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Steak and kidney pie is a savoury pie that is filled principally with a mixture of diced beef, diced kidney (often of ox, lamb, or pork), fried onion, and brown gravy. Steak and kidney pie is a representative dish of British cuisine.
The gravy typically consists of salted beef broth flavoured with Worcestershire sauce and black pepper, and thickened with refined flour, beurre manié, or corn starch. The gravy may also contain ale or Guinness.
Hot water crust pastry, puff pastry, and shortcrust pastry are among the pastry crusts prepared for steak and kidney pie.
Among the various vernacular rhyming slang names for steak and kidney pie are Kate and Sidney pie, snake and kiddy pie, and snake and pygmy pie.
English cuisine encompasses the cooking styles, traditions and recipes associated with England. It has distinctive attributes of its own, but also shares much with wider British cuisine, largely due to the importation of ingredients and ideas from places such as North America, China, and India during the time of the British Empire and as a result of post-war immigration.
In the Early Modern Period the food of England was historically characterised by its simplicity of approach and a reliance on the high quality of natural produce. It is possible the effects of this can still be seen in traditional cuisine.
Traditional meals have ancient origins, such as bread and cheese, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, boiled vegetables and broths, and freshwater and saltwater fish. The 14th-century English cookbook, the Forme of Cury, contains recipes for these, and dates from the royal court of Richard II. In the second half of the 18th century Rev. Gilbert White, in The Natural History of Selborne made note of the increased consumption of vegetables by ordinary country people in the south of England, to which, he noted, potatoes had only been added during the reign of George III: “Green-stalls in cities now support multitudes in comfortable state, while gardeners get fortunes. Every decent labourer also has his garden, which is half his support; and common farmers provide plenty of beans, peas, and greens, for their hinds to eat with their bacon.”
Other meals, such as fish and chips, which were once urban street food eaten from newspaper with salt and malt vinegar, and pies and sausages with mashed potatoes, onions, and gravy, are now matched in popularity by curries from India and Bangladesh, and stir-fries based on Chinese and Thai cuisine. Italian cuisine and French cuisine are also now widely adapted. Britain was also quick to adopt the innovation of fast food from the United States, and continues to absorb culinary ideas from all over the world while at the same time rediscovering its roots in sustainable rural agriculture.
The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle Ages, when an open top pie crust was used as the container for serving the meat and was called a coffyn. Since then, they have been a mainstay of English cooking. Different types of pastry may be used, including the lard-rich pastry of a raised pie. Meat pies generally contain standard fillings such as chicken-and-mushroom, steak and ale, minced beef and onion, lamb, mixed game or meat-and-potato. In recent years, more exotic fillings, such as balti curry have appeared.
Savoury puddings are made with a soft suet casing, the most famous being steak and kidney pudding (originally steak and oyster). Pork pie is usually eaten cold, with the Melton Mowbray pork pie being the archetype. Open pies or flans are generally served for dessert with fillings of seasonal fruit. Quiches and savoury flans are eaten, but not considered indigenous. Pasties are pies made by wrapping a single piece of pastry round the filling. The Cornish pasty is oval or crescent shaped with a stiff, crimped rim, traditionally filled with beef, and swede, although many variations are possible. Other pasties may be rectangular and filled with beef, cheese, or vegetables. Another type of pie is topped with mashed potato instead of pastry — cottage pie (made with minced beef), shepherd’s pie (made with minced lamb) and fisherman’s pie using a choice of several fish and seafood.
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