Oh to be in England now that April’s there, wished the poet Robert Browning in his Home Thoughts, From Abroad.
What was he missing, I wonder, the beauty of an early English spring, St George’s Day, or some hearty traditional English food?
Modern England has become so much a country of culinary magpies, absorbing food from all around the world that it is easy to forget what great traditional food we have.
Too many of the classic English dishes have become the tastes of memory, of school dinners from the past, or something ‘grandma used to make’.
We may still tuck into a Sunday roast, but when was the last time you had a Toad in the Hole, a Lancashire Hotpot, faggots with onion gravy, or a creamy Fish Pie?
Has English food become passé, something a bit too old-school in a flashy world of the foreign and exotic?
Most pubs will offer you a curry, a lasagne, or spicy noodles, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a Stargazy Pie, or a Ploughman’s Lunch.
My recommendation for St George’s week is this steak and kidney pudding. The rich, succulent meat in a soft unctuous suet pastry never fail to satisfy.
If I were ever asked for my desert island meals, I would take a homemade steak and kidney pudding every time.
Made properly, it’s not just one of the great English dishes, it’s one of the great world ones.
Oh to be in England, now that the steamed pudding is here!
Ingredients (for a 1L basin)
600g stewing steak
200g ox kidney
1 tbsp English mustard
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Squirt of brown sauce
50ml red wine
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp thyme
300g self-raising flour
Cut the steak into 1” cubes and the kidney to ½” pieces.
Place in a bowl and marinate with the mustard, Worcester sauce, brown sauce, wine and herbs, salt and pepper.
Leave for at least six hours.
Make the pastry, using just enough water to bring together.
Using two-thirds of the pastry, line a greased pudding basin. Pack the meat in neatly and make a lid with the remaining pastry.
Line the top with a layer of baking paper and foil, with a pleat in the middle.
Steam on the hob in a large pan for 4-5 hours. Use an upturned ramekin for a trivet.
When cooked turn out carefully onto a warmed plate.
Countryphile James Waller-Davies shares traditional county recipes: Steak and kidney pudding