Thursday, 23 February 2012

Heritage Food - "Noshtalgia ain't what it used to be ... "

How often do you pass by a pub that advertises "traditional pub grub" or how often do you use that slogan in your own marketing? For many this sobriquet will conjure up dishes such as Cottage Pie or Sausage and Mash or Fish and Chips (and even Chicken Tikka Masala) but I am sure you won't be surprised to learn that these islands have an ancient, rich and varied culinary tradition beyond these examples.

With the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen and the inevitable celebration of all that is British that will open the London Olympic Games this summer, pubs have a unique opportunity to be part of the zeitgeist.

As well as being an opportunity to use local produce and seasonal ingredients you could add to your pub's USP by adding truly authentic traditional British dishes to your menu … and don’t forget wine. ale, cider and mead play an important part in the story too so plenty of opportunities for food matching. You could even go the full hog, so to speak, and dress up for the occasion too!

In this guide I will provide some recipes, food and drink ideas and point you in the direction of some really useful information on what is "Best of British". It really could be as simple as ABC - "Authentic British Cuisine". You'll even find deals from local food producers and suppliers.

I have in mind three ways to exploit what will undoubtedly be a huge resurgence in interest in our island's rich cultural heritage, but I am sure you will have your own ideas:

Concept One - "British Food Through The Ages"


 Whether you were to feature a menu reflecting British cuisine from Anglo-Saxon to Tudor and Regency to Victorian as a series of theme nights or add an ABC section to your standing menu you will find a fabulous heritage of cooking in this country.

Concept Two - "Lost British Food Rediscovered"
Another way to present ABC would be to look at obscure, but toothsome dishes from the past 1,000 years and as for the majority of that time many foods we take for granted nowadays were prohibitively expensive for most of the population you'll find plenty of inexpensive and delicious ideas on the web. For instance what about Pease Pudding, Angels on Horseback or Stargazy Pie?

Concept Three - "Elizabethan Food for the New Elizabethan Era"
To tie in with the Golden Jubilee celebrations forget Coronation Chicken (unless you have a brilliant new twist on it) and bring a little ABC to your customers in the form of an Elizabethan banquet. How about turning your traditional Sunday Roasts menu over to a Tudor feast on the Sunday of Jubilee weekend?

As the Anglo Saxon era is probably the earliest recorded time in the history of food in Britain, I guess the most authentic of British cuisine would come from that period.

Not all the foodstuffs will be familiar to you or your customers, and modern tastes might preclude using some of them, but with the minimum of substitutions you can still give your customers a flavour of the past.

Later periods such as the Regency and Victorian era are much closer to us and apart from the lavish decorations and sheer quantity of food consumed in one sitting that is a characteristic of these culinary epochs much more will be accessible to your customers.

Anglo-Saxon Staples

Fruit – figs and grapes, small apples (crab apples), plums, cherries and sloes

Vegetables & Grains - wheat, rye, oats and barley, carrots, 'Welsh carrots'; or parsnips, cabbages, burdock and rape, onions and leeks, wild garlic

Legumes - peas and beans

Herbs and Spices - ginger, cinnamon, fennel, celeriac, cloves mace and pepper


Wine & Mead 'apple-wine' (probably a form of cider) fruit juices including apple, pear and plum, herbal 'teas' and infusions, beer and ale

Nuts hazelnuts, acorns, almonds, walnuts

Fish - herring, salmon and eel, pike, perch and roach, flounder, whiting, plaice, cod and brown trout, oysters, mussels and cockles

Meat – pork, chicken, duck and goose, ducks, pigeon, plover, grouse, herons, goose, hare and rabbit, venison, wild boar, beef and veal, mutton and lamb, goat and kid

Anglo-Saxon Dishes

Small Bird and Bacon Stew with Walnuts or Hazelnuts; Pan Roasted Venison with Cherries; Lamb and Apricot Stew; 'Fenkel in Soppes' (Braised Fennel with Ginger); Nut and Leek Stew; Lozenges or Curd Cheese Pastries … to name but a few.  
Useful Websites:

For finding local food and drink suppliers near to your pub why not try Big Barn - simply type in your post code and you'll find a list of local producers in your area, use the code BB1 and receive a 10% discount on selected purchases from their retailers.

The Tudors is a mine of information on all things relating to the Tudor period including such recipes as Almond Jumballs, Taffatty Tart and Poor Knight's Pudding. For your Elizabethan Banquet and a vast list of dishes. Crow Pie has a great collection of recipes, a glossary of British cuisine and food, calendars detailing farmers markets throughout the UK

You'll even find the World Carrot Museum that will introduce you to the wonderful world of all things of Daucus Carota (Latin for carrot). Ivan Day's Historic Food - another great site with lots of information and he even runs cookery courses.recipes4us - has some more palatable recipes for the less adventurous amongst you. Rediscover Devilled Kidneys, Kedgeree, Beef Cobbler, Apple Charlotte and much more at Good British Food

For me the definitive history of  English food and a great source for recipes is …

… although currently out of print you can find second hand copies online. Author Maxime McKendry, Published 21/01/1994Publisher  Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 9780802132963

"This Royal throne of Kings, this sceptre'd isle, this earthly majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress nature built, for herself, Against infection and the hand of war..."

William Shakespeare, "King Richard II", Act 2 scene 1


p.s. if you like this blog piece then visit the How To Run A Pub website and buy me a pint !

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