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.
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.
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.
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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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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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.
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 1950s: in 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 Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism, the Bahá'í Faith, the Rastafari movement and Neopaganism. There are also organisations which promote irreligion, atheist humanism, and secularism.
In the past, various other religions (usually "pagan") have been important in the country, particularly Celtic polytheism, Roman polytheism, Anglo-Saxon paganism and Norse paganism. The only religion that was created in England is the neopagan Wicca.
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:
Cambridge: A famous university town.
Canterbury: Renowned for its cathedral.
Liverpool: The 2008 European Capital of Culture, a major port and World Heritage Site, home to two cathedrals and houses more listed buildings, museums and art galleries than any other city in the UK outside of London. The home of Liverpool F.C, a world-famous football club. Is also famous for The Grand National, and its musical, maritime and sporting heritage.
Portsmouth: Portsmouth is a naval dockyard, and has some famous ships on display, including the Mary Rose, and HMS Victory, all within its Historic Dockyard. Also home to Gunwharf Quays retail centre, with its iconic Spinnaker Tower.
York: Famous for the York Minster cathedral. Also the location of the National Railway Museum and a wealth of preserved medieval streets and buildings, such as the Merchant Adventurers' Hall and the Shambles.
Domestic tourists, and foreign tourists who have specific interests in art, music, history etc., also visit the following:
Birmingham: A major city, with an orchestra, major exhibition venues (NEC, ICC) and art galleries. Of historical interest for its significant role in the industrial revolution, the childhood home and inspiration of Tolkien, noted for its shopping and boasting the longest stretch of nightclubs in England.
Manchester: A major city, famous for the Hallé orchestra and many museums and art galleries, a classic example of Victorian era architecture. Also well known for the Manchester Ship Canal. The city is home to the world famous Manchester United F.C., and Manchester City F.C. - the world's richest football club. The host city of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Manchester is also known for being the world's first industrialised city, and is well noted for its shopping, cuisine and nightlife.
England also has some unique natural environments, and has a significant Ecotourism industry:
- Eden Project in Cornwall.
- The Lake District, a national park with hills and lakes, including Windermere, the largest lake in England.
- The Peak District, a national park in Derbyshire.
- Dartmoor and Exmoor, national parks in Devon.
- The New Forest, a rural forest park in Hampshire.
- The Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site in Dorset and Devon
- The National Forest, covering parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.
- Center Parcs, a European network of rural holiday parks.
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 immigration. Indian 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.
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.