BRITISH FOOD


British food is often thought, by both the British and those who are not, to be boring - too often badly prepared even if the actual ingredients may have been of decent quality before a British cook was let loose on them.

I think it is true to say that this was probably true some years ago (probably 20 or 30), specially in restaurants - even some quite expensive places. On the other hand, I think that British domestic cooking has often been of a fairly good standard, if perhaps a little plain.

Luckily I live in a place where we have good local butchers mainly using meat sourced locally and where we have a local farm shop which supplies a good range of seasonal vegetable and fruit grown on-site. The range of produce available from supermarkets is huge and of widely-varied origin so that most things can be obtained year-round. However, just because something is available does not mean it will have flavour - even if it looks good.

At its best, though, British food is traditionally characterised by good quality ingredients sourced locally and prepared in a straightforward manner. Meat, fish and eggs with vegetables and seasonal fruits - there are some sublime dishes to be had - with the protein component either being boiled, poached, fried or stewed.

Mince and tatties - In Scotland, where I come from, one of the most popular and ubiquitous dishes is 'mince and tatties'. Mince is ground beef and is usually browned in a little butter or other fat, before adding chopped root vegetables such as turnips (swedes), carrots and onions. To this will be added some liquid (at its simplest some water or perhaps some meat or vegetable stock) and salt and pepper to season. Perhaps also some chopped parsely or other herb. This mixture is then left to cook gently for about an hour until all the vegetables have softened. It is best to avoid adding too much liquid at the beginning, because the vegetables will release water as they cook and it might become too watery and thin-tasting. Some people add some potato finely chopped to the mixture - the potato will help to 'thicken' the mixture as they soften and dissolve. However, thickening is most frequently accomplished by adding a little flour, perhaps made into a roux with a little butter in a separate pan. The cooked mince is eaten with boiled mashed potato - traditionally in farming areas these are well-drained after cooking and reheated over the heat source so all excess moisture is steamed off so that they become 'floury' when mashed, but in our more affluent times it is usual to add cream, milk or butter to 'cream' the mashed potato.

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding - this is very traditional throughout the whole of the UK, but is typically the traditional Sunday lunch, specially in England. In previous times, though, it was probably consumed only irregularly by most people, because expensive (or any) meat suitable for roasting was eaten by most ordinary people only on special occasions, if at all. The meat is roasted and basted fairly rapidly in a hot oven, although for cheaper cuts a slower and lengthier roasting may help to make tougher meats more enjoyable.

(This is a sample text only - please bear with me)

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