Europeans joke about British food constantly, calling it unimaginative, plain and uninspired among other things. I was born, raised and I have still spent a lot of my life in the U.K. I have been living in the U.S.A. for 20 years now, but I still like to prepare British meals regularly.
The recipies are not meant to be healthy options, they are (or were, when I lived there) common meals and snacks in the U.K. I often get asked about what the British eat and I am frequently asked for recipes, so I thought that I would post about the topic. Here are a few of my favorites:-
Beans On Toast
A favorite snack, I have not known any American born person to try this snack, they seem to find the ingredients unappetizing, in the same way that I find the idea of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches unappealing. I still have not tried PBJ.
For beans on toast for one person, you wil need:
- 1 8oz can of beans in tomato sauce (NOT BBQ beans).
- 2 slices of bread.
- Real butter for the bread.
- Pepper if desired,
- Heat the beans in a pan and toast the bread.
- When the bread is fully toasted, liberally butter the toast.
- Pour the hot beans over both slices of toast and add pepper if desired.
Eat with a knife and fork, taking beans and toast into the mouth at the same time.
The choice of beans are crucial to the recipie. Heinz beans in tomato sauce is generally used in the U.K. They can be found in the U.S.A., but they are very expensive. The best alternative is Showboat Pork and beans in tomato sauce made by Bush Brothers & Company, these beans are widely available, very nicely priced and they are about 99.9% comparable to Heinz in taste.
Beans on toast can be a snack or a quick meal. I think that Americans dislike the idea of this recipe because when they think of beans, they think of the BBQ beans variety, which I doubt would go very well with buttered toast.
Real butter is a requirement for the recipie, margarine will not produce the correct flavor. The butter must be spread onto the hot toast liberally.
A family favorite.
Technically, what I am about to describe is called Cottage Pie as it is made with beef and not lamb but it is served in Irish themed bars in the U.S.A. as Shepherd’s Pie and I have always known this recipe as Sheherd’s Pie.
For 3-4 people, you will need:
- 1 LB of lean ground beef, 90% lean if possible,
- About 8 large potatoes,
- 2 medium size onions,
- A handful of sliced carrots, fresh or frozen,
- Half a pound of frozen peas,
- 2 beef Oxo cubes (more on this later),
- A small handful of sea salt.
- 2 knobs of real butter
- Full fat milk.
First I will explain the Oxo cubes. These are beef stock cubes that crumble very easily, the beef flavor is absorbed into the meat very well. I have not found a suitable substitute for Oxo cubes in the U.S.A. If you don’t use Oxo, the Shepherd’s pie won’t taste right. Oxo can be bought online form British food suppliers at a reasonable cost. I would suggest buying two boxes of 24 cubes minimum on each online purchase to save on shipping.
Place the ground beef into a pot, add water, and crumble 2 Oxo cubes and add the salt.
Chop the onions and add them to the pot.
Add the peas and carrots
Place on the cooker to boil
There is no maximum time limit for boiling the ground beef, let it boil, then simmer while the potatoes are cooking.
Peel, boil and mash the potatoes, add a small amount of salt to the water when boiling. Add butter and milk when mashing, to make a smooth creamy mash.
Drain the ground beef and place into a baking dish. Spread the meat evenly within the dish.
Spread the mashed potato evenly on top of the ground beef.. Create swirl patterns on top of the ptoato with a fork.
Place into the oven on 425 for about 30 minutes, or until the peaks created by the swirling turn brown and crisp.
Serve and enjoy.
Ham Steak, Potatoes, Peas and Parsley Sauce.
This is a quick and easy meal, the ham steak, one per person, can be lightly sauteed in the frying pan using a small amount of coconut oil.
Potatoes can be boiled or mashed.
Fresh, frozen or canned peas can be used, I prefer the frozen peas and I think that they are about as good as fresh. Another vegetable can be substituted if desired.
Parsley sauce is a savory white sauce flavored with parsley. It seems to be unknown in the U.S.A. but my family cannot get enough of it. I prefer to use Knorr parsley sauce mix which can be bought in the same online British stores as the Oxo cubes. Preparing the sauce is easy, just add the dry sauce mix to a small amount of milk, stir it into a paste, add the rest of the milk as directed on the packet and heat until it thickens. Parsley sauce mix must be prepared when the rest of the cooking is mostly done and must be stirred continually on a low to medium heat in a saucepan.
Parsley sauce is also great with fish (not fried) meals.
Bangers (Sausage), mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables with tomato gravy.
This is another family favorite and easy to make.
Use real bangers or sausages, not spicy hot, Italian, Polish Keilbasa or hot dogs. Ideally one would use British bangers or Irish sausages but I have been using the generic pork breakfast sausage links to good effect because they are readily available in the stores.
The sausages should be placed on a thin metal baking plate and placed on the top shelf of the oven on 450, until they are brown.
Mashed potatoes should be prepared in the same way as they are for the Shepards Pie.
I use frozen mixed vegetables and usually pay a little more for them by choosing a branded frozen product because they seem to be of a better quality.
The gravy is the special ingredient, it is made with Bisto powder, Oxo cubes and a small can of diced tomatoes. Bisto powder is another Brithish product, well known and loved in the U.K. For half a pint of gravy, use 4 level teaspoons of powder. I would normally prepare one pint of gravy using 8 level teaspoons of Bisto, add the powder to cold water, curmble 2 Oxo cubes into the mixture, drain the diced tomato and add it to the mix. Place the mixture into a large saucepan and prepare on a medium low to medium heat setting, stirring constantly until the mix has thickened into a gravy. If your gravy seems too thick, just add some more water, a little at a time until you get the desired consistancy. Poor the gravy liberally over all of the other ingredients of the meal and enjoy.
Like Oxo and Parsley sauce mix, Bisto powder can be bought in the same U.S. based online British stores.
These are just a few British meals and I will make other posts with more recipes at a later date.
A note on Britain’s most revered dish, Fish and Chips. I have never been able to match the quality of fish and chips prepared by a genuine fish and chip shop and I have not found anything to compare to it in the U.S.A. so far. This is something that you will have to go to the U.K. to get.
Fish and chips are a take out food (“take away” in British English) although some shops do have “eat in” areas also. The fish is generally Cod, but other fish can be found, chips (fries) are a similar size to steak fries but are prepared diferently. Fish and chips was once traditionally served wrapped in genuine old newspaper and I remember eating them this way, but years ago, it was deemed unsanitary and now the dish is served in plain white paper, or sometimes a printed white paper made to look somewhat like newspaper to honor the tradition. Generally, one would add a lot of salt and malt vinegar to the whole meal before and during eating.
I don’t expect that a professional Chef, a French person or an Itailian person would be impressed with my meals, but they taste great, they are economical and they are filling. They are also the types of meals eaten by genuine British people.
Try some of them out, you may like them, my American family does, (except for the beans on toast of course).