If the Brits know anything about food, it’s how to serve up winter warmers. As a place that sees more than its fair share of wind, rain and gray skies, it’s hardly a surprise that this nation has developed a cuisine high in carbohydrates, thick with meats and invariably doused in rich gravy.
Whether you’re looking to fend off the cold or cheer yourself up after a lousy day, check out these 7 classic British comfort foods:
1) Toad in the Hole
There’s not a toad to be seen in this dish, promise. Instead, what you get is delicious sausages nestled and cooked into a batter (known as Yorkshire pudding batter) that bakes high above the sausages, creating the visual effect that the “toads” are peeking out from their holes.
This dish is usually served with vegetables and gravy that has been cooked with fried onions.
Not a toad in sight, just rich sausages in batter. Photo by Annie Mole.
2) Pea and Ham Soup
Vividly green, thick with comfort and crammed with baked ham that melts in your mouth, you should be warned against ordering this soup as an appetizer as it is often too much to manage even for an entrée.
Best served with warm crusty bread and for a real treat add a dollop of crème fraiche for extra yummy richness. An alternative, thinner soup is made with split peas, which look similar to lentils.
Vivid green and delicious pea and ham soup. Photo by theCSSdiv.
3) Stew and Dumplings
Typically made with beef and vegetables such as carrots, leeks and onions, the base ingredients are slow cooked in a pot with stock for hours allowing the meat to tenderize and the gravy to thicken.
The dumplings are made from suet, which provides a wonderful doughy way to soak up the stew juices and are added toward the end of the cooking. Beef can be substituted with lamb, chicken or just extra winter root vegetables for a different taste.
Dumplings are perfect for soaking up the gravy in this root vegetable stew. Photo by Girl Interrupted Eating.
4) Fish Pie
If you’re looking for winter comfort food but without the gravy, fish pie is the perfect alternative. Traditionally white fish such as cod or haddock was used but recipes have broadened to include other ingredients from the sea such as salmon and prawns.
The fish and seafood are cooked in a creamy white sauce and topped with a deep crust of mashed potato. Serve with vegetables to keep your nutrient intake up during the cold days and nights.
Want an alternative to the gravy dishes? Tuck into creamy fish pie. Photo by TummyRumble.
5) Pie and Mash
Something of a British institution, pie and mash has its origins in the East End of London where it was served during the Victorian Era to the working class.
Created using the glut of eels from the River Thames and wrapped in pastry to make it transportable, the pie was born. Mash was added as a cheap way to complete the meal.
Today, meat replaces the eels, though, in the East End green-colored eel gravy known as “liquor” (it’s nonalcoholic), which is still served as a tradition.
Otherwise, you can’t beat steak and ale pie served with a generous dollop of creamy mash and an endless supply of meat gravy.
Pie and mash—the London East End classic. Photo by Dani P.L.
6) Bangers and Mash
Named during a time when sausages had a high water content and tended to pop, bang and sizzle in the pan, bangers are a firm British favorite and make the perfect comfort food.
There are many varieties of sausage to choose from. They are typically made from pork or beef and flavored with many different combinations of seasoning ranging from sage to apple to chili.
The Cumberland sausage is a fun and tasty swirl of a sausage that will fill even the biggest appetite. Best served with onion gravy, consider a glass of British Ale to wash it all down.
Sizzling bangers and mash. Photo by gifrancis.
7) Cottage Pie
Just when you thought it wasn’t possible to serve yet another variation of meat and potatoes, you discover cottage pie.
Ground beef forms the base ingredient, which is cooked in gravy with vegetables such as carrots, onion and peas. A generous portion of mashed potato is placed on top, and when cooked, the pie comes out with a crisp crust and more gravy is often added for good measure.
An alternative version is shepherd’s pie, which uses lamb instead of beef.
The mash crust is the perfect topping for cottage pie. Photo by WordRidden.
Heavy on the potatoes and generous with the gravy, British winter warmers know how to offer the perfect culinary comfort from the cold.
Have you tried any of these dishes? What is your favorite winter comfort food? Let me know in the comments below.
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Main photo: The Brits really know how to serve up winter comfort foods by dichohecho.