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English Classics to Cook With Your Group

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 11 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
English Cookery Food Cuisine Traditional

When there’s a Chinese takeaway on every corner and the smell of American coffee drifts down every shopping street it’s easy to forget what constitutes English cuisine. So, for this Masterclass, invite your cookery group to explore the forgotten dishes of the past and present. Scrabble in the attic for gran’s handwritten recipe book, dig out Delia, and treat yourselves to an evening learning about our own food heritage.

Find a Speaker or Host it Yourselves?

For this group, you could try to find a local speaker. Approach the leader of your local Women’s Institute, enquire at the nearest college, or ask in an English restaurant. Make sure that you specify what you’d like them to talk about (a broad brief will do, but if you’d like to learn about their Yorkshire roots then specify that).

You’ll need to find a fee for your speaker, which can be split between the group. For a cheaper option, agree on the contents of this masterclass at cookery group and then allocate different segments to different members. Ask every ‘leader’ to prepare a ten-minute talk about their topic, whether it’s pot roasting or Cornish cream teas.

All About English Cuisine

We have a wealth of cookery types and traditions in this country. In recent years, ‘English’ cuisine has been under the spotlight, with leading chefs such as Gary Rhodes and James Martin revamping forgotten classics like Bubble & Squeak and Lancashire Hotpot. There can hardly be a British town without its own microcuisine, with Indian, Italian, Chinese and Thai food usually available within a short walk. But, just because our regional cookery has been disguised by an influx of world cuisines, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve to be resuscitated.

Consider the wide variety of British cuisine. From the clotted cream herds of the West to the vine-growing culture in the east, from beer bread to dumplings and hotpot – every corner of the country has its own proud speciality. You could allocate a region to each member, challenging them to create a starter, main, side or pudding using the flavours and traditions of their corner of England. And don’t restrict yourself to the English borders – you could also explore Scotland’s neeps and whisky, Ireland’s soda-bread and potato pancakes, and Wales’s laverbread and welshcakes.

If you wanted to focus on the specialities of one region of the UK, here are some ideas for regional menus.

  • Suffolk and East Anglia: Parmesan-topped muffins, ribeye stew and dumplings, plum crumble and malt bread.
  • Cornwall and Devon: Fish pie, scones and strawberry jam.
  • Ireland: Potato pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, Corned beef and colcannon.
  • Scotland: Whisky-marinated cheese and oatcakes, Scotch broth, haggis and stovies.
  • Wiltshire and Somerset: Pork pie (Swindon comes from Swine-down, or pig hill) with apple sauce, Sally Lunns and Lardy Cake
  • Lancashire and Cumbria: Black Pudding (try it on a root rosti), Lancashire Hotpot, and sticky toffee pudding.
  • Wales: Mussels and cockles, lamb stew with leek gratin, and Bara Brith.

Recommended Resources and Leading Names

  • Gary Rhodes: New British Classics is a bible for any cook wishing to recreate traditional British food, starting with the classic breakfast and going right through to puddings. Track down this hefty book in your local library (you may find yourself checking it out again and again!) It’s a good resource for this Cookery Group masterclass, because it offers revamped versions of old dishes, like rarebit tartlets and Cauliflower Cheese with Parmesan Crumbs.
  • Delia Smith has, of course, been cooking British classics for decades (at least it feels like). Her Complete Cookery Course is ideal for referring to when you want to know how to make an old-fashioned chocolate cake or pot-roast like your gran used to cook. The hearty Beef in Ale is perfect for this Masterclass.
  • If you want to look back a bit further, try hunting out books by the first ladies of British cookery: Marguerite Paten, Isabella Beeton, and the inimitable Fanny Cradock.

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