangover from the days of the British Raj (and subsequently embellished by immigration), may be hotter and spicier than the traditional North Indian variety, though Bangladeshis and Southern Indians find it insipid. The post-war introduction of refrigeration, in parallel with the rise of the supermarket has led to the packaging of such foods into oven-ready meals which, often cooked by microwave oven, have now replaced "meat and two veg" in many homes.  

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Take-away food
Fish and chipsThe rise of the industrial revolution was also paralleled by the advent of take-away foods such as fish and chips, mushy peas, and steak and kidney pie with mashed potato (pie and mash). These were the staples of the UK take-away business for many years, though ethnic influences, particularly Indian and Chinese, have led to the introduction of ethnic take-s.

Fish and chips

 

away foods. From the 1980s onwards, a new variant on curry, the balti, began to become popular in the area around Birmingham , gradually spreading to other parts of the country. Kebab houses and American-style fried chicken restaurants aiming at late night snacking have also become popular in urban area

New cuisine
The increasing popularity of celebrity chefs on television has fuelled a renewed awareness of good food and New British cuisine has shaken off much of the stodgy "fish and chips" image. The best London restaurants rival those anywhere in the world, in both quality and price, and this influence is starting to be felt in the rest of the country. There is even a wave of chefs struggling to retain the classic greatness of British country cooking, for example Fergus Henderson of the restaurant St. John in London .

There has been a massive boom in restaurant numbers driven by a renewed interest in quality food, possibly due to the availability of cheap foreign travel. Organic produce is increasingly popular, especially following a spate of farming crises, including BSE.

There has also been a quiet revolution in both quality and quantity of places to dine out in Britain, in particular, the humble Public House has been transformed in the last twenty or so years. Many have made the transition from eateries of poor reputation to rivals of the best restaurants, the so called Gastropub — very often they now are the best restaurants in smaller towns. The term "Pub Grub", once derogatory, can now be a sign of excellent value and quality dining. Some credit for this sea change has to go to CAMRA, for helping to improve the quality of pubs and their products in general, and some to the privatisation of breweries, which forced many pubs to diversify into dining in order to survive as a business, as well as a greater appreciation and demand among consumers.

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Traditional cuisine

 

Ulster fry, a variant of British cooked breakfastsDespite the fast-food reputation, traditional British cuisine has survived, largely in the countryside and amongst the upper classes.

The Sunday roast is perhaps the biggest culinary indication of a steadfastly traditional household. The Sunday dinner traditionally includes a Yorkshire

Ulster fry, a variant of British cooked breakfasts  

pudding accompanying, or occasionally followed by, a joint of meat and assorted vegetables, themselves generally roast or boiled. The most common joints are beef, lamb or pork; chicken is also popular. Since its wide-spread availability after World War II the most popular Christmas roast is turkey. Game meats such as venison are traditionally the domain of the higher classes. Game, while being a classic English preserve, is not generally eaten in the average household.

At home, the British have many original home-made desserts such as rhubarb crumble, bread and butter pudding, spotted dick and trifle. The traditional accompaniment is custard, known as crème anglaise (English sauce) to the French. The dishes are simple and traditional, with recipes passed on from generation to generation. The pudding tradition reaches its height with the Christmas pudding.

Sunday roast consisting of roast beef, roast potatoes, vegetables and yorkshire puddingAt teatime, traditional British fare includes scones with butter, jam and clotted cream, as well as assorted biscuits and sandwiches. A unique sandwich filling is Marmite, a dark brown savoury spread made from yeast extract, with a tar-like texture and a strong, salty taste. A hand-made favourite is butterfly cake. Some schools teach young children how to bake such sweets during cookery lessons.

Tea is consumed throughout the day and is sometimes drunk with meals, especially at teatime. Coffee is much less common than in continental Europe . However, coffee is rising in popularity (and quality), while tea, though still an essential part of British life, is less ubiquitous than it was. In more formal contexts wine is generally served.

Kedgeree, a popular breakfast dish in the Victorian eraThe full English breakfast (or "cooked breakfast") also remains a culinary classic. In the Victorian era, during the British Raj, Britain first started borrowing Indian dishes, creating Anglo-Indian cuisine, some of which is still eaten today although many once-popular Anglo-Indian dishes such as kedgeree have largely faded from the scene.

Another formal British culinary tradition rarely observed today is the consumption of a savoury course, such as Welsh rarebit, toward the conclusion of a meal. Most main meals today end with a sweet dessert, although cheese and biscuits may be consumed as an alternative or as an addition.

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Reputation abroad
British cuisine still suffers from a relatively poor international reputation, being typically represented by dishes consisting of simply cooked meats and vegetables (so called "meat and veg") that need to be accompanied by bottled sauces or other condiments after cooking to make them more palatable. Many think that food served in Britain often fails to reach the same general level of excellence that can easily be found across English Channel in France . During the


Chicken Tikka Masala

 

Middle Ages, British cuisine enjoyed an excellent reputation; its decline can be firmly traced back to the late 18th century when the majority of the British population began to move away from the land, and was compounded by the effects of rationing during two World Wars (rationing finally ended in 1954). However, in Britain today there is more interest in food than there has ever been before, with celebrity chefs leading the drive toward raising the standard of food in the UK .

In 2005 British cuisine reached new heights when 600 food critics writing for Restaurant magazine named 14 British restaurants among the 50 best restaurants in the world with the number one spot going to The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire and its chef Heston Blumenthal. However, Restaurant Magazine is itself a British publication, so the inclusion of so many British restaurants was not surprising. Also, many of the restaurants, while located in the UK , do not serve traditional British cuisine - for example, Le Gavroche which serves French food - or are headed by non-British chefs such as Pierre Gagnaire.

Despite the availability of better quality fare, pre-packaged "ready meals" that require little preparation time have become more popular over the last 30 years - but they have themselves advanced considerably from their very basic beginnings.

Alcoholic drinks
Britons have developed alcoholic drinks like gin and whisky.

For centuries, the British market was the main customer of sweet wines like sherry, Port wine, and Madeira wine. English wine has been available since the Roman era, and was once considered poor, but in recent years, reflecting perhaps the improving palate of the British people, the quality of native wines has increased and in 2004 a panel judging European sparkling wines awarded most of the top ten positions to British wines - the remaining positions going to French Champagnes.

British beer tends to be bitter, with domestic lager brands generally serving the lower end of the market. However, any establishment catering for the middle of the market will tend to have a range of continental-style lagers available; the Belgian-owned Stella Artois brand, for example, is one of the most common. Some such lagers are, despite their Continental origins, brewed under licence in the United Kingdom ; others, such as Budvar from the Czech Republic , are imported. Many drinkers, however, consider bitter (and particularly that produced in relatively small quantities by the 'independent' British breweries, as opposed to those owned by large corporations) to be superior to lager, although with the increasing range of high-quality lagers available the strength of that opinion is weakening somewhat. Guinness and other Irish stouts are also common.

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Vegetarianism
Since the end of World War II when their numbers were around 100,000, increasing numbers of the British population have adopted vegetarianism, especially since the BSE crisis of the 1990s. As of 2003 it was estimated that there were between 3 and 4 million vegetarians in the UK , one of the highest percentages in the western world, and around 7 million people claim to eat no red meat. It is rare not to find vegetarian foods in a supermarket or on a restaurant menu.

Savoury dishes

  • Balti
  • Bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potato)
  • Black pudding
  • Bubble and squeak
  • Cornish pasty
  • Cottage pie
  • Dumplings
  • Cheese
  • Haggis ( Scotland )
  • Hash
  • Fish and chips
  • Lancashire Hotpot
  • Laverbread ( Wales )
  • Pie and mash
  • Pork pie
  • Shepherd's pie
  • Toad-in-the-hole
  • Ulster fry ( Northern Ireland )
  • Welsh rabbit
  • Yorkshire pudding

Sweet dishes

  • Bread and butter pudding
  • Christmas pudding
  • Cranachan
  • Dumplings
  • Knickerbocker glory
  • Queen of Puddings
  • Spotted dick
  • Sticky toffee pudding

Meals
breakfast, elevenses, brunch, lunch, dinner, supper, dessert, Tea

Dates of introduction of various foodstuffs and methods to Britain

  • bread: prehistoric
  • apple , asparagus , celery, chives , coriander, cucumber, marjoram, marrow, onion, parsnip, pea, pheasant , rosemary, spearmint , sweetcorn , turnip, wine: Roman era (43 to 410)
  • kipper: 9th century (from Denmark or Norway )
  • oat: unknown (perhaps 10th century
  • peach (imported): Anglo-Saxon
  • rabbit: 11th century
  • orange: 1290
  • sugar cane: 14th century carrot: 15th century
  • turkey: 1528
  • cayenne pepper , parsley : 1548
  • refined sugar: 1540s
  • lemon: 1577 (first recorded cultivation)
  • peach (cultivated): 16th century
  • potato: 1586
  • horseradish : 16th century
  • tea: 1610 or later
  • banana (from Bermuda ) : 1633
  • coffee: 1650
  • chocolate: 1650s
  • broccoli: before 1724
  • tomato (as food) : 1750s
  • sandwich: named in 18th century
  • curry: 1809 (first Indian restaurant)
  • rhubarb (as food): early 1800s (RHS)
  • three-course meal: about 1850 (developed from service à la Russe)
  • fish and chips: 1858 or 1863
  • Marmite: 1902
  • ice cream: 1913
  • sugar beet: 1914-1918
  • sliced bread: 1930
  • Chinese restaurant: 1950 (first to open in Soho )
  • Pot Noodle: 1979

MODERN BRITISH CUISINE
Modern British (or New British) cuisine is a style of British cooking that emerged in the late 1970s, and has gained increasing popularity more recently. It uses mainly high-quality ingredients local to the British Isles , preparing them using methods that combine traditional British recipes with modern innovations, and philosophically has an affinity with the slow food movement.

However, it is not generally a historicist movement, although there are some efforts to re-introduce pre-twentieth-century recipes. Ingredients not native to the islands, particularly herbs and spices, are frequently introduced to traditional dishes (echoing, perhaps not always intentionally, the highly spiced nature of much British food in the medieval era).

Much Modern British cooking also draws heavily on influences from the cuisines of the Mediterranean and, more recently, southeast Asia. The influence of northern and central European cuisines is significantly slighter.

The Modern British style of cooking emerged as a response to the perceived poor quality of British cuisine following the Second World War, and the resulting popularity of foreign cuisine in Britain in decades that followed.

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