Of course, as English, we have stereotypes. Every nation has them, and they can be quite fun at times, especially when you learn to laugh about them, stiff upper lip and that, what what. We seem to be seen as a nation who partakes in strange humour, constantly insults one another, whilst being ridiculously polite and able to queue until we’re blue in the face. One stereotype I just simply can’t fathom, and almost abhor, however, is the fact that we’re seen as a nation who just doesn’t have good food. It’s a well known fact that Brits apparently can’t cook and don’t eat well. I can understand that given the size that Brits are coming to be, and the state of health of our children/adults alike, the world might have this impression of us. But it’s just not fair! It’s simply not true. Having sat for dinner with Spanish families for over seven months now, and discussed food matters, the remark I now hear most frequently is; ‘I never knew you had so much to offer’. Talks of fruits, vegetables, cakes, main dishes, everything you could think of, that the Spaniards had no idea we had on offer.
I can understand that if one looked at the basic meat and two veg style of Brit supper, then the wrong impression could be given. I’m not a big meat eater myself, let alone fish, so I do struggle here a bit in Spain, where the daily diet has to include at least one of each. The food’s great here, and they’re healthy, lithe, and sporty, with a good attitude to eating, relaxing, and dining. I think Brits got lazy somewhere along the way, and decided fast food was easier, like our American cousins, but even so, we still have some great things that I’ve been discussing recently with nostalgia.
Of course, we can all agree to disagree when it comes to things like Marmite, but just simple things like bacon and sausages I have to hand to the English when it comes to it, as I don’t like streaky bacon, which is the standard here, and I definitely don’t like finding bits of gristle in my sausages, which I find more often than not here. They’re not as salted and seasoned here, too, so I do believe you can’t beat a good Cumberland or Lincolnshire sausage.
Apples here are entirely awful; and I don’t exaggerate this fact – even some of the Spaniards themselves have agreed with me on this. Bland, the wrong kind of chewy, a little seedy and almost fluffy so they fall apart in your mouth, they have almost no flavour and you feel like you’re only eating them in order to get one of your five a day. Granny Smiths can be bought here but they’re awfully expensive, as are Pink Ladies, but I do miss a good Cox’s Pippin, or just the simple Garden Gang ASDA apples which are a snip at £1 a bag (although inflation has probably got the better of me here and by the time I go back to England they’ll be at least £2.50). The variety of apples we have is much richer, much more vibrant, and entirely more satisfying. Other seasonal fruits include gooseberries (grosellas), blackberries (moras), redcurrants (grosellas rojas – apparently there is no difference between gooseberries and redcurrants here, according to the names they give, which I can assure you is not true…they’re entirely different fruits!), and blackcurrants (grosellas negras, if you hadn’t guessed that), to name but a few.
We have a rich variety of fruits and vegetables, which I do believe we don’t always take advantage of, but our basics are brilliant for cooking, eating fresh, and baking. Strawberries with cream, a Wimbledon favourite, which brings me onto another lament – no cream. That was a bit of a lie, they do of course have cream, even squirty type, which I would have thought was a cardinal sin over here; but they don’t have cream that goes over a fat content percentage of 35%. Quite right, you’re probably thinking. Sounds jolly healthy. But imagine ice cream made with milk and less fatty cream, strawberries without the rich double cream coating, your favourite dessert with a covering of what almost seems like milk.
I was looking to bake myself a nice cake with homemade ice cream for my birthday, or a semifreddo, but what would you know, all the things I wanted to bake required double cream, which just doesn’t exist here. I’d have to try and make it myself right from the cow. I can lament all I want, I suppose, but it’s not truly serious – I of course miss some British cooking, but it’s mostly the baking rather than the main courses, which I’ve never been keen on much due to the meaty content. Ginger doesn’t exist here either, really, except in Chinese food, or upon occasion in smoothies. I love a ginger nut or a good HobNob, brandy and ginger snaps, syrup pudding, ginger cake, and marmalade cake, which I hadn’t thought about much until recently, and now I’m at the verge of salivating over the keyboard.
Here’s an example of some fabulous British recipes, that I would urge anybody to try, and think twice about what they say when they remark on our cuisine, or lack of it indeed!
A tasty dish celebrating English summer fruits, including the aforementioned types of grosellas – redcurrants, blackcurrants, and blackberries, strawberries, with raspberries. Delicious with that naughty double cream, but just with the sweet juice that runs off the fruit mix, it’s enough to make you dream of Summertime in the Winter.
Named from the famous school, of course, after being traditionally served at cricket tournaments there, and celebrating the strawberry in a different fashion to Wimbledon. Meringue, the hard type, which is difficult to find in Spain, is broken up with a strawberry/raspberry/red fruit coulis, with sugar and that famous double cream again, but it can easily be made with normal ‘nata’ and Greek yoghurt. Serve it chilled in a clear glass for a nice visual treat at well as a tasty one.
Easy enough to buy in British supermarkets, but well worth making. Delia’s somewhat of a Saint for us in regards to cooking, and this recipe is fabulous. Gingery, warming biscuits aren’t probably what one needs in a sunny climate, but when the weather’s cooler and you need the cockles of your heart warming, I’d recommend whipping up a batch of these.
Gooseberries are obviously difficult to find abroad, but it’s well worth it for the tart taste of this tangy ‘fool’, which can also be made with other fruits such as rhubarb or raspberries. I remember not liking it so much when I was younger, but now I think it’s wonderful.
Even better if you put Gin in it!
And the final, quintessential Brit drink…
Pimms always reminds me of Summer. When made correctly, with the right fruit, and the mint, it’s just divine. I haven’t seen it here in Spain but I’m getting a bottle brought over for me thanks to the wonder that is Duty Free: can’t wait to savour that Brit taste for my Birthday. It’ll be Eton Mess, Pimms, Gin sorbet, and strawberries all round, I hope.