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England's most popular food

Updated on September 12, 2014
Source

Tikka masala - England's most popular dish

Although I've lived in the USA for many years, I still crave - and regularly eat - my favorite English food. And if you imagine that I'm referring to any of those weirdly-named foods that tend to be served in American British pubs, you're wrong.

Believe me, the most popular food in England isn't toad-in-the-hole, bubble and squeak, spotted dick or any of these fancifully named dishes, it's tikka masala.

But isn't that an Indian dish? Nope.It's true that you'll find places on the internet that refer to this magnificent sauce as a favorite 'Indian food' . But tikka masala, like that other popular favorite, balti, was actually devised in Britain.

The non-vegetarian version, chicken tikka masala, is one of the most frequently ordered dishes in British restaurants. But why should meat eaters have all the fun? Meatless versions are even better.

Many dishes from Indian cuisine are vegetarian and although the chicken version is the most popular dish in England, veggie versions are made too. And they are so easy to make at home.


Anglo-Indian food - did you know?

  • In India, there is no such food as 'curry'. This word is entirely English. Some think it derived from the word 'kari' which means 'sauce' in Tamil. Another theory, and the one that I prefer, is that it has its roots in England's first cookery book A Forme of Cury which was published in the 1390s. Back then, all spicy foods (and the book contains many) were referred to as 'cury'.
  • If you are in England, don't be surprised if an English friend asks you if you 'fancy a ruby'. Don't worry, your friend is only asking you if you'd like a curry. It's rhyming slang, you see. 'But' you say 'ruby doesn't rhyme with curry?' True, but in the 1950s when curry was exploding in popularity, one of Britain's most popular singers was Ruby Murray. I know, I know, but that's how rhyming slang works.
  • We are more likely to go to a 'curry house' than an 'Indian restaurant'. Yes, they mean the same. Curry had been enjoyed in England for many years but the first restaurant that specialized in Indian food exclusively opened in London in 1809. it was called the Hindostanee Coffee House and served both meat and vegetable curries.
  • The dish created for Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953 (naturally enough called Coronation Chicken) includes the following ingredients: Garlic, black pepper, curry powder and fresh cilantro - all good curry ingredients. This was served at the coronation banquet.
  • Queen Victoria was devoted to Indian food. After all, she was the Empress of India. She employed Indian cooking staff who created Indian meals for her and her family on a daily basis. This is what led to the amazing popularity of curry in the Victorian era amongst the upper-crust.
  • Chicken tikka masala became so popular in the UK that in 1999, the BBC reported that this British dish was exported in huge quantities to ..... India. At that time, they also reported that one supermarket chain alone sold over one million packets of the spicy sauce mix every year.

Chickpea recipe from Form of Cury

Many recipes in Form of Cury call for a particular ingredient, powder fort.

Today, we would liken this to a garam masala or similar spice mix. Powder fort would typically contain ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, grains of paradise (pungent and peppery seeds and culebs (the spicy seeds of a variety of pepper).

This is a typical recipe translated into modern day:Drain and rinse canned chickpeas and roast in the over for about 45 minutes. Turn them so that they roast evenly. When cooked add them to a pan with water to cover, two bulbs of garlic, peeled, a little olive oil and the powder fort. Cook until the garlic is soft - this should take about twenty minutes.

See the original recipe below.

Source
The Forme of Cury: A Roll of Ancient English Cookery Compiled, about A.D. 1390
The Forme of Cury: A Roll of Ancient English Cookery Compiled, about A.D. 1390

Have you ever sat down to a meal an wondered what people were eating hundreds of years ago? I have and it's a fascinating subject.

Did they, for example, eat lasagna? You'd think not but they did - see the recipe for loysens. Curry? Of course!

Some people, when they are watching movies, look out for out-of-period items - a plane flying overhead in Victorian England or a cowboy in the Wild West wearing a watch. I look to see if the food they are eating is true to the period! These recipes, dating from the fourteenth century, are still tasty today.

 
Source

Vegetarian tikka masala

Although it's fun to cook from scratch, I often find that I don't have enough time. And with tikka masala dishes that doesn't mean any lack of quality.

In fact, I have to admit that certain manufacturers make a much better tikka masala sauce than I do!The sauce is is available in most supermarkets - or online - and is vegetarian.

It's an ideal way to create a very quick but very tasty Indian meal in no time. A feature of the meat dish, is that the sauce should be allowed to penetrate into the meat but with vegetables, I find that they are absorbent enough to not need marinating first.

Although if you have the time, letting the foods absorb the sauce is a good idea.Your imagination can run riot when it comes to ingredients.

My favorite way is to add chick peas (from a can), and when they are warmed through add cashew nuts and then sliced banana. Just heat it up so the banana doesn't go soft. Oh, and a lot of chopped cilantro. Here are some great combinations to add to the sauce.

  • Cauliflower florets and cashew nuts.
  • Chick peas (from a can, drained) and sliced green beans.
  • Roasted eggplant (cut into slices) and baby carrots.
  • Tofu and broccoli florets.
  • Potatoes and baby corn.
  • Paneer and peas.
  • Spinach and lentils.
  • Mushrooms and scallions.
  • Green pepper, zucchini and tomato.

Source

To serve

Of course, you could serve basmati rice. Or, more traditionally (traditionally English, that is!) serve with naan bread and chapattis.

The very first time I went to a proper curry house - this was in Bradford - I was surprised when the meals were served but no forks, or any cutlery at all. What I didn't understand was that the English way, in the north anyway, is to break off a piece of chapatti or naan, form it with your fingers into a sort of scoop, and shovel up the curry into your mouth.

I get some funny looks when I do this here in America but I promise it tastes better, the bread provides lots of fiber with every mouthful and ... it saves on washing up.

Your local grocery store most probably sells naan but if not, it's available online and are the packs are vacuum sealed so they'll keep well.

TIP: If you really can't get chapatti or naan, commercially sold flour tortillas can be used as a substitute. Heat a frying pan on a high heat, add one tortilla (no oil) and press down with a spatula for a few seconds. Flip and do the same. The tortillas should have brown spots on both sides. You can keep them warm in a damp tea-towel while you cook more.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay is notoriously scathing about vegetarian diets. (He'll learn!) But nevertheless...

Further reading

As I was more or less brought up on Anglo-Indian food, it was the next natural step to cook it myself. I had a lot of help from a young girl from Pakistan who lived just down the road. She was only about twelve years old but was the cook of the family and she taught me a lot. Over the years though, although we have family favorites that I make often, I experimented with different dishes taken from various recipe books. Good cookbooks can add such variety to your diet.

Buy Indian goodies online

There's another thing that's happened to my cooking over the years. I rarely use convenience foods but, although I like to think that I can make great Anglo-Indian food, I like to use the ready made sauces.

I always add my own flourishes of course (especially fresh cilantro) but I have to admit that Sharwoods and Pataks can make a better, more authentic sauce than I can and yes, it means dinner is ready a lot quicker.

Most supermarkets sell these today but we tend to buy them online because they tend to be cheaper.

Pataks Tikka Masala Paste 10 Oz
Pataks Tikka Masala Paste 10 Oz

There are many varieties available.

 

My Pakistani tutor showed me exactly how to make chapattis, naan and other Indian breads which I believe are essential with a curry. But once again, I find it hard to justify the time it takes to make them when I can buy them inexpensively ready made.

Thanks for visiting - say hi!

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    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Erin Mellor: Haha - sounds about right!

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      4 years ago from Europe

      I love the story, probably apocryphal, that tikka masala was invented in Glasgow when a man sent chicken tikka back to the kitchen because it was too spicy and didn't have any gravy on it, so the chef mixed up some Campbells tomato soup and yoghurt to make a mild "gravy" to stir the chicken back into.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @dwelburn: Hi David! Yes, it was a few years ago now that a survey was done in the UK and although fish and chips and other dishes are still popular, it seems that we are a nation of curry monsters :)

    • profile image

      dwelburn 

      4 years ago

      I really like chicken tikka masala, but I never knew it was an English dish (even though I live here). And I didn't know it was England's most popular food. I thought that might have been fish and chips or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Really interesting background on curry; thanks.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      Totally interesting! I tried making my own whole wheat naan awhile back. It did not turn out too well. I will tweak the recipe and try again one of these days. Thank you for all the information. Well told.

    • profile image

      reesewithersmith 

      5 years ago

      I got hold off this amazing Indian cookbook by Vivek Singh recently and must say- it's one of the most creative, innovative and visual dishes book

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      this looks really good!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Haha - morning cup of tea here :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I know I would enjoy the popular foods in England. Now I'll go have my morning Cheerios. :)

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 

      5 years ago

      My indian friend offered to me Chicken Tikka Masala when I came to Britain for first time. Not my favourite, but I can eat it when I'm hungry.

    • TheBookGarden1 profile image

      TheBookGarden1 

      5 years ago

      Now I'm hungry!!!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @JohnTannahill: Nope. That's our secret :)

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 

      5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Fish and chips is still up there in the top five, it's pretty close. But, various curry dishes are there too. Do they know about Balti in the US yet?

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Rosetta Slone: I feel a huge affinity with Australians! Australians tend to have the same daft sense of humour as the English do! I've known quite a few Australians here in Florida and we've always bonded and had a lot in common - curry is one :)

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      5 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      Being Australian, I've grown up with lots of British dishes & this is one of my favourites.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jennysue19: Thanks Jenny - I think I will make more British food lenses. When I first moved here, I was amazed at the 'British' food hey sold in the so-called British pubs here. It was mostly stuff I'd never heard of in England - I never knew anyone in England who ate bangers and mash or spotted dick!

    • jennysue19 profile image

      jennysue19 

      5 years ago

      You will just have to start a shop selling English goodies! Are there enough Brits in your part of Florida to make it viable? I didn't realise till quite recently that Amazon sells groceries. Also there is a fantastic website called Seasoned Pioneers who you could probably buy curry spices from if the crazy US FDA will let you! Great lens - you might also like my one about Chips or Fries which tries to explain some other British foods and takeaways :-)

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 

      5 years ago from Johanesburg

      Looks yummy , thanks for sharing

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Loretta L: That's interesting. It definitely needs to be made more popular in the States. We only have one real curry house locally and it's a twenty minute drive away (no good if you want a glass of wine with dinner!)

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @CoolFool83: It is - thanks for reading!

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      5 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      Hello from a fellow Brit. Yummy, curry! Maybe I'll get a takeaway. There is a woman in the Us who runs classes on how to cook curry. I think she may be popularising it over there. I used to know her many years ago, her name is Meela Shah.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 

      5 years ago

      Looks very delicious!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @CuriousBoy: I know the secrets! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • profile image

      CuriousBoy 

      5 years ago

      Indian food is one of my favorites.I'd like to make chapati and naan at home but I did not find any satisfactory recipe/procedure.Why not to make a lens about this?

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @CuriousBoy: What a good idea - I will. Thanks!

    • profile image

      CuriousBoy 

      5 years ago

      As to English food:What about Fish and Chips?While I get good results at home I do not get that special typical flavor of that one I got in London...What's the secret? (newspaper wrap aside)A lens on this subject, please!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Thanks!

    • DrCimren profile image

      DrCimren 

      5 years ago

      nice recipe

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Scarlettohairy: Rhyming slang is fantastic and so difficult to understand if you haven't grown up with it. Even though I've been in the States for so long, I still use it all the time. Only when speaking to English people though! Thanks for visiting!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Well, I do love curry but love how the English come up with their funny rhyming schemes even more! I just read Call the Midwife and she included a very thorough explanation of British rhyming slang. Such fun!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Hi Simon! I wonder where you are in the UK? Last time I was there, there were still some good chippies in Yorkshire :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I still love a good 'sunday lunch' roast turkey, mash potatoes, peas, carrots, leeks, cauliflower and roast potatoes with a good slash of gravy. yum yum.England used to be a good place for fish and chips, but a good fish and chip shop is very hard to find, because the people who own most of the 'corner shops' also have fish and chip shops and i have yet to find a good one ! Greetings from the UK - Unequal Kingdom

    • profile image

      ChristyZ 

      5 years ago

      Wow, you blew me away with your curry fact! I was very surprised that it wasn't an Indian word. Great lens:)

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 

      5 years ago

      I didn't know that tikka masala was English! I love all kind of Indian food, both eating and cooking it.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      5 years ago from US/TN

      Interesting! I had no idea these foods originated in Britain.

    • profile image

      cmadden 

      5 years ago

      Scooping with naan was common in Fiji when I lived there many years ago. The hub makes great tikka masala and vindaloo (his and my favorites).

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 

      5 years ago

      I just learned a lot. When my husband and I first went to England, we stayed at a hotel in Molesworth. Do you know where that is? :) I can't remember the military base nearby, but I loved my stay there.

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 

      5 years ago

      What a tasty looking food, I am getting hungry now.

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 

      5 years ago

      The best food ever! It's nice to meet a fellow Squid who is actually the opposite to me- I grew up in USA and now live in England!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Yummy, I am hungry after reading this :)

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 

      5 years ago

      I love a good curry and loved reading your background information to it too.

    • helpfulhack profile image

      helpfulhack 

      5 years ago

      @BritFlorida: I 100% agree I would much rather be soaking up the sun than turning up the heating! :(

    • Phillyfreeze profile image

      Ronald Tucker 

      5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      I enjoyed reading the historical background of some of the most popular English dishes and the influence that Indian recipes have on culinary arts. Prior to reading, I only thought about our first Arthur Threacher's "Fish n' Chips Shoppe" and "English muffins!Very scrumptious list of of English cuisine with an India palette.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @helpfulhack: I'm not jealous :) Snow should only be allowed on Christmas Day!

    • helpfulhack profile image

      helpfulhack 

      5 years ago

      @BritFlorida: I bet, it's a place I have always wanted to visit. Just so you know;it's snowing here today!Lol

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @helpfulhack: Small world! The weather is SO much better here :)

    • helpfulhack profile image

      helpfulhack 

      5 years ago

      Great lens, I didn't know half of this stuff and I am English lol. Anyway it's great to see another Brit on here and how amazing that you live in Florida. :o)

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @tfsherman lm: Yes. I love that! That's why it's my favorite airline.

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 

      5 years ago

      We flew to British Air to England last year for an exciting British vacation. I was so happy when the dinner served was curry!

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