For most people cream tea is a pleasant, indulgent affair to be savoured. But in Cornwall civil unrest was narrowly averted after a National Trust property made the mistake of advertising scones with cream – rather than jam – dolloped on first.
The incident reignited a bitter rivalry between Devon and Cornwall, and opened up the age-old debate of how cream scones should be prepared.
But it’s not just scones that cause contention – across the UK different places have their own particular take on British dishes.
Cornwall is immensely proud of the Cornish pasty. The meat and veg dish encased in pastry has been given protected status by the EU Commission..
As a result, locals are very protective of their regional dish. Under EU law a Cornish pasty can only be described as such if it is made in a D shape and is crimped on the side.
By contrast, Devon pasties are crimped on top and include carrots, which would be a punishable offence in the eyes of their near-neighbours.
A cup of tea
Do you use a tea pot? Should you use loose leaves or a tea bag? And most contentious of all, should you pour the milk first before brewing the tea?
These questions have been pondered for generations. The issue was so contentious that author George Orwell wrote an 11-point guide on how to make the perfect cup of tea.
Although preferences for a cuppa differ, scientists at University College London say that if you are making a brew in a mug, you should add milk second. The reason? Black tea requires boiling temperatures to infuse the water.
Forget your smashed avocado or poached eggs, the humble fry-up remains the king of breakfasts. But what you get on your plate depends on where you order it.
In England a fry-up usually consists of bacon, sausages, eggs (fried or scrambled), fried tomatoes, beans, hash browns, toast and black pudding.
Northern Ireland is renowned for the Ulster fry, which has all the main components of a full English, but some key substitutions. Rather than hash browns, an Ulster fry features potato bread – fried potato pancakes – and soda farls, which is delicious soda bread made with buttermilk.
Scotland has its own variation of potato bread known as the tattie scone, which is served with a traditional fry-up. Also a lorne sausage, which is square, is more common in Scotland than link sausages. You could also be given fruit pudding, which is made of flour, beef suet, sugar and currants.
In Wales your traditional fry-up could come with laverbread, or “Welsh caviar” as actor Richard Burton referred to it. The local delicacy is boiled, minced or pureed seaweed which is fried and coated in oatmeal.
Across the south of England chips are usually served with salt, vinegar and your choice of ketchup, mayonnaise or brown sauce; your brand of choice depends on where you hail from. In the Midlands and the West Country, ‘Daddies’ sauce rules the roost in most chippies, but it turns out that it is made by Heinz, which is dominant elsewhere.
Across parts of northern England chip enthusiasts do without such decadent condiments, and instead coat their fried potatoes in the beefy goodness of gravy. Wales takes it a step further by drenching takeaway boxes with curry sauce. Chips can also feature in curry culture in Wales, with many Indian restaurants offering “half and half” chips and rice with curries.
In the Black Country orange chips are traditional. They are glazed in an orange batter before being fried. The batter’s ingredients differ from shop to shop, but some use a hint of paprika to give the potatoes their orange hue.
Pie and mash
Pie and mash is a simple combination – potatoes and meat encased in pastry – but the end results can wildly vary.
In London pies are traditionally made from mutton, with a mixture of suet and puff pastry. Rather than a traditional gravy, the pie and mash can be served with a green eel liquor sauce, made of parsley and stewed eel water.
In Wigan locals take the pie delivery system one step further by chucking the gravy and potatoes, and replacing it with a bread roll. The “pie barm” might look odd to outsiders, but Wigan locals love the ultra-portable snack.
Porridge is either a sweet breakfast treat or a hearty savoury snack, depending on where and how you prepare it. In most parts of the UK porridge is usually made with milk and then finished off with some fruit, sugar or syrup.
But Scottish traditionalists believe that porridge should be nothing more than oats, water and salt.
Food for thought – your emails
Neil in Southport says: “No cooked breakfast should ever contain beans, no matter which variant across the UK.” As for making tea, he insists: “Milk is always second so the tea/milk ratio can be accurately judged by colour.”
Sticking with breakfast, Barry in Bath, loves “An Ulster fry, which could include fried eggs (not scrambled or poached), bacon, sausages, tomato, potato bread, pancakes (drop scones), soda farl (split in two). A bit of tomato ketchup, no mushrooms, no beans, never hash browns.”
Later in the day, Stephen in St Helens recommends “The culinary delight of a pie barm, adopted from Wigan, and called so because it is placed on a barm cake.”
Keith in Worthing suggests the Cornish pasty was “crimped at the edge so miners could enjoy the treat with grubby hands down the mines.” His burning question is: “Are the potatoes in the pasty sliced or diced?”
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