The pasty started it’s existence in rich, upper class households and those of royalty. Fillings were very rich and there were many variations including venison, beef , lamb and even seafood in rich gravies and sauces. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, miners and farmworkers caught on to the idea that this was a good way of providing themselves with a tasty and sustaining meal whilst they were away from home at work. Cornish tin miners wives would prepare the pasty for their husband’s lunch. The filling encased in pastry remained uncontaminated from the dirty conditions they worked in. The crimped edge of the pasty giving a way of holding the pasty and when finished with was discarded. The traditional filling for a Cornish pasty is beef, potato, swede and onion, although I suspect that there is more meat in today’s pasties than in the original miner’s pasty. The pasty could provide not only lunch but also a sweet. One end of the pasty would hold the savoury filling and the other end would contain a sweet filling, all contained within it’s own packaging. Today pasties are available all over the U.K., but somehow they just taste better when eaten in Cornwall !
Fish and Chips
Fish, chips and mushy peas! There is nothing more British than fish and chips. Freshly cooked, piping hot fish and chips, smothered in salt and sprinkled with vinegar, wrapped in newspaper and eaten out-of-doors on a cold and wintry day – it simply cannot be beaten! Both Lancashire and London stake a claim to being the first to invent this famous meal – chips were a cheap, basic food of the industrial north whilst fried fish was introduced in London’s East End. Putting fried fish and chips together was a very tasty combination and so our national dish of fish and chips came about! The first fish and chip shop in the North of England is thought to have opened in Mossely, near Oldham, Lancashire, around 1863. Mr Lees sold fish and chips from a wooden hut in the market and later he transferred the business to a permanent shop across the road which had the following inscription in the window, “This is the first fish and chip shop in the world”. However in London, it is said that Joseph Malin opened a fish and chip shop in Cleveland Street within the sound of Bow Bells in 1860. Fish and chip shops were originally small family businesses, often run from the ‘front room’ of the house and were commonplace by the late 19th century. . In 1999, the British consumed nearly 300 million servings of fish and chips* – that is equivalent to six servings for every man, woman and child in the country. There are now around 8,500 fish and chip shops* across the UK – that’s eight for every one McDonald’s outlet, making British Fish and Chips the nation’s favourite take-away.
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – was traditionally a time of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were “shriven” (absolved from their sins). A bell would be rung to call people to confession. This came to be called the “Pancake Bell” and is still rung today. Shrove Tuesday always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, so the date varies from year to year . Shrove Tuesday was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before embarking on the Lenten fast and pancakes are the perfect way of using up these ingredients. A pancake is a thin, flat cake, made of batter and fried in a frying pan. A traditional English pancake is very thin and is served immediately. Golden syrup or lemon juice and caster sugar are the usual toppings for pancakes.
The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolise four points of significance at this time of year
:Eggs ~ Creation Flour ~ The staff of life Salt ~ Wholesomeness Milk ~ Purity
To make 8 or so pancakes you will need 8oz plain flour, 2 large eggs, 1 pint milk, salt.Mix all together and whisk well. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, pour in enough batter to cover the base of the pan and let it cook until the base of the pancake has browned. Then shake the pan to loosen the pancake and flip the pancake over to brown the other side.
In the UK, pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes. The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run.
Find out More about traditional English Drinks on the next page