“I still think it’s essential for a parent to cook with their children. Weighing out the ingredients and learning where the food comes from is educational, but it also helps to place meal times at the heart of family life.”—Mary Berry
Mary Berry, previously a judge of the popular Great British Bake Off, hit the nail on the head. Mealtimes are significant times for the family to come together. Memories of specific foods, family meals, and recipes are often intertwined with memories of gathering and family.
Even beyond your immediate memories, your food heritage tells a story of your ancestors. The meals your parents cooked may have been passed down for generations.
Share your family recipes with your relatives. Or try making some of the English recipes below to find out how your ancestors enjoyed their food.
11 Traditional English Dishes
These traditional dishes are characteristic of English food. While known for hearty dishes of stews and meats, people in England enjoy a variety of foods.
This light and airy bread is a true staple in English cuisine. The trick is to get the mixture to puff up just right in the oven.
Fish and Chips
This classic combination of breaded fish and fried potatoes has been made popular around the world, but it originated in England.
English pancakes are a thin pancake comparable to the French crêpe. They are traditionally rolled up and eaten with sugar and lemon.
Made with lamb and topped with mashed potatoes, shepherd’s pie is a hearty dish that is popular throughout the United Kingdom.
Black pudding is actually a sausage made with onion, pork fat, oatmeal, and congealed blood. Don’t think too hard about how it’s made, because it is delicious.
A traditional English trifle has layers of fruit, cream, and cake to make an eye-catching dessert.
Full English Breakfast
This dish is aptly named the “full English breakfast.” Enjoy a full platter for the most important meal of the day, with bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, toast, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
Toad in the Hole
Yorkshire pudding is made all the tastier by adding sausages to the batter and serving it with gravy. The name apparently comes from the way the sausages poke out of the batter like a toad poking its head out of a hole.
Steak and Kidney Pie
Steak and kidney pie is a known British comfort food. It is a traditional pastry crust filled with kidney, chunks of steak, and gravy.
In this dish, a hard-boiled egg is traditionally wrapped in sausage and coated in breadcrumbs before being cooked.
Lancashire Hot Pot
Lancashire hot pot is a casserole of meat and vegetables topped with sliced potatoes.
What Influenced Traditional British Cooking?
Traditional English food has a rich history, with influences from around the world. Groups such as the Romans, Saxons, and Vikings colonized England at different times. Each added new tastes or skills to England’s culinary traditions.
When the Romans conquered England, they brought with them modern staples. Cherries, cabbages, peas, and wine were all new to England thanks to the Romans.
The Saxons, a Germanic tribe, were skilled farmers. They grew a variety of herbs, which added flavor to existing dishes.
The Vikings unsurprisingly introduced the tradition of smoking meats. Smoked fish quickly became a staple in Great Britain.
Aside from these three main groups, England’s food has influences from around the world, thanks to trade. Foreign spices particularly have had a huge impact on English flavors and cuisines; widely used spices include ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and vanilla. England’s flavor profile as it is known today results from a world of resources.