British food was world-famous for being dull and sometimes downright plain. Some of the blame goes to the Victorians who prized efficiency above taste. Mrs Beaton’s famous book of Household Management tended to recommend boiling every thing, in contrast to medieval and Tudor cookbooks which featured elaborate cooking full of exotic spices.
Everything changed after World War II. Ordinary people could afford to travel abroad for the first time, and enjoyed eating fine foods in France and Italy and came back wanting to try them at home. Television responded, with endless shows about French and Italian cooking.
Then in the 1970′s Delia Smith appeared on the BBC, doing shows on British cooking. She featured British classics, but never as bland as the Victorian recipes of Mrs Beaton, as she used richer ingredients and reintroduced some of the techniques used in Tudor times. She updated other dishes with new herbs and spices (for example, introducing coriander to British cooking by combining it with lime to make one of the most popular salad flavors).
Best of all Delia’s recipes were rigorously tested and always worked (in contrast to the recipes of some other celebrity chefs). Her books are available on Amazon, but she also has a website with almost 1400 recipes. Here’s her recipe for a traditional Brandied English Christmas Cake.
Here’s a video of her explaining how to make the English classic “Toad in the hole” (sausages in batter):
Here are some of her books: