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Poor Jamie Oliver. He comes all the way to the U.S. of A. to try and teach you how to eat more healthily, and what do you do? You make him cry, and then you turn your back on him, and demand re-runs of Dancing With The Stars instead.
So traumatized is the poor lamb, that he’s abandoned his crusade to create a healthy-eating paradise, and is making a new series for Channel 4 which concentrates on some of the great British recipes of yore. Most of which, it is fair to say, make your average McDonalds look like a shot of wheatgrass.
Jamie’s Great Britain will be a six-part series devoted to timeless classics of British cuisine, and it’s clear that the poor lamb’s recent experiences have informed his choice of recipe. He told Orange: “For me, the heart and soul of real British cooking is food that makes you happy. And that’s what I want to share with viewers – the real essence of British food, done properly.”
So, here for the gastronomically adventurous (and everyone who is fond of the deep fat frier), are five British dishes that represent our gift to the culinary world, and some recipes, so you can try them yourself. You’re welcome.
1: The Cornish Pasty
A funny capital-D shaped pastry with a crimped edge, which has been filled with peppery beef stew, essentially. The crimp was said to be for the Cornish tin miners, whose hands would be covered in arsenic, so they’d eat the rest of the thing and throw the now-toxic pastry edge down a hole “for the Knockers” (mine sprites) to eat. In recent years there has been some debate as to whether the pasty actually originated in Devon (next county along) or not. But even if it did, it’s the Cornish that made it famous.
2: The Fry-Up
Known around the world as the Full English breakfast, this is probably not that exotic a collection of foodstuffs to anyone who’s ever eaten, y’know, food. It’s essentially just a fried egg, some bacon, a sausage and some beans, but as a hangover cure, it’s almost magical in its efficaciousness. You can embellish it with fried mushrooms, fried bread, fried tomatoes… anything you find in the kitchen that can withstand the frying process is fair game, really. And do you know what goes REALLY well in a fry-up?
3: Black Pudding / Haggis
Sometimes known as blood sausage, your black pudding is essentially made of blood and oatmeal, cooked until thick and then jammed into a sausage skin. Haggis is another variation on a similar idea, being made up of all kinds of lamb offal and oats and pepper, and cooked in a sheep’s stomach. Now, unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t be pulling faces at any of this information. These are time-honoured ways of using up by-products of the butchery process, the same process that makes steaks, and at least you know what you’re eating with a black pudding. If you stop to think about it, hot dogs and hamburgers are far more worrying, and they’re nowhere near as delicious.
4: Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
This is considered to be such a signature dish for us Brits that the French refer to the English as “les rosbifs” in much the same way that the English call the French frogs. We’re like bickering siblings, sometimes. Mind you, as a meal, it’s just a simple roast dinner, of the sort that is made all over the world, with the addition of some baked batter, that has risen into a cup shape, so’s to be a perfect receptacle for gravy. That’s your Yorkshire pudding. Throw some sausages into the batter, and you’ve got Toad In The Hole.
Which is a separate dish, we’re not ANIMALS…
5: Fish and Chips
Once upon a time, the battering and frying of fish, for sale with deep-fried chipped potatoes, was considered to be such a noxious pastime that fish and chip shops were relegated to the foulest-smelling parts of town, near the tannery or the sewer. And even now, when restaurants and hotels serve the dish — with a side order of bicarbonated marrowfat peas, please! — they often mock up the humble newspapers in which your fish supper would traditionally be wrapped to keep warm.
Expert tip: the fish you order changes depending on where you are: in the south, it tends to be cod, in the north, haddock. And you need salt and malt vinegar as a garnish.
What’s your favorite British dish? Tell us here.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic