Food Safari ~ English

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Without roast beef, pork pies and rollmops, empires would never have been made.  Food explorer Maeve O’Meara explores the intricate, delicious and amusing world of English cuisine.

First Top Sydney chef Matthew Kemp of Balzac and Burlington restaurants takes Maeve on a tour through the essential ingredients to authentic English cuisine.

The entire English-speaking world inherited fish and chips and Maeve journeys to Kangaroo Island to find some of the best and learn the secrets of the perfect fish and chips from expatriate English chef, Sue Pearson, the owner/operator of Fish.  Maeve tours a pork pie factory with Sue Patchett, the founder of Patchett’s Pies—now managed by her son, Dan—and learns how the classic pork pies are made.

Head chef Jeremy Strode shows Maeve how to make a light summer lunch of rollmops using pickled King George whiting at his restaurant Bistrode in Sydney's Surrey Hills.

Maeve discovers the delights and dictums of the English afternoon tea at The Tea Room.  Then Maeve visits with Robert Boyle, a butcher who started making the traditional smallgoods like black pudding and English sausages from his homeland when he realized there was a calling for it in the suburbs of Melbourne.  Next Maeve learns how to make the adored roast beef and Yorkshire pudding from award-winning chef Sean Connolly, the head chef at both Astral Restaurant and his own restaurant Sean’s Kitchen in Sydney.

Maeve ends her safari back with chef Matthew Kemp at his restaurant as he whips up a sensational summer pudding, full of fresh berries.

Click here for the recipes featured in this episode.

About England


England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom.  Most of England comprises the central and southern part of the island of Great Britain in the North Atlantic.  It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental Europe.

For thousands of years, invaders and incomers have arrived, settled, and made their mark. The result is England’s fascinating mix of landscape, culture and language—a dynamic pattern that shaped the nation and continues to evolve today.  This rich historic legacy is England’s main attraction—everything from Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall to Canterbury Cathedral and the Tower of London, via hundreds of castles and an endless line of kings and queens.

Prehistoric & Ancient England:

The area now called England was first inhabited by inhabited by Neanderthals 230,000 years ago.  However, modern humans (i.e. Homo sapiens) didn't appear until the Upper Palaeolithic period.  Genetic evidence suggests interbreeding took place with Homo sapiens between roughly 80,000 and 50,000 years ago in the Middle East, resulting in 1–4% of the genome of people from Eurasia having been contributed by Neanderthals.

Continuous human habitation of England dates to around 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glacial period.  The region has numerous remains from the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age, such as Stonehenge and Avebury.

England in the Late Bronze Age was part of a maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Agethat included all of Britain and also Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal.  In those areas, Celtic languages developed.

During the Iron Age, Celtic culture, deriving from the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, arrived from Central Europe.  The development of iron smelting allowed the construction of better ploughs, advancing agriculture (for instance, with Celtic fields), as well as the production of more effective weapons.  Brythonic was the spoken language during this time.  Society was tribal.  Like other regions on the edge of the Empire, Britain had long enjoyed trading links with the Romans.  Julius Caesar of the Roman Republic attempted to invade twice in 55B CE; although largely unsuccessful, he managed to set up a client king from the Trinovantes.

The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 during the reign of Emperor Claudius, subsequently conquering much of Britain, and the area was incorporated into the Roman Empire as Britannia province.  The best-known of the native tribes who attempted to resist were the Catuvellauni led by Caratacus.  Later, an uprising led by Boudica, queen of the Iceni, ended with Boudica's suicide following her defeat at the Battle of Watling Street.  This era saw a Greco-Roman culture prevail with the introduction of Roman law, Roman architecture, sewage systems, many agricultural items, and silk.  In the 3rd century, Emperor Septimius Severus died at York, where Constantine was subsequently proclaimed emperor.  Christianity was first introduced around this time, though there are traditions linked to Glastonbury claiming an introduction through Joseph of Arimathea, while others claim through Lucius of Britain.  By 410 AD, as the empire declined, Britain was left exposed by the withdrawal of Roman army units, to defend the frontiers in continental Europe and take part in civil wars.

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Medieval England:

England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period—from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period.  The end of Roman rule enabled the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, which is often regarded as the origin of England and the English people.  It is in this formative period that Englandemerged as a unified and political entity, and transformed over several centuries from a diverse, warring and fractious land of petty kingdoms, into one of Europe's most centralized, powerful and richest states.

Early Medieval England corresponds to Anglo-Saxon England, which began with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in southern Britain.  In this period, the Brythonic kingdoms whose territories lay within the area of modern England were conquered by Jutes, Angles and Saxons Germanic tribes, from the contemporary Angeln and Jutland areas of Northern Germany and mainland Denmark.  Political takeover of other areas of England proceeded piecemeal and was not completed until the 10th century.  The Anglo-Saxons introduced the Old English language, which displaced the previous British language.

Raids by the Vikings were frequent after about AD 800, and the Norsemen took control of large parts of what is now England.  During this period several rulers attempted to unite the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms—an effort that led to the emergence of the Kingdom of England by the 10th century.

In 1066, the Normans invaded and conquered England.  From a political point of view, the Norman conquest of England divides medieval England into two distinct phases of cultural and political history.  From a linguistic point of view the Norman Conquest had only a limited effect, Old English evolving into Middle English, although the Anglo Norman language would remain the language of those that ruled for two centuries at least, before mingling with Middle English.

There was much civil war and battles with other nations throughout the Middle Ages.  The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state until the reign of Richard I who made it a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1194 during the Great Crusades.  In 1212, during the reign of his brother John Lackland, the Kingdom instead became a tribute-paying vassal of the Holy See until Henry VIII, in the 16th century, broke from the Catholic Church.

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Wind & Weather

Modern Era England:

The end of the medieval period is usually dated by the rise of what is often referred to as the English Renaissance in the reign of Henry VIII, and the Reformation in Scotland, or else to the establishment of a centralized, bureaucratic monarchy by Henry VII.  

The Kingdom of England—which after 1284 included Wales—was a sovereign state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union put into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulting in a political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain.  

In 1800, Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland through another Act of Union to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  In 1922, the Irish Free State was established as a separate dominion, but the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 reincorporated into the kingdom six Irish counties to officially create the current United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Industrial Revolution began in 18th-century England, transforming its society into the world's first industrialised nation.  England's Royal Society laid the foundations of modern experimental science.  Following the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain ruled a worldwide Empire, the largest in the world.  The English language, the Anglican Church, and English law—the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world—developed in England, and the country's parliamentary system of government has been widely adopted by other nations.  

Following a process of decolonization in the 20th century the vast majority of the empire became independent; however, its cultural impact is widespread and deep in many countries of the present day.


Today, the Economy of England is the largest economy of the four countries of the United Kingdom, and the sixth largest in the world.  England is a highly industrialized country.  England is a leader in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors and in key technical industries, particularly aerospace, the arms industry, and the manufacturing side of the software industry; textiles, automobiles, and locomotives are among England's other important industrial products.  Usually regarded as a mixed market economy, it has adopted many free market principles, yet maintains an advanced social welfare infrastructure.

London, England's capital, home to the London Stock Exchange, the United Kingdom's main stock exchange and the largest in Europe, is England's financial centre—100 of Europe's 500 largest corporations are based in London.  London is the largest financial centre in Europe, and as of 2009 is also the largest in the world.  The British pound sterling is the official currency of England and the central bank of the United Kingdom, the Bank of England, is located in London.

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With over 51 million inhabitants, England is by far the most populous country of the United Kingdom, accounting for 84% of the combined total.  England taken as a unit and measured against international states has the fourth largest population in the European Union and would be the 25th largest country by population in the world.  

The English people are a British people.  Genetic evidence suggests that 75–95% descend in the paternal line from prehistoric settlers who originally came from the Iberian Peninsula.  There is a significant Norse element, as well as a 5% contribution from Angles and Saxons, though other geneticists place the Norse-Germanic estimate up to half.  Over time, various cultures have been influential:  Prehistoric, Brythonic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norse Viking, Gaelic cultures, as well as a large influence from Normans.

Due in particular to the economic prosperity of South East England, there are many economic migrants from the other parts of the United Kingdom.  There has been significant Irish migration.  The proportion of ethnically European residents totals at 87.5%, including Germans and Poles.

Other people from much further afield in the former British colonies have arrived since the 1950sin particular, 6% of people living in England have family origins in the Indian subcontinent, mostly India and Pakistan; 2.9% of the population are black, mostly from the Caribbean.  There is a significant number of Chinese and British Chinese.

As of 2007, 22% of primary school children in England were from ethnic minority families.  About half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001 was due to immigration.  Debate over immigration is politically prominent; according to a Home Office poll, 80% of people want to cap it.

Christianity is the most widely practiced and declared religion in England.  The Anglican Church of England is the established church of England holding a special constitutional position for the United Kingdom.  After Christianity, religions with the most adherents are IslamHinduismSikhismJudaismBuddhism, the Bahá'í Faith, the Rastafari movement and Neopaganism.  There are also organisations which promote irreligionatheist humanism, and secularism.  

In the past, various other religions (usually "pagan") have been important in the country, particularly Celtic polytheismRoman polytheismAnglo-Saxon paganism and Norse paganism.  The only religion that was created in England is the neopagan Wicca.

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Because of England's dominant position within the United Kingdom in terms of population, English culture is often difficult to differentiate from the culture of the United Kingdom as a whole.  However, there are some cultural practices that are associated specifically with England, particularly in respect to English architecture, art, music, literature, philosophy, folklore, and English cuisine.


England's long history and pervasive culture spread worldwide through the English language and colonialism make England a popular tourist destination, particularly in London.  The city of Manchester is the second most visited city in England after London.  You'll find something for every taste and budget.

Heritage Cities in England include:

Domestic tourists, and foreign tourists who have specific interests in art, music, history etc., also visit the following:

England also has some unique natural environments, and has a significant Ecotourism industry:

English Cuisine

English cuisine has distinctive attributes of its own, but also shares much with wider British cuisine, largely due to the importation of ingredients and ideas from places such as North America, China, and India during the time of the British Empire and as a result of post-war immigrationIndian cuisine is the most popular alternative to traditional cooking in Britain, followed by Chinese and Italian cuisine food.

English food was historically characterised by its simplicity of approach and a reliance on the high quality of natural produce.  This, was in no small part influenced by England's Puritan flavor at the time, and resulted in a traditional cuisine which tended to veer from strong flavours, such as garlic, and an avoidance of complex sauces.  Traditional meals have ancient origins, such as bread and cheese, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, boiled vegetables and broths, and freshwater and saltwater fish.

Other meals, such as fish and chips, which were once urban street food eaten from newspaper with salt and malt vinegar, and pies and sausages with mashed potatoes, onions, and gravy, are now matched in popularity by curries from India and Bangladesh, and stir-fries based on Chinese and Thai cooking.  Italian cuisine and French cuisine are also now widely adapted.  Britain was also quick to adopt the innovation of fast food from the United States, and continues to absorb culinary ideas from all over the world while at the same time rediscovering its roots in sustainable rural agriculture.

The Sunday roast was once the most common feature of English cooking.  The Sunday dinner traditionally includes roast potatoes (or boiled or mashed potatoes) accompanying a roasted joint of meat such as roast beef, lamb, pork, or a roast chicken and assorted other vegetables, themselves generally boiled and served with a gravy.  Sauces are chosen depending on the type of meat:  horseradish for beef, mint sauce for lamb, apple sauce for pork, and bread sauce for chicken.  Yorkshire pudding normally accompanies beef.

Meat Dishes:

Game meats such as venison, which were traditionally the domain of higher classes, are occasionally also eaten by those wishing to experiment with a wider choice of foods, due to their promotion by celebrity chefs, although they are not usually eaten frequently in the average household.  

English sausages are distinctive in that they are usually made from fresh meats and rarely smoked, dried, or strongly flavored.  Pork and beef are by far the most common bases, although gourmet varieties may contain venison, wild boar, etc.  A variant of the sausage is the black pudding.  It is made from pig's blood.

The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle Ages, when an open top pie crust was used as the container for serving the meat and was called a coffyn.  Since then, they have been a mainstay of English cooking.  Meat pies generally contain fillings such as chicken and mushroom or steak and kidney (originally steak and oyster).  Open pies or flans are generally served for dessert with fillings of seasonal fruit.  Another kind of pie is topped with mashed potato instead of pastry—for instance, shepherd's pie, with lamb, cottage pie, with beef, or fisherman's pie.


During the dessert course, puddings such as bread and butter pudding, Eccles cake, Eton Mess, rhubarb crumble, apple pie, treacle tart, spotted dick, summer pudding, and trifle are served.  There is also the almond flavoured Bakewell tart.


It is a widespread stereotype that the English "drop everything" for a teatime meal in the mid-afternoon.  This is no longer the case in the workplace, and is rarer in the home than it once was.  Tea itself, usually served with milk, is consumed throughout the day and is sometimes also drunk with meals.  In recent years herbal teas and speciality teas have also become popular.

Coffee is perhaps a little less common than in continental Europe, but is still drunk by many in both its instant and percolated forms, often with milk (but rarely with cream).  Italian coffee preparations such as espresso and cappuccino and modern American variants such as the frappuccino are increasingly popular, but generally purchased in restaurants or from specialist coffee shops rather than made in the home.

Wine has been served with meals.  As a less formal accompaniment to meals, or alone, varieties of beer or cider are also drunk.


AFRICAN:  Wherever you are in Africa, no meal is complete without a starchy porridge known as fufu.

BRAZILIAN:  An exuberant, colorful mix of Portuguese, African and native foods including some from the Amazon.

CHINESE:  Two thirds of households own a wok and use it regularly, but not everyone knows how to use it properly.

EGYPTIAN:  Beans are used extensively and creatively as a source of protein, fibre, and comfort.

FRENCH: The French have elevated food into an art form. Nowhere else is so much attention paid to what people are going to eat and how.

HUNGARIAN:  A fusion of simple peasant food & the elegant, highly developed cuisine from the days of the Austro Hungarian Empire.

INDIAN:  A vibrant, intensely colorful cuisine. Each region of India has its own style of cooking and distinct flavors.

INDONESIAN:  One of the most vibrant and colorful cuisines in the world, full of intense flavor and varied textures.

ITALIAN:  An long-awaited introduction to the kitchens and restaurants of Australia’s top Italian chefs and home cooks.

JAPANESE:  Refined and elegant, its preparation and presentation honed over the centuries so its flavors are pure and delicate.

JEWISH:  While flavors of the Jewish palate are influenced by geography, the constant for Jews all over the world are the Kosher laws.

KOREAN:  Some of the healthiest food on earth, with a near obsession with the fermented vegetable kimchi.

LEBANESE:  Lebanese cuisine is generous and abundant, and this is some of the most exquisite food in the world.

MALTESE:  The rocky island of Malta is home to some beautiful rustic recipes that sing of Mediterranean flavor and freshness.

MEXICAN:  Authentic Mexican food is vibrant, spicy, delicious and fun. It varies according to which region its from.

MOROCCAN:  One of the most cleverly balanced cuisines on earth; spices are used to enhance the flavor of dishes.

PAKISTANI:  Full of marvelous and diverse dishes, it incorporates elements from its neighbors India, Afghanistan and Iran.

PERSIAN:  From simple dips to hearty stews, food preparation is taken very seriously in Iran and is often a labor of love.

SOUTH AMERICAN:  A fantastic fusion of culinary traditions from indigenous Indians, imported Africans, and the Spanish and Portuguese colonist.

SRI LANKAN:  This beautiful spice island is a rich melting pot of every nationality that has visited and traded with it over the years.

SYRIAN:  One of the highlights of Syrian food is mezza, a generous spread of small dishes and the prelude to even more food!

TURKISH:  Nestled between Asia and Europe, Turkish food is an unique and exotic fusion with influences from many countries.


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