Someone once told me if you want to go on vacation and lose weight — go to England. The misnomer of British food is that it's heavy, bland and filled with strange ingredients and flavors.
But the Brits actually have some traditional dishes that, when cooked with seasonal ingredients and the proper technique, are very enjoyable.
For the most part, the English live off the land. Outside of London, the villages and towns that make up the various regions of Great Britain offer some of the world's best dairy products, most notably creams and cheeses, as well as lamb, pork and beef from animals that graze the lush English countryside.
They are also known for many world famous food brands like Twinings and Tetley tea, Cadbury chocolates, Stilton blue cheese, Devon cream and Colman's Mustard.
To find many of these familiar brands, as well as other not-so-familiar British items, the best places to shop are the international aisle of the Brookshire's at Rice Road and South Broadway in Tyler, Fresh by Brookshire's and Sweet Gourmet in The French Quarter.
Before you plan your shopping trip for a London Olympics watching party here is a review of some of the most popular British dishes, available products and the meaning of some of those funny names:
Shepherd's Pie: Also known as cottage pie, it is traditionally made with ground lamb, that is sautéed with onions, carrots and green peas. It is placed in a pie dish, topped with mashed potatoes and baked. Shepherd's pie seasoning packets are available at Brookshire's on Rice road and South Broadway.
Bangers & Mash: Sausage, typically pork along with mashed potatoes.
Fish & Chips: The fish used is typically cod or some other firm white fish. It is dipped in a beer batter and fried. The chips are hand-cut thick fries that are first blanched in the hot oil and then fried again until brown and slightly crispy. It is served as street food in England and wrapped in newspaper to absorb the oil.
Beef Wellington: A filet of beef that is seared and then covered with a chopped and sautéed mixture of mushrooms and onions and then a chicken liver-brandy pate. It is then wrapped in puffed pastry and baked until the pastry is golden. At that point the meat should be a perfect medium rare.
Sole In It's Coffin: Filet of sole or cod that is placed in a hollowed baked potato, topped with other ingredients and then baked.
Steak & Kidney Pie: A mixture of beef filet, veal kidneys, mushrooms and other vegetables that is baked in a pastry case.
Ploughman's Lunch: Named for a simple, portable meal that was satisfying to men working in the fields. It consists of assorted English cheeses, a loaf of crusty bread, Branston pickle and pickled onions.
Pudding: What the English consider pudding is different than what Americans would imagine. Our version of pudding is what they call custard. Their version of pudding is what we call sponge cake. The texture is more bread-like and is often soaked in liquor or fruit juices. Spotted Dick, a popular English sponge pudding, is available at Brookshire's on Rice road and South Broadway.
Stilton cheese: Blue cheese that is creamier and sweeter than American blue cheese. It is the only British cheese to have its name protected by copyright, which means it can only be produced in the three counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Available at FRESH by Brookshire's.
Several varieties are available at FRESH, and multiple Brookshire's locations.
Brandy Butter: A blend of butter and brandy that is typically served with mince pie during the Christmas holidays. Available at FRESH by Brookshire's.
Branston Pickle: These are not so much pickles as they are pickled vegetables. An assortment of carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, rutabaga and onions that are pickled, chopped and mixed with a thick, brown sauce that is both sweet and savory. Traditionally served with English cheddar on a sandwich or as part of a Ploughman's lunch. Available at Brookshire's on Rice road and South Broadway.
Clotted Cream: A popular condiment used on scones and other pastries that is the result of cream being heated and held at a high temperature for up to 40 minutes and then cooled. The mixture that forms is thick and spreadable. Available at Sweet Gourmet and FRESH by Brookshire's.
Scones: The traditional English biscuit that is cakey and slightly sweet. Often enjoyed at tea time with butter, jam and clotted cream.
Picalilli Relish: A highly seasoned pickled vegetable relish. Ingredients vary from tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, zucchini, cucumber and cauliflower. Available at Sweet Gourmet and Brookshire's on Rice road and South Broadway.
Colmans Mustard: In production since 1814, Colman's mustard has a stronger mustard flavor than other yellow mustards. Available dry or in condiment form, it is often used in cooking when recipes call for mustard because it offers a more pronounced mustard flavor. Available at FRESH and various Brookshire's locations.
HP Sauce: A British-style steak sauce that resembles a thick brown gravy that is similar to Worcestershire and A1 sauce. Available at Brookshire's on Rice road and South Broadway.
Cadbury Chocolates: The world-famous Cadbury chocolate company started in England in 1824 when John Cadbury opened his store that sold cocoa and drinking chocolate. After nearly 200 years the company is still one of the top producing confectioner companies in the world. Available at Sweet Gourmet.
Fish & Chips
4 one inch thick cod fillets
1 cup flour, plus more for dredging
1 1/4 cup English ale-style beer (preferably Boddington's or Bass)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
Oil for frying
In a large bowl add the flour and egg and mix to combine. Slowly add the beer while whisking. Add the cornstarch and whisk again. Rinse the cod and completely pat dry. Slice the potatoes into one inch thick wedges. Heat oil to 325 degrees. Place the potatoes in the oil for about a minute just to blanch. Remove to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Increase oil temperature to 350 degrees. Spread some flour on a plate. Dredge the fish through the flour then dip in the beer batter to coat. Immediately place in the fryer. Fry until crisp and golden brown for about four to five minutes and remove to drain on a paper towel. Place the potatoes back in the fryer. Fry for additional minute or two until golden brown. Serve with tartar sauce on the side and malt vinegar sprinkled over the top.
Recipe from Simon Webster
2 pounds frozen mixed berries
1 cup sugar
32 slices Sunbeam white bread, crusts removed
Place frozen berries in a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Allow the berries to defrost with the sugar in the refrigerator overnight. You will need 4 pieces of bread for each individual pudding. Using four ounce ramekins or small individual molds, cut a round from a piece of bread that fits into the bottom of the mold. Using two other pieces of bread cut them into large sections that can overlap and line the inside of the mold. Spoon berries into the bread lined mold. Spoon some of the berry liquid over the bread to soak. Take a fourth piece of bread and cut a round large enough to place on the top of the mold to seal completely. Spoon more liquid over that piece of bread. Repeat process with the eight remaining molds. Refrigerate the molds for two hours or overnight. To unmold, place a plate over the mold and flip over. Gently tap on the mold and let the pudding slide out. If necessary use a small thin knife to loosen the sides. Serve with whipped cream and/or powdered sugar. Makes 8 individual puddings.
Recipe from Simon Webster