[I first met Margaret online a decade ago, and have been lucky enough to be a guest in her home in Ipswich on the majority of my trips to the UK. On one of those first trips I recall remarking on looking forward to trying Yorkshire Pudding, only to have Margaret point out to me that I’d already had eaten one with my roast lunch. Definitely my first realization that I knew very little about classic British food. – Ellen]
When Ellen first asked me to write a guest post for her blog my instant reaction was “but I don’t cook much British food!”. But a little bit of thought later, I realised that wasn’t actually true. Yes, when people come to dinner (particularly when it’s “someone who cooks” or someone I want to impress) I cook something from one of my cookery books. Something Chinese, or Indian, or Thai, or even Mexican. The British food is family food, not company food, with only the exceptions of a roast dinner for guests on a Sunday or a fry-up for brunch if we have overnight guests. And even then, that’s for closer friends or family, not “proper company”.
It’s also generally not food I get from recipe books. I once mentioned in passing to a friend while we were out for a pub Sunday lunch that this was my second roast dinner of the weekend, and was startled when he started quizzing me about whose recipe I’d used for my roast chicken! Whose recipe? I put it in the oven and roasted it, what else would I do? Some meals are just “the way they are” like a roast, some have recipes my mother-in-law gave me and I have one cookery book that covers almost everything else I might want to know (the third edition of “The Penguin Cookery Book” by Bee Nilson, from the 1970s).
So as I skim-read through part of the Time Life book on British cooking, to think of something to write I found myself nodding in agreement a lot more than I expected given the age of the book. British food, to me is comfort food and good hearty, plain meals. I tend to cook less of it in the summer but when it’s cold, wet and dark outside there’s nothing better than a leek pudding for dinner. Or maybe a beef hotpot to use up the last of the roast beef and warm you up in the evening. It may not be fancy, it may not be celebrity chef-endorsed, but it’ll be tasty and filling which I think is more important!