A Traditional English Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal. It wakes you up and sets you up for the day. Breakfast should be hearty and filling.
The English breakfast, even when taken at an early hour,is usually a fairly substantial one, and rightly so, for a good meal, if enjoyed and digested gives the support necessary for the morning’s work, wrote Mrs Beeton in her famous cookery book.
She goes on to list the components of such a meal as porridge, eggs – either fried, scrambled, boiled or poached – bacon, sausages, cold meat, potted meats, bread, butter, jam, tea and coffee. For larger parties you can also serve kippers, kedgeree, devilled kidneys and lamb cutlets or fresh or stewed fruit! Today’s hectic lifestyle breakfast is often replaced with just a bowl of cereal, thrown down while dressing, or a piece of toast and jam eaten on the run. That is, if breakfast is not missed altogether. But on weekends and holidays, or when staying away from home, the English breakfast re-appears in all its glory. As with many traditional meals, there is no ‘definitive version’. Mrs Beeton’s ‘substantial’ breakfast, can most likely be found in a country house hotel, or one of London‘s eateries priding themselves on traditional fare. In family homes, the cooked breakfast or Full English, followed by toast and jam and accompanied by a large pot of tea, is the more likely option.
So what makes a Full English Breakfast?
- grilled rashers of bacon
fried or grilled pork sausages
Tea, that most quintessential of English drinks, is a relative latecomer to British shores. Although the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China, it was not until the mid 17th century that tea first appeared in England Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her. This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock. Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.
Nowadays however, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag. Sacrilege! To experience the best of the afternoon tea tradition, indulge yourself with a trip to one of London’s finest hotels or visit a quaint tearoom in the west country. The Devonshire Cream Tea is famous world wide and consists of scones, strawberry jam and the vital ingredient, Devon clotted cream, as well as cups of hot sweet tea served in china teacups. Many of the other counties in England’s west country also claim the best cream teas: Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset.
The British are well known for their love of roast beef and Yorkshire Puddings,traditionally enjoyed for Sunday lunch.It is part of the British identity. Even the French call us “rosbifs” and famously the Yeamen of the Guard, at the Tower of London, are known as “Beefeaters”.
Tradition has it that the more wealthier families of the land roasted huge pieces of Beef on Sunday mornings thus leaving them with cold cuts and pieces of meat to be made into pies and stews for the remainder of the week. The poorer families would drop off their smaller pieces at the bakers on their way to church to be roasted, as there was no bread baked on Sunday. They would pick up the meat on their way home again.The Sunday Roast is the heart of British cooking and continues to enjoy popularity today.
A perfect Yorkshire Pudding mixture needs to be light and airy with the fat in the bottom of the cooking dish needing to be as hot as possible in order for it to rise. The exact origins of the Yorkshire Pudding are unknown, the general consensus being that it is a dish associated with the North of England.