Here in the UK, we love cooking a meal for the family. Studies have shown that we own an average of five recipe books each, but now, more so than ever, we find ourselves turning to TV cooking shows, such as Come Dine with Me and The Great British Bake Off for further inspiration. We all have our favourite recipes, and our own special way to enhance them, but what are our favourite meals as a nation and how have they changed throughout the years?


The iconic roast dinner


Believe it or not, studies have shown that the iconic roast dinner is not Brits favourite dish. The 1950s ‘meat and two veg’ phenomenon has slipped from the top spot, but it is however second on the list, beaten only by spaghetti bolognese. A staple part of the British family meal time for decades, the roast dinner is slowly evolving.


In 2016, the dinner was created 22 million more times than it was in the previous year — a result of the affordability of chicken. However, with many people turning to vegetarianism or veganism, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the roast dinner would be losing its appeal. Thanks to the likes of Quorn and other meat-free options being readily available, it doesn’t look to be leaving our cookbooks anytime soon.


The growth of our own vegetables is also increasing in popularity. While growing garden plants never lost its appeal, the younger generation didn’t seem to be keen to continue the produce-growing tradition that rose to popularity during the war. Nowadays though, people are turning back to producing their own goods and with veg such as cabbage, cauliflower, peas and carrots just to name a few that have become a regular addition to a roast dinner, the organic appeal is going through a revival.


The adopted spaghetti bolognese


Now this is the dish that Brits favour most. Yep, that’s right, that Italian descendent has found itself classed as our number one meal to prepare. In fact, pasta is now one of the world’s most sought-after dishes. However, it wasn’t too long ago that this meal wasn’t available on our shores.


The 60s saw an economic benefit across the UK, which bettered our standard of living. This led to affordable overseas travel, which played a big part in tempting our palates with new foods and ingredients. By the early 1970s, dinner parties featuring fashionable ‘foreign’ dishes had become very popular. This allowed spag bol to be welcomed into our homes with open arms.


Top Italian chef Antonio Carluccio claims that it has been ruined on our isles, stating that we have started to unnecessarily add herbs to the dish and, in his home country, the dish doesn’t even exist. Talking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2016, Carluccio said: “In Italy, it’s tagliatelle bolognese, with freshly made tagliatelle and bolognese without any herbs whatsoever.”


Alfredo Tomaselli is another chef who has spoken publicly about how the adopted meal has transformed too much. And it wasn’t too long ago that supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, tried to add an even wilder twist. While it didn’t get the nation talking in a positive manner, the retailers were keen to get instant coffee added to the nation’s favourite. It’s probably best to stick to herbs and chilies for the added kick!


The classic bangers and mash


No matter what pub you go to here in the UK, you’ll find bangers and mash on the menu. Such a simple meal, all that’s realistically needed is sausage, potato and gravy, but you’d be mistaken in thinking you couldn’t put a host of twists on the dish.


The word ‘bangers’ was a result of food rationing in the Second World War — sausages were made with water and were likely to explode upon being heated. However, you can date its origins further back to 1919. Sausages these days are much firmer and generally have a higher meat content, meaning this cooking explosion is less likely. While pork, beef or lamb sausages can be used, the Cumberland sausage from northwestern England is one of the most traditional to use.


A hundred years ago, mashed potatoes consisted of water, salt, butter, milk and potato and that was it. Fast forward to present day and there many varieties of the carbohydrate, including:

  • Cheesy mash: includes crumbled goat cheese or feta.
  • Spicy mash: includes chopped chilies in adobo sauce.
  • Herby mash: includes pesto and garnish with grated parmesan.
  • Crunch mash: with cooked, crumbled bacon.


While we still like a lot of the same meals, they keep on being tweaked and modernised, and those foods that don’t take well to change are simply going to fall by the wayside.


*This article was provided by Dobies of Devon, autumn flowering bulbs retailers.