Celebrating the Best of British Food
We recently met a couple who are planning to get married in 2019 and for their wedding breakfast they wanted to celebrate the best of British food with their guests. We thought this was a great idea and as ever with our starting point being a blank piece of paper, we started to look at how such a menu could be crafted. And so that prompted us to share some of our favourite dishes that could be incorporated into a ‘Great British Menu’!
We’d be very interested to get reader views on this as I’m sure there’s great debate and an array of views on what makes great British food. Take the Tikka Masala dish as a great example of a recipe born in the UK representing all that could be seen as wonderful in colour, flavour and provenance of Indian food, but unrecognisable beyond the English Channel and certainly in India!
So to breakdown our approach to all dishes that could be incorporated into a menu representing all that is ‘Blighty’; our brainstorm led us to dishes such as delicious Welsh lamb, the traditional Sunday roast, classic seaside fish and chips and homely, warming and comforting desserts like sticky toffee pudding or a baked apple crumble.
As we get deeper into defining what some of these dishes could be and how they could work together to tell a story through the wedding breakfast, we noticed some re-occurring themes. Themes such as seasonality, history and heritage, time and occasion, provenance, memories and moments.
Seasonality of ingredients
Of course, one thing we took into account when preparing this menu was seasonality. Our clients in this case are getting married in August and with some of Britain’s best ingredients and hero foods being at their best for short periods of time, we looked at which foods were at their best during late summer months.
During this time we have some delicious dishes, fruits and vegetables at their best such as; game meats including; grouse and hare, as well as lamb and venison and then fish including; black bream, brill, coley, Cornish sardine or pilchards, crab and crayfish. And it’s these summer months when we love the appeal of wild foraged foods such as bilberries, blackberries, crab-apples, samphire, wild damsons and wild mushrooms
The BBC Good Food do a really helpful seasonality table so you can check against each month, which foods are at their best throughout the year
History and heritage of food
To ask what is traditionally British can also cause a bit of debate when you look how far back you go to consider something being traditional. For example, if we go back to Roman times, then we can see how they were known for introducing cabbages, peas and corn to small farms. If we skip on several hundred years to Vikings then foods that they introduced to the island were smoked fish such as Kippers and smoked ham such as York Ham. Race through to Tudor times and that’s when we see the introduction of sugary foods, spices and of course the potato.
Today Britain is a melting pot of cultures with a rich and diverse range of dishes that can be considered traditional, but introduced at some point in time by another nation’s influence. If there was a theme on trend that we could point to at this moment, then street food and artisan methods of cooking and preparation are where we’re certainly seeing influence how our clients like to present their menus. Sharing platters are increasingly popular with informal, almost banquet like formats, harking back to medieval long tables and benches with big dishes that are passed around guests.
Time and occasions of eating
When I think of great British classic dishes, then my mind goes to a time or occasion when these dishes may be enjoyed. For example the British fry up with the smell of smoked bacon, sizzling sausages and bright yellow fried eggs, perhaps with black pudding, hash browns, mushrooms and large red fried tomatoes. These ingredients all go hand in hand with lazy Sunday mornings and relaxing brunch with friends.
A traditional Sunday roast dinner or carvery is another similar meal at the end of the weekend. Bringing family together to share thick and tender slices of beef or lamb - and what Sunday would be without roast chicken breast with creamy mashed potato and seasonal vegetables.
Provenance of food
With the British Isles being a place of great diversity even within the relatively small land; we see that in regions of Scotland we’d talk affectionately about Haggis, neaps and tatties. When we come down over the Scottish border and into Lancashire then we might be welcomed by a warm Lancashire hotpot with combinations of vegetables, herbs, meat and flavours in one large sharing dish. Yorkshire puddings speak for themselves and then we also have some wonderful coastal towns with a cacophony of fish and seafood that would be a signature dish of some of the prettiest of fishing harbours and villages. Into Wales we have the renown Welsh lamb and in Derbyshire the famous Bakewell Tart or Pudding.
Moments, memories and favourite dishes
It’s clear to see that when it comes to great British dishes, we’re quite spoilt for choice and the traditional ingredients and flavours have shifted and will continue to shift over time. One thing that will help decide what makes a menu worth celebrating with friends and family, are the moments and memories of childhood and growing up together.
The meals that we shared and the recipes that were passed down through generations and it’s this intangible and remarkably subjective passion for food that makes moments like a wedding breakfast menu such a special occasion. It’s a time when a couple can come together and share their favourite things, their stories and their connection with everyone in the room who are playing their part in one of the most special days of their lives.
This is what excites us when we meet clients and when they tell us how they’d like to create a menu that reflects their relationship and how they want to share that with everyone at their wedding. I don’t believe anyone can truly define what a great British menu looks like, or any type of menu for that matter – a great menu is one that is enjoyed with friends and loved ones and creates lasting memories because of the moments shared.