Northern European countries generally have a tradition of salting, smoking, pickling and otherwise preserving foods. Kippers, bloaters, ham, and bacon are some of the varieties of preserved meat and fish known in England. Onions, cabbage and some other vegetables may be pickled. Meats other than pork are generally not cured.
Pickles and preserves are given a twist by the influence of the British Empire. Thus, the repertoire includes chutney as well as Branston or "brown" pickle, piccalilli, pickled onions and gherkins. Pickled eggs are traditionally sold in fish and chips shops and pickled walnuts are traditionally served with an English blue cheese such as Stilton or cooked in with beef. The Asian influence is also present in condiments such as tomato sauce (originally ketjap), Worcestershire sauce and "brown" sauce (such as HP). Because Britain is a beer-drinking nation, malt vinegar is commonly used. English mustard is strongly flavoured and bright yellow; served with meats and cooked with cheese; internationally noted for its pungency; and particularly associated with Colman's of Norwich. Pickles often accompany a selection of sliced, cold cooked meats, or "cold collation". This dish can claim to have some international influence, since it is known in French as an "assiette anglaise".
England can claim to have given the world the word "sandwich", although the eponymous John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich was not the first to add a filling to bread. English sandwiches are made with two slices of bread, or some kind of roll. Fillings such as pickled relishes and Gentleman's Relish could also be considered distinctively English. Common types of sandwich are roast beef, chicken salad, ham and mustard, cheese and pickle, BLT, egg mayonnaise, prawn mayonnaise, tuna, marmite and jam. A dainty form of sandwich, cut into small squares, without crusts, and often filled with cucumber, are served at genteel gatherings, such as Royal Garden parties. Robust sandwiches made from thick slices are called "doorstops" and are often served in pubs.
Meals in England include: breakfast, elevenses, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper.
Full English breakfast with bubble and squeak, sausage, bacon, grilled tomatoes and eggs.
A light breakfast might consist of breakfast cereal, muesli, boiled or scrambled eggs, toast and conserves or sometimes poached kippers. Continental breakfasts and porridge are also eaten. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the upper classes ate elaborate breakfasts including such dishes ask edgeree and devilled kidneys. Now, the substantial breakfast is the full English breakfast or 'fry-up'.
A traditional full English breakfast includes bacon (traditionally back bacon, less commonly streaky bacon), poached, fried or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, sausages and black pudding, usually served with a mug of tea. It can even be a multi-course meal, with lighter breakfast ingredients such as fruit or cereal being eaten as a starter to the fry-up. As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly called a "fry-up". When an English breakfast is ordered to contain everything available it is often referred to as a Full English, or a Full Monty. Full English breakfasts are usually consumed in the home on non-working days, when there is enough time to prepare them, or at a hotel or cafe, They can also be enjoyed at lunchtime or as a late supper. Some eateries specialise in the "all day breakfast", and serve almost nothing else.
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. A formal teatime meal is now often an accompaniment to tourism, particularly in Devon and Cornwall, where comestibles may include scones with jam and clotted cream (together known as a cream tea). There are also fairy cakes, simple small sponge cakes which can be iced or eaten plain. Nationwide, assorted biscuits and sandwiches are eaten. Generally, however, the teatime meal has been replaced by snacking, or simply dispensed with.
The Sunday roast.
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 or roasted with the meat in its juices, which are then used as or added to the gravy. Sauces and jellies are chosen depending on the type of meat: horseradish or various mustards for beef, mint sauce or mint or redcurrant jelly for lamb, apple sauce for pork, and cranberry sauce for turkey. Yorkshire pudding normally accompanies beef (although traditionally served in Yorkshire, as a starter, from the days when meat was scarce so was served first as a "filler"), sage and onion stuffing pork, and usually parsley stuffing chicken; gravy is now often served as an accompaniment to the main course.
The practice of serving a roast dinner on a Sunday is related to the elaborate preparation required, and to the housewife's practice of performing the weekly wash on a Monday, when the cold remains of the roast made an easily assembled meal. Sunday was once the only rest day after a six-day working week; it was also a demonstration that the household was prosperous enough to afford the cost of a better than normal meal.
An elaborate version of the roast dinner is traditionally eaten at Christmas, with almost every detail rigidly specified by tradition. Since its widespread availability after World War II the most popular Christmas roast is turkey, superseding the goose of Dickens's time. Before the period of cheap turkeys, roast chicken would be more common than goose although chicken was still a once a year treat until the 1950s, goose being unsuitable for small groups of diners. 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, however rabbit and pigeon, whether poached or domestically reared, were once staple sources of protein for the working classes.
Traditional desserts are generally served hot and are highly calorific. A number are variations on suet pudding, and "pudding" is an alternative name for the dessert course in England. They have a nostalgic appeal for many Britons, hence their designation as "school" or "nursery" puddings, but currently most Britons eat lighter desserts on a daily basis, reserving traditional "pudding" for special occasions.
Suet puddings include Jam Roly-Poly, and spotted dick. Summer pudding and bread and butter pudding are based on bread. Sponge cake is the basis of sticky toffee pudding and treacle sponge pudding. Crumbles such as rhubarb crumble have a crunchy topping over stewed fruit. Other hot desserts include apple pie, treacle tart, Gypsy tart, Eton mess and trifle are served are cold desserts.
An accompaniment, custard, sometimes known as crème anglaise ("English sauce") is a substitute to "eggs and milk" made from cornflour and vanilla. These dishes are simple and traditional. There is also a dried fruit based Christmas pudding, and the almond flavoured Bakewell tart originating from the town of Bakewell., Banoffee pie now known internationally was invented by a Sussex restauranteur in the 1970s. Crystallised Ginger or a Peppermint Sweet might be offered after a heavy meal to aid digestion.
Another English culinary tradition, rarely observed today, is the consumption of a savoury course toward the conclusion of a meal. This now though may be eaten as a snack or a light lunch or supper. Some meals today end with a sweet dessert, although cheese and biscuits may be consumed as an alternative or as an addition. In Yorkshire, fruit cake is often served with Wensleydale cheese. Coffee can sometimes be a culminatory drink.
For more complete lists, see the British section of the List of recipes. For traditional foods with Protected Geographical Status under European law, see List of United Kingdom food and drink products with protected status.