I love the English….Don’t you? I mean, after all, they have been one of our strongest allies in matters of world affairs, and aside from that whole Revolutionary War thing, have been our closest friends. Maggie Thatcher was the BOMB. I so miss her. And the Queen….Don’t let her fool you. She looks like a sweet little old lady, but she is tough as nails.Brits are generally considered to be a genteel and proper sort, often standing on the same propriety that their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Good manners and social formalities, although a bit more relaxed today, are still widely practiced. And the English ladies aren’t afraid to wear great hats!
Which makes it seem even funnier to me that they would give their food names like Spotted Dick, and Cock A Leekie Soup. Oh, the thoughts running through my head right now (medical conditions, freckles in the wrong places and such). My mouth wants to say more, but my head knows better and is keeping mum.
The fact that they can call these dishes by their names, and do so with a straight face, tells me that the British are very disciplined, and are not to be trifled with. Methinks they are much tougher than their proper manners would have you think.
Or maybe it’s just me, and I have a sense of humor that people in polite society would find vulgar. I can live with that. The Two Fat Ladies would have got it.
The truth of it is that Cock A Leekie Soup—a chicken and leek soup– is delicious and simple–the austere kind of food that makes you remember being a kid. And Spotted Dick—a dense raisin studded cake that is steamed rather than baked, will warm you to your very soul.
Sooooo, we say toe-MAY-toe, they say toe-MAH-toe. Yada, yada, yada.
Although we speak English on both sides of the Atlantic, you can see that ordering food could obviously cause more than a little bit of confusion to visitors in either country.
Here are a few translations to help you navigate your way through a menu if you visit your friends on the other side.
American / English
- Sausages / bangers
- Chips (as in potato Chips) / Crisps
- French Fries / Chips
- Bacon (sliced) / Rashers
- Biscuits / Scones
- Crackers or Cookies / Biscuits
- Endive / Chicory
- Graham Crackers /Digestive Biscuits
- Ham / Gammon
- Frosting / Icing
- Scallion /Spring Onion
- Candy / Sweets
- Golden Raisins / Sultanas
- Whole Wheat / Wholemeal
- Red or Green Sweet Peppers / Capsicum
Bubble and Squeak—most comparable to Hash in the United States. It is made of leftover roast vegetables, pan-fried in a skillet with mashed or roasted potatoes. As the mixture cooks, it makes bubble and squeak noises, hence the name. American Hash is typically leftover meat, potatoes, and other vegetables, and pan-fried.
Roast Beef—We both roast our beef in about the same way, and with or without vegetables. Simply seasoned, browned, and roasted until tender, served with brown gravy. The English have us beat here, too. They serve the most amazing Yorkshire Pudding with theirs, and few people in the United States have had the pleasure. My Granny made it, so I was one of the lucky ones, and I make it now, too. It is rather like a cross between a soufflé and a gougere, or popover. Big, light and puffy, but moist, egg-y, and dense at the same time. Holy cow—I am so making this tonight.
Toad In The Hole—the English version is link sausages (bangers) cooked atop a puffy, soufflé-like batter. Some Americans call an egg fried in a piece of pan-fried toast that has had a hole cut out of it as Toad in The Hole, but it is more frequently called Egg in The Basket.
Full English—A traditional big English breakfast. Usually some fried eggs, fried sausages, bacon, potatoes or bubble and squeak, roasted tomatoes. An American breakfast typically contains eggs, meat–bacon, sausage or ham steak– fried potatoes, and a biscuit or toast. Really big breakfasts might also include pancakes, waffles, or French toast. In both countries, however, an increased focus on health has meant an increase in the number of people eating smaller items, such as oatmeal, cold cereal, or fruit.
Pudding—In the United States, pudding refers almost solely to sweet custard. The only real exception is bread pudding, which is bread baked in a custard base. The English are very fond of puddings, and they make them in both sweet and savory versions. English puddings are more like a bread or cake, and tend to be steamed. Dense and moist, they hold up well to heavy additions like dried fruit, nuts, and in the savory versions, meats. The closest thing to an English pudding in the Unites States is fruitcake.
Pies—Although there are more savory options finally becoming popular, pie in the Unites States usually refers to a dessert. Just as with the English version, pies consist of fruit, nut or custard fillings baked in a pastry shell. But the English have us beat, hands down, when it comes to savory pies. They have steak and kidney pies, pork pies, fish pies, cottage pie and shepherd’s pie. Some are baked in a round pastry shell-like a dessert pie, and some are made into handheld pockets, such as pasty’s. Mmmmm. PIE!
Chicken Tikka Masala—This is an Indian inspired dish, made of chicken stewed in a colorful, tasty sauce of yogurt and many spices—something very common to Indian food. It was created in England, and is practically the national dish of England these days. It is becoming more and more available in the US. The only difference between here and there? In America, everyone thinks it’s authentically Indian, and the English know better.
Fish and Chips—pretty much the same on both sides of the pond. Battered and fried cod, crispy French fries, sprinkled with vinegar. Booya! Who doesn’t love that? Fish-N-Chips seems to have been the “Great Uniter” between English and American food culture.
In England, they have “chip shops” all over. Places where you can get your fried food groove on. Some of them have made their way stateside, and they are gaining popularity. Not only are they frying up fish and chips, they will pretty much batter and fry anything. Pizza slices, grilled cheese sandwiches, candy bars, cheesecake wedges, cookies, fruit, hamburgers. Oh, and let’s not forget fried macaroni and cheese.
Not to be outdone, Texas has the State Fair—Fried Food Capital of The World. The WORLD. They have introduced the world to such greats as batter- fried bacon, fried butter, and fried Coke.
I’m not sayin’ it’s right. I’m just sayin’.
So without further fanfare, I present for your dining pleasure:
Fish and Chips
Chips (French Fries):
**important to start these first, as they are par-cooked before, and fried crispy just before serving.
- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled
- Oil for frying
- Salt, to taste
Peel the potatoes, and cut into long sticks ½” in diameter. Place in a large bowl, covered with cold water.
Line a large baking sheet with newspaper or paper towels, and place wire racks on top.
Heat oil in a deep fryer to 325*.
Drain the potatoes very well, dabbing with a paper towel to remove excess water. Drop fries in small batches into the fryer, and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from oil, and drain well, before spreading out on rack to cool.
Raise heat in fryer to 375* and prepare the fish as directed below.
When fish has been fried, return the par-cooked potatoes to the 375* fryer, in batches, to cook until crispy and browned, about 2 minutes.
Drain well and season with salt.
Beer Battered Cod
- 2 lbs cod
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (if you like it a little spicy)
- 2 cans cold lager
- Peanut or Canola oil (for deep-frying)
Start heating oil to 375*
Slice cod at a diagonal angle into ½ thick pieces.
Mix ½ cup flour and ½ cornstarch together in a medium bowl.
Mix 1 cup flour and ½ cup cornstarch with salt and 1 bottle of beer. Whisk together until smooth. Whisk in remaining beer, a little at a time until a very thin batter is formed. It should be the consistency of buttermilk.
When the oil is hot, dredge fish pieces, a few at a time, in the flour and cornstarch mixture. Shake off the excess, and dip into the batter, quickly dropping in to the hot oil.
Cook for a few minutes until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a wire rack that has been placed over a newspaper-lined baking pan. Repeat until all fish had been fried.
Fry the potatoes for the second time after you have done the fish, and serve immediately.
Homemade Tartar Sauce
- 2 cups mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
- 2 tablespoons capers, mashed with a fork
- 8 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely minced (optional)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
Combine all ingredients and set aside in refrigerator. May be made a day in advance.
Bread and Butter Pudding
- 12 slices sandwich bread
- 4 oz salted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Butter one side of each bread slice. In a mixing bowl, beat the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg until well combined.
In a 2 quart casserole, or a 10 inch deep dish pie plate, place one layer of bread, cutting as needed to fit. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the raisins. Repeat with remaining bread and raisins. Slowly pour custard base over the bread, stopping to wait if necessary for some of the custard to be absorbed. Reserve remaining custard if it won’t all fit. Press down gently with the back of a large spoon, and let sit for 30 minutes. Add additional custard if possible.
Bake at 350* for 45 minutes. Serve warm.