One of the greatest pleasures of travelling is discovering new foods, and that’s true wherever you roam, whether it’s far and wide or in Britain. Here are six regional specialities that give British cuisine a good name.
Quite when the Cornish pasty – one of Cornwall’s greatest contributions to the world –originated is a mystery, but records indicate that it was standard fare for working men by the turn of the 18th century. Packed with beef, potatoes, swede and onions, it was a full meal encased in a thick, crimped crust, which could be eaten without plates and cutlery. Miners would hold it by one end and eat everything but the morsel they were holding, which would have become contaminated by arsenic from their hands.
In 2011, the Cornish pasty received Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the EU. To qualify as a Cornish pasty, the filling must be at least 12.5% beef and 25% vegetable, and the pastry case seasoned, crimped and shaped like a D.
Traditionally cooked on a cast-iron griddle or a bakestone, Welsh cakes are a delightful concoction of flour, butter or lard, currants, eggs, milk and warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Though they’re often likened to scones – simply because they share most of the same ingredients – they’re actually quite different – for one thing, they’re much lighter, and those delicious spices give them a more individual taste. Less than 2cm deep, Welsh cakes are best eaten straight off the griddle when the crust has just turned golden.
A huge golden Yorkshire pudding sitting on top of crispy roast potatoes and slices of beef is the epitome of a perfect Sunday lunch, yet originally, the Yorkshire pudding was served before the main course, as a starter with gravy. Its exact origins are unknown but a recipe for a Yorkshire pudding, giving instructions to cook the batter beneath the meat so that it would catch the dripping fats, appears in a cookery book from 1747.
Stilton, considered the king of English cheese, comes in a blue and a white variety, and both have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). To qualify as Stilton, the cheese must be produced, processed and prepared in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Leicestershire, thus disqualifying any cheese made in the village of Stilton – which is now in Cambridgeshire – and it must have a minimum fat content of 48%.
Records suggest that Stilton was first made in the 1720s, but a question hangs over who the maker was – Frances Pawlett and Richard Bradley being two contenders. Though the recipe has changed, it’s still hand-made by master makers who follow a long-standing nine-week process. To be classified as Stilton, the cheese must meet several criteria, including being cylindrical in shape, being unpressed, and having delicate blue veins that radiate from the centre.
Bakewell Tart and Pudding
Strictly speaking, the Bakewell tart is not from Bakewell, though its close – and much older – cousin, the Bakewell pudding is. Both desserts are made with jam, eggs and almonds, but while the far more photogenic tart has a shortcrust case and is covered with almond-flavoured fondant and topped with a single, half glacé cherry, the pudding is a puff pastry flan filled with the almond paste. Both are delicious.
Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
Named after the Leicestershire town where it was first made, sometime around the middle of the 19th century, the Melton Mowbray pork pie is a cylindrical, raised, hot-water crust speciality, filled with uncured, shredded meat. The pastry case is quite distinctive, with a bow-shaped top, which sets it apart from other pies. Aside from that, the filling must be at least 30% pork and free from artificial colours, preservatives and flavouring, and there must always be a layer of jelly between the meat and the pastry.
Article written by Xenia Taliotis