Traditional English Cuisine


Sweet Pies and Puddings


There is a huge variety of traditional puddings ranging from heavy to light.


Pies and Crumbles




Sorry guys, but apple pie has been eaten in England and the rest of Europe since way before America was born! Our version is plain, with a hint of spice (usually nutmeg) and a light pastry. Personally, I prefer the crumble.


Variations on both include apple and pear and just pear on its own. Pear crumble is sometimes served with chocolate either in the crumble or as a sauce.





Bramble and apple


Also known as blackberry and apple. A wonderful combination and brambles (east coast word for a blackberry) are readily available around the countryside.



Steamed apple


I’d forgotten about this one, must dust it down as it was really good.





This does need to be properly sweetened, but is delicious.





This also needs to be properly sweetened, but has a lovely tart flavour that off sets the sweetness of the cream or custard.





The older I get, the more I seem to like cherries.



Compote or stewed fruit 


Sometimes, fruit is just stewed and eaten on its own or with custard (when hot) or cream (when cold). This is actually a very old way of cooking fruit and goes back at least to the middle ages. The fruit is sweetened and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg added and maybe a little alcohol. Prunes (dried plums) are also commonly stewed in this way. Stewed prunes, sometimes with a little brandy or rum, are actually very nice. We used to have this at school with shortbread biscuits called (probably with school boy humour) ‘gravestones’. No brandy or rum though!



Jam Roly Poly


Technically not a pie, this dish is a classic of English cooking and one of our best puddings in my opinion! And it is so easy to make. Simply make a suet pastry, roll out and spread your choice of jam over it. Homemade jam with real fruit is best. The roll the pastry over and over (hence the name) and bake or steam in a muslin sack. This is most often made with strawberry, raspberry, bramble or cherry jam.



Spotted dick


A source of amusement for school children all over. This is another traditional pud that has suffered from a change in the meaning of words! But that said, this is another absolutely fantastic treat. It is made from a flat sheet of suet pastry that is sprinkled with currants and rolled into a ball. Dick was an old fashioned term for a pudding, particularly of this sort. The spotted bit obviously comes from the use of currents. Usually served with custard.



Sussex Pond Pudding


A very traditional suet pudding from Sussex and first recoded in 1662. The suet pastry encases a whole lemon with butter and sugar and like all suet puds it can be steamed or baked. Whilst it has gone out of fashion in recent years, there are attempts to revise it. I’ve never tried it, but can’t help thinking it would be a little tart – even with plenty of sugar. But replace the lemon with an orange – that could work really well. Work a revival either way.



Date Pie


Known to school kids around the country as ‘fly pie’! We can be so cruel. Not my favourite to be honest as it is a little dry.



Christmas pud and Plumb duff


Essentially the same thing, although the word ‘plum’ in this context refers to the Victorian meaning for currants. A traditional, hearty pudding eaten on Christmas day. Prior to the 19th century, it was boiled in a pudding cloth (see picture on left), but in Victorian times was placed into a bowl and steamed. A sixpence piece used to be hidden inside it and the child who was served with it got to keep it as an extra Christmas present. It is typically eaten with a brandy or rum sauce. It is also traditional to pour rum or brandy over it and set it on fire just before serving.



Sponge puddings


Jam Sponges


The sponge mix is made with self-raising flour, eggs, lemon and  caster sugar. This is then usually steamed and the various filling added before or after cooking and usually served with (you got it) custard. You can use pretty well any type of jam you want. Also, lemon, ginger and rhubarb are common. Treacle sponge (picture on the right) is one of the classics of English cuisine. Please note, in the middle picture, jam and coconut sponge with pink custard!



Eve’s Pudding


This is a lovely sponge pudding with stewed apple underneath. Served with custard of course!



Queen of puddings


Mix sugar, butter and breadcrumbs into warm milk spiced with a little lemon zest, let cool and beat in egg yolk and bake. Once cooked, the base is then spread with raspberry or blackcurrant jam and a topping of meringue. It is then returned to the oven until golden brown and eaten hot.



Sticky toffee


A moist, steamed sponge with finely chopped dates covered in a toffee sauce – often served with custard.



Yorkshire pudding and golden treacle


I haven’t had this for years, but it was common when I was young – and well loved. It’s interesting that more modern recipes are serving it with ice cream as well as golden syrup – perhaps it has a future!



Pink Custard


Synonymous with school dinners, pink custard is really tasty, especially for those with a sweet tooth. Essentially, it is normal custard with the addition of a little strawberry or raspberry blancmange. It is usually served over some form of sponge infused with treacle or fruits.



Bread puddings


As bread was, and still is, a staple of English cuisine, it is not surprising to find recipes devoted to using up old bread.


Bread and butter


Another classic of English cuisine and excellent with it. This is basically buttered, sliced bread, with currents and raisins, topped with an egg custard mix and then baked. So simple and yet so good! One of my favourites. Serve with or without extra custard. A variation on the theme is to add marmalade and it becomes an Osbourne pudding.



Cabinet Pudding


A version of bread and butter. Which is moulded into a pudding bowl and steamed, is known as Cabinet Pudding. Served with cream or custard. Sometimes, it is also made with sponge.



Apple Charlotte


This is a sort of apple, bread pudding. Excellent!



Summer/Autumn pudding


Eaten hot or cold either on their own or with cream. Summer puddings are made with strawberries, raspberries, brambles (blackberries) and red currants. Autumn puddings are traditionally made with apples, pears, plums and brambles.



Milk Puddings


Rice Pudding


English rice pudding is made with short grain ‘pudding’ rice, milk, (sometimes a little cream), butter and sugar with nutmeg on the top. This is partly what gives the skin its colour, although a little bit of slightly burnt skin does off set the rest of the dish. The trick is to cook it very slowly so that it ‘crees’ as my mother said, which means the rice becoming very nice and soft without losing its texture – not too dry, not too runny. Often eaten with a dollop of strawberry or raspberry jam.



Oatmeal Pudding


I remember this being cooked with either finely milled oatmeal to produce a very smooth texture or with what my mum called ‘horse oats’ which are the large oats that require cooking slowly for a long time. Other ingredients include milk, butter and raisons to give it a richer feel than porridge. My mum made this a lot and I preferred it to rice pudding. It looks much the same as rice pudding in the picture – but they do taste quite different!





This is made from ground wheat grain and has been eaten in Europe since Roman times. Historical sources suggest was eaten with ground almonds which is interesting as ‘almond milk’ seems to have been popular with the Anglo Saxons. It can be either fairly runny or thick.






Sago ‘pearls’ are made from the starch of various palm trees. They are boiled until soft and transparent and cooked in milk and thickened with eggs and sugar. The distinctive appearance of this dish has led it to be called ‘frogspawn’, but it is generally quite popular.





Tapioca is another name for Cassava, a root vegetable grown in the tropics. In Northern England the tapioca is usually in the form of a course flour or flakes resulting in a fairly smooth pudding. In Southern England it is more generally formed into ‘pearls’ and the result is similar to Sago Pudding. As Tapioca is cheaper than Sago, you need to be careful you are not paying for one and getting the other.


Like all milk puddings, this can be embellished with a dash of coconut or almond milk and fresh fruit on the top.





Strawberries and cream


Another classic of the summer garden party, made famous by Wimbledon. You can also use raspberries and brambles (blackberries).



Cream tea


This needs no introduction – just fresh produce.





Sponge fingers or cake soaked in sherry with layers of fruit set in jelly, custard and topped with cream. Whilst you can use pretty much any combination of fruit you wish, a proper ‘Old English trifle’ is made with just cherries, cherry jam and lemon zest. Either way, everyone loves trifle!





Syllabub dates back at least to medieval times and is a mix of cream, sugar and wine – flavoured with some form of fruit and sometimes enhanced with kirsch or something similar. Whilst the ingredients are simple, the trick to getting a really good syllabub lies in the preparation and exactly how the cream is whipped.





The precise origins of this dish are obscure, but it has been eaten throughout Europe since at least medieval times. Originally a white colour flavoured with rose water, or even a savoury dish, blancmange now comes in lots of different flavours. I still have my mother’s old rabbit mould!



Brandy snaps


These are a brittle sugar casing, flavoured with ginger and a little lemon that are rolled during the baking process and then filled with cream infused with a little brandy. They can also be formed into brandy baskets and filled with whatever.



Banoffee Pie


I had always thought of this as an American dish and in reality is more ‘American’ in style than traditional English. But it was developed in south-eastern England. It is biscuit based like cheesecake and the filling is made from boiled condensed milk, bananas, cream and toffee – sometimes with a hint of coffee.



Eaton mess


Developed at Eaton College; a mix of strawberries, cream and meringue.



Ice cream


Ice cream has been around a long time, but was not invented in the UK – probably China. Neither, at least until recently, could you say that British ice cream was especially good! One exception, which I think you could call ‘local’ would be the particular brand of dairy ice cream we make. I used to live in a village where an old lady who ran a sweet shop made her own. It was wonderful, thick and creamy. The other thing about ice cream that is probably uniquely British is the ice cream van which trundle around housing estates with their jaunty (or annoying depending on perspective) tunes. Typically British ice cream include 99’s with their chocolate flake (which I like) and Mr Whippy soft ice cream (which I don’t) and the ice cream wafer sandwich. The whole cone and wafer thing probably started out in the States. Luckily, a wide range of really good ice cream is now available though I still think an old fashioned dairy ice cream is hard to beat.



Hot Fudge Sauce


A nice alternative to custard and chocolate sauce and goes well over ice cream.



Raspberry ripple


A style of ice cream eaten as a dessert.



Arctic roll


A sponge tube with ice cream inside.



Knickerbocker glory


Consisting of ice cream, cream, fruit and meringue, this is another dessert I had always thought was American in origin. But it was developed in England in the 1920s, although strongly influenced by French ‘Parfaits’. They are traditionally served in a tall glass with a long spoon.



More custard


Egg custard


Served hot or cold without the pastry that makes an egg custard tart.



Bananas and custard


This is more than just pouring custard over a banana. It then needs slowly baking, maybe with a little brandy or rum. Very simple, very tasty.



Jelly and custard


It is what it says it is.



Lemon Meringue pie


Developed from a medieval dish that flavoured custard with lemon juice, this has a short crust pastry bottom, a lemon custard filling and is topped with meringue.





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