Modern British Food

a birdseye view of a long wooden table with lots of delicious modern British food

Modern British food comes from centuries of travellers returning from abroad with different kinds of food and recipes. Additionally, because of our history as colonisers, we have citizens originating from all over the world who now call Britain their home. This means that our modern-day British food has many global influences and we are not afraid to mix it up. Unlike Gino, an Italian chef on British television, who is shocked at one ingredient being changed in his traditional recipe:

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Chicken tikka masala

This dish, made of chicken in a creamy curry tomato sauce, is now known as ‘Britain’s National Dish’. People argue about whether it was invented by someone in Glasgow or someone in India. Whatever its origins, it is one of the most popular foods in the country, and people eat it both at home and in Indian restaurants.

Spag Bol (spaghetti bolognese)

Many Italians might cry if they could see how many different ways Brits make this dish. Basically, for modern British people, it is any kind of tomato-based sauce poured onto spaghetti. It can be either a vegetarian dish, or with meat. Some days I add Italian seasoning, other days I feel like adding a Mexican twist and use some chipotle sauce instead.

Vegetarian haggis lasagne

My Scottish cousin introduced me to this modern Scottish/Italian fusion. I am vegetarian and love vegetarian haggis which is delicious (and contains no ingredients which scare me!). The haggis is mashed up and cooked with tomatoes, onion and garlic, then made into a lasagne with layers of pasta and béchamel sauce. Yum!

Stir-fry

When I make my modern British stir-fry, I open my fridge, pull out any fresh ingredients I can find, chop them up, and throw them into a frying pan or wok with a little bit of very hot oil. The kitchen suddenly gets very noisy and smoky. I stir quickly and when it starts to burn, it’s ready. My favourite seasoning is ginger, lemon, tamari and cumin. Or sometimes I just choose from my international hot sauce collection. I eat it with rice (usually brown) or noodles.

Chilli

This Tex-mex (Mexican and Texan) dish is a definite modern British favourite. It is warming and wholesome in the winter. This is another dish which can be a vegetarian meal, or with meat. Key ingredients include red kidney beans, as well as chillies, if you can handle the heat! I usually serve it with rice but it is just as good with a jacket potato.

Ravioli

These are sheets of dough, wrapped around various fillings, usually with an Italian theme. To be honest, I don’t know many modern British people who make these from scratch, but we do eat them often. We buy them ready made in supermarkets, boil them, add our own sauces, plus probably cheese- British people will put cheddar cheese on nearly anything. What I love is that versions of this food are eaten all over the world; Mandu- Korea, Pierogi- Poland, Ravioli- Italy, Gyoza- Japan, Pelmeni- Russia, Jiaozi- China

Check your understanding:

  • What ingredient was Gino the chef angry/upset about being added to his recipe?
  • Where was chicken tikka masala invented?
  • What kind of pasta is used in spag bol?
  • Is a vegetarian haggis an animal?
  • What do you cook a stir fry in?
  • What kind of beans are used in chilli?
  • What kind of cheese do British people often put on food?

Post your answers in the comments below. Alternatively, you can book a one-to-one lesson with an Intrepid English teacher today to discuss this topic in more detail.

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This blog was written by Intrepid English Teacher, Jo.

Find out more about Jo on her Intrepid English Teacher profile page.

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  1. Thank you, Jo. This blog makes me hungry. I love watching Jamie Oliver’s shows: delicious cuisine, easy to prepare (do you know his recipe with only five ingredients?). I wish you a great day.

    1. Hello Richard! Sorry for making you hungry! I’ve never followed any of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. Maybe I should try. Usually I am too disorganised to have all the ingredients together to cook a recipe. I am more of a ‘open the fridge/ cupboard and see what is there’ kind of cook.
      I hope you have a lovely day too 🙂

  2. Now here are my answers:
    a) Ham
    b) India
    c) Spaghetti: in Switzerland and Italy, Spaghetti Bolognese are always served with meat; if the Spaghetti are served without meat we call them Spaghetti Napoli
    d) No
    e) wok, frying pan
    f) Kidney beans
    g) Cheddar: I love Cheddar

    1. Excellent answers. You are now prepared for a visit to Scotland. I know a lot of Scottish people who like to tease tourists by telling them that a haggis is an animal.

      Nobody seems to know whether chicken tikka masala was invented in India or Glasgow. People can argue about it for hours.

      I am glad you love cheddar. I do too.