** The following is a guest post written by Emily Buchanan and contains a sponsored link.***
Undoubtedly, a major highlight of travelling the world is food. Delicious, diverse food. Eating local cuisine is a great way of getting to know an area, its people and the flavours that drive its culture. It may sound like an over statement but think about it: when a visitor partakes in the eating of a traditional dish, they are not only respecting customs, they are garnering a genuine understand of local influence, history and institution.
In comparison to the colourful cuisine of the Far East or the big game meats of Africa, many travellers mightn’t cite the British Isles as a culinary chef-d’oeuvre. Sure, one thinks of Britain and, almost automatically, the familiar food associations occur: fish and chips, cucumber sandwiches, roast beef, bangers and mash… but the trouble is, culture stereotypes often overlook the best bits of any country and of course, the UK is extraordinarily diverse when food and culture is concerned. After all, the ancient history of these Isles alongside its amalgamation of nationalities makes for some seriously established recipes with interesting origins.
So where to begin our British Food Journey? From top to bottom, naturally.
Scotland is a heavenly country of hilly highlands and haggis, a dish that is fabled abroad, though not necessarily in a positive light. A savoury pudding containing the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, haggis is traditionally stuffed into the stomach of said animal and then consumed. Sounds offensive, right? But give it a chance! These days, most shop-bought haggis is in a sausage casing, not a stomach, and is made up all posh with herbs and spices. The Scots swear by it and it’s got a very long history. Reportedly introduced by the Norman invasion in the 11th century, haggis originated because Scots were often on the move and, thanks to the stomachy pouch, it was mobile and didn’t go off quickly. Not to mention the fact that offal is cheap and makes the most of the entire animal. Typically served with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potato) haggis is an absolute must-try for anyone visiting Scotland.
A trip to England wouldn’t be the same without a stop-over in Yorkshire. Famous for its rambling dales (broad valleys) and quaint Scarborough cottages, Yorkshire is home to two very iconic, and very distinctive, British dishes. The Yorkshire Pudding has been around since 1737 and has, accordingly, become a British institution and an integral part of the traditional ‘Sunday Lunch.’ According to a genuine ruling by the Royal Society of Chemistry (no less!), “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.” But what is it? Yorkies, as they’re known to Brits, are deep bowl-shaped savoury puddings made from batter. Sure they don’t sound that exciting, but when you get served one the size of a dinner plate, filled with roast chicken, mashed potato and gravy, you’ll soon understand their beauty. Especially since, when you’ve finished your meal, you can EAT the BOWL! They were created by tight-fisted cooks who didn’t want to serve their hungry clientele too much of the good stuff and so filled them up on Yorkies instead.
The second is dish is a lot worldlier. Bradford, in West Yorkshire, was last year named the Curry Capital of the UK, which is a fine accolade indeed considering there are well over 10,000 curry houses in the country (pulling in a combined estimate of £3.2 billion – Brits just love a good curry). The cuisine was first introduced during the Victoria British Raj Period, when India was a dominion of the British Empire. Since then, all kinds of British variations have been bestowed upon traditional Indian dishes, which have, overtime, developed into a completely different style of food known as Anglo-Indian.
Wales is a part of the UK that is often neglected by visitors. Whilst this means that it’s relatively unspoilt by the fanfare of tourism, it also presents a unique opportunity of discovery. After all, the Welsh history and culture is completely different to that of the UK, but what about their food? Welsh rarebit is one of those dishes surrounded by myth, fanciful imitation and controversy. Similar to the Swiss fondue, the Welsh rarebit is made of melted cheddar cheese and is extremely diverse. People have been known to sling anything from paprika to beer in with their rarebit. This came about in the 18th century when the Welsh were horribly poor. They couldn’t afford the expensive meat at the butchers (namely rabbit… hence the name!) and so, often known as the poor man’s meat, cheese recipes became very popular. Cynics have branded the Welsh rarebit an over-the-top cheese on toast, which it is.