Dispatches from England: My Family’s Favorite British Foods – What Are Your Favorites?

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I plan to write a lot more about the food here in the UK. As time passes, we discover more and more about the cuisine and various foods unique to each region of the country and I’m excited to share that with you (and hear more about what you love).

For now, I thought I’d start by asking each member of my family what their favorite foods are.

My two-year-old: This kid can’t get enough Heinz baked beans. I’ll confess that I don’t really care for baked beans myself, and so he had never had them prior to moving here. But since they are often the side item with a kid’s meal in a restaurant, he sampled them quite early in our time living here. And we discovered that he loves them! I now regularly serve them to him for lunch (although they’re traditionally more of a breakfast food here). At 40 pence for a small can (approximately $.60), it’s such a cheap and relatively healthy way to make him happy.

My five-year-old: One of the hardest adjustments for our oldest son when moving abroad was the food. He was quite picky and didn’t care for much of the food here at first. (I actually think it was less about the food, and more his way of processing all of the big changes in his life.) Starting school and eating school lunch every day changed all that for the better, though. He now adores fish and chips (among lots of other British staples). They serve it almost weekly at his school, and he can’t wait to tell me when I pick him up that he got to eat it for lunch. He loves to order it out at restaurants, too. It’s a staple on kids menus. Sure, it’s not the healthiest of foods, but he’s a skinny kid and could use a few extra calories!

My husband: While we really miss good Mexican food, it has helped to discover how great Indian and Thai curry dishes are. Curry takeaway shops are about as common in the UK as Starbucks is in the U.S. A Friday night tradition in our house is to order some of this (and give me a break from cooking). I can’t really handle spicy food (fortunately many dishes are mild), but my husband loves the hot stuff. We’re on a quest to learn more about Indian food in particular since it’s so prevalent here. (In fact, stay tuned… we’re taking an Indian cooking class and I’ll report more on the experience here soon.)

Me: One of the biggest food surprises to me has been how fantastic the local cheese is in the UK. Having spent very little time in the UK prior to moving here, I just never realized how tasty British cheeses are. I now regularly buy blocks of nice cheese each week at our local market. Even the sliced cheese you buy at the grocery store, perfect for sandwiches, tastes incredible. I don’t know how I’ll go back to eating American cheese. I think it will taste so flavorless to me!  I’ll write a post in the future describing some of my favorite varieties.

There are so many more foods we love here, this is just a start! I’ll be writing a lot more about food in the coming weeks and months. What are some of your favorite British foods?

Comments

  1. avatarElle says

    I really miss a good scotch pie, or melton mowbray! Stick some pickled onions and Lancashire cheddar with one and you’ve got a great lunch.

    • avatar says

      Do you mean a scotch egg ?
      A ‘Melton Mowbray’ is actually a pork pie, Melton Mowbray is the town where the ‘official’ ones are made. I think the Italians call it ‘DPO: Domain protected origin’ or something like that, so that parmesan can only be made in a certain area, like balsamic vinegar.

  2. avatar says

    I agree with you about the cheeses. Most European cheeses are made from raw milk and allowed to ripen naturally while American cheeses are not. In the Seattle area there are many grocery stores that are now importing some excellent European cheeses.
    One of the grocers in the area actually has a “British Foods” section — digestive biscuits, salad cream, Heinz baked beans, Bird’s powder, marmite, barley water, etc. I regularly make a run to Canada to find Mar’s bars, McLaren Pickled onions, MacIntosh caramel. We have a fairly large concentration of expats from both the UK, India, and Hong Kong — think this accounts for the availability of English goods.

  3. avatarLinda Lorenz says

    Baked beans on toast anytime. English cheese is available at many US food stores. I rarely buy American cheese because as you said it really is tasteless. I’ll buy extra sharp if I have to buy American. I enjoy your dispatches.

  4. avatarKaren says

    Baked beans are an all round food great for breakfast, lunch on toast and dinner or tea :) but my all time favourit I miss from home (the UK) has to be the cheese I love a good cheddar can’t be beat on crumpets on a winters evening

  5. avatar says

    I have to do a +1 for bangers n mash with gravy and also toad in the hole. Both best made at home. Toad in the Hole I love with beans ;) As for curry Chicken Tikka, a true British curry believe it or not.

    • avatarAnon says

      If you’re having clotted cream (on scones, I presume), it’s probably a cream tea or afternoon tea (high tea actually means dinner)… but that’s one of my favorite things, too. Can’t beat a good scone slathered in clotted cream and blackcurrant jam with a mug of Yorkshire Gold (or maybe English breakfast if I’m feeling less adventurous).

  6. avatarTina says

    British cheese really is a whole different world compared to American cheeses which are simply so subpar. I often make a vegetarian version of bangers and mash in winter. It’s so comforting and warming. Also, a sandwich isn’t a sandwich without Branston pickle and I can scarf a tube of Hobnobs by myself without breaking a sweat (those things are ridiculously addictive).

  7. avatarSW says

    On a visit to friends in Cornwall, I woke up first day to the wonderful smell of the morning bakings of a nearby pasty shop. Lunch was decided! I’d never had anything so wonderful. Give me that and a side of mushy peas and I’m in Heaven!

    • avatarAnon says

      Yessssss. So happy to see more people giving pasties the love <3
      The hubs and I live in the US for the time being but still have our house in the UK. Not too far away from it is a lovely little pasty shop. £1.15 gets you a steaming meat and potato or cheese pasty (that's cheaper than an Egg McMuffin. And a million times better).
      I miss it so much.

    • avatar says

      I second the pasty love. We have a new food truck in my city that serves pasties, shepherd’s pie, and sausage rolls. It’s modeled after West Cornwall Pasty Company and run by a Brit. They also have Fentiman’s sodas and British sweets, and they just started serving Eton Mess! I’m addicted to the pasties, especially the chicken tikka masala one.

      They have a London bus on which you can sit and eat, with booths in it. It’s just completely awesome. :)

  8. avatarMaureen says

    A large Cumberland sausage (large and Cumberland being redundant!) on a crusty roll with a good English lager eaten while sitting outside at Inn the Park in St James Park after the Royal Wedding in 2011 What could be better.

  9. avatarSean says

    My personal favorite is the sauteed mushrooms served with a full English breakfast – you can leave off the cooked tomatoes though!

  10. avatarDiane says

    I have been eating baked beans since childhood here in the U.S. Anxious to taste them on our trip to London in the Fall. We don’t normally eat them for breakfast.

    • avatarAnon says

      Honestly, Heinz beans are one of the few British foods I’ve tried so far that I really didn’t care for…. basically just beans in a sort of watered down, ketchup-like sauce.
      My vegan friend loves ‘em to death, though.

  11. avatarValarie says

    Welsh Rarebit – it’s hard to find, but Tea and Sympathy in NYC makes the best anywhere. And then, of course, there are scones. And tea. And pasties. And shepherd’s/cottage pie. And Fox’s honeycomb digestives. I could go on!

  12. avatarCatherine Thompson says

    I have to second the Cornish pasty–I’m addicted! Last year I got to fulfill my (admittedly small) dream of having a Cornish pasty in Cornwall. I’ve made my own since, but they’re never quite as good.

  13. avatarLael says

    While there are lots of foods I miss from England, and their cheeses are good, I think Wisconsin cheeses measure up very nicely. I do miss a real English breakfast, though and would love a real cream tea once in awhile.

  14. avatarCathy B. says

    I totally love the dark chocolate Kit Kat bar. For awhile I could only get it when I went to Britain. A few weeks ago I found them in Target. I’m very happy about that.

  15. avatar says

    Yes Baked beans are an anytime food but you’ll have to wean your son off them before your return. I have to pay $3 a can in Kroger for my (now 17 yr old) son to get his fix. Fortunately he is returning to the UK for university so he can live on them very cheaply like most of the rest of the UK student body!

  16. avatarCatherine Heckel says

    I was fortunate enough to order bangers one time and I loved them. Like haggis too, believe it or not. Am going to Scotland soon and look forward to the British breakfasts. Have been trying to lose weight so I can have the fun of gaining it all back on British foods. Can’t wait to taste the cheese.

  17. avatarTanya says

    Chocolate Hob Nobs and Kit Kats (love the different KitKat varieties – just had a peanut butter one ), clotted cream , Devon cream, Mr Kipling’s Bakewells, PGTips tea, Ty-Phoo tea,
    Wine gums , Lion Bars . Luckily, Cost Plus World Market carries many British food items .

  18. avatarRachel Myatezh says

    Going to London for the first time next year and am so excited! Now after reading everyone’s comments I can’t wait to try all the different foods! Fish and chips being the first thing im going for!! Plus as a lover of cheese I can’t wait to try the cheese that everyone keeps saying is so much better!!!

  19. avatar says

    I lived in the north of England for a year… at first I didn’t care much for the food but there are things I miss so much now! Wensleydale cheese with cranberries… pouring custard on sponges and crumbles… pasties… Ploughman’s lunch… and sticky toffee pudding!

  20. avatarRoxanne Stickler says

    There’s a grocery store chain in Tulsa that sells imported cheeses which can be pretty good. There’s also a cheese shop with goods from all over – quite a selection, quite tasty! Then there’s Things UK in Broken Arrow with teas, biscuits, candies, cheeses, some grocery items – I was so surprised to see an ad for the shop in the paper just b4 my English mother was coming from Ala. for a visit! Have been visiting every since!

  21. avatarTeresa Larman Glem says

    I just got back from the UK last month. Every time I had Fish and Chips served or saw then they had mussy peas. I think they are horrible tasteless. I see the picture of fish and chips, where are the mussy peas?

    • avatarsstephens says

      Actually, they’re called mushy peas, not mussy, and it’s more of a Northern Engllsh thing. My husband is from Surrey, in the south, and he hates mushy peas. Same reasons, too- tasteless and awful texture. So if you see a pic of fish and chips, it a southern pub. Mushy peas on the plate, it’s probably a northern pub.

  22. avatar says

    Banoffee Pie, all the great cheeses, (Sage Derby, Wenselydale, Cheddar, Stilton, Cheshire, + all the great local cheeses), fudge, Cadbury’s chocolate, Eccles Cakes, crumpets, Lakeland icecream, Steak and Ale pies (any kind of pies in the North) kippers, Cornish pasties, scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, Lapsang Souchong (smoked) and Earl Grey tea, fruit cake, Marmite, orange marmelade, salted butter, fish and chips, bramble jelly, treacle tart, strawberries and cream, curries, digestive biscuits, cheese biscuits, oat cakes, drop scones, Cumberland sausage, chutney, crisps, Flakes, chocolate buttons, the list is endless. (Ex- Pat in Germany)

  23. avatar says

    I can’t wait to try the cheese when I visit in autumn. Cheese is probably my favorite food anywhere. I’m going to Wales and Scotland also, so I’ll try laverbread, Welsh cakes, and haggis. Who knows? I may love them all. :)

    Faves: pasties, Marmite, Earl Grey tea, Jacob’s Cream Crackers, Jaffa Cakes (both the McVities and the Jacobs brands), British Kit Kats, banoffee pie, Yorkshire pudding, chicken tikka masala, and scones with jam and clotted cream. Also those little bacon-flavoured crisps–I don’t remember what they’re called but I ate a ton of them the last time I was there.

  24. avatarEmmydoh says

    real butcher made pork pie, proper sausages…crikey I would fly over there right now for some Pork Pie, hand made from the butcher in Grassington north yorks….yummmmmmms

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