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Oldies but Goodies: Classic British Food

With the Diamond Jubilee round the corner, we pay homage to British dishes of other eras

With the Diamond Jubilee round the corner, we’ve decided to pay homage to traditional British dishes of other eras. If you fancy indulging in a spot of culinary history you can always try Dinner by Heston, but if you can’t get a table, try these.

Toad in the hole
Toad in the hole was traditionally one of those dishes handy for using leftover meat, and its popularity soared after World War II due to the frugality of creating a dish out of remainders and batter. Over the years the recipe has evolved and now only sausages are used. And the name? No one seems to know for certain, but the most interesting theory is that there is a likeness between meat engulfed in batter and toads hiding in their burrows. Sounds erm, delicious.

Try it: Cock Tavern, £4.50

Beef wellington
The history of beef wellington is unclear; some reports state it was named after the First Duke of Wellington, who had a penchant for beef, truffles, mushrooms and paté wrapped in pastry, while other sources say there is no record of the dish until the 20th century. In any case, this showy dish is creeping back onto London’s menus thanks to the current craze for meat.

Try it: Powder Keg Diplomacy, £20; The Albannach, £22

Bubble and squeak
Another useful dish that uses up leftovers, particularly the uneaten vegetables from Christmas Day. The first mention of the dish is in the 18th century, when meat and vegetables were the key ingredients, but nowadays the meat is replaced with mashed potato. Cabbage and various other vegetables are added to the mash, then fried till the crispy on top. It is possible that it got its name in the days when it was cooked over a fire, from “bubbling up” and “squeaking”, if such things were possible.

Try it: Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar, £3

Jellied eels
Eating eels in jelly is not everyone’s idea of fun, but by the Victorian era this had become a staple food, particularly among the poor - eels were cheap and plentiful, as well as nutritious. The eels are chopped and boiled in fish stock and spices, then left to cool in the stock, till the jelly forms. They taste a little like rollmops, so nothing to be afraid of.

Try it: M. Manze, £3.30

Chicken Kiev
While the origin of this dish isn’t British (there are claims that it is Russian, Ukrainian, and French) this concoction of breaded chicken breast stuffed with garlic butter was enormously popular over here in the 1980s. But as with most things relating to the decade empathy forgot, the humble chicken Kiev went from sophisticated party food to spam fritter status in a very short period of time. Despite the recent resurgence in all things retro it hasn’t quite managed a comeback, even if when done well, the combination of crispy breadcrumbs, tender chicken and buttery sauce is very appealing.

Try it: The Mall Tavern, £14.50

Other places to try: Rules (London's oldest restaurant) and The Gilbert Scott serve traditional British food in opulent surroundings.
Added on May 21, 2012


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