So to coincide with British Food Fortnight (19 Sept – 4 Oct), the PMA asked some of the nation’s top pub chefs the dishes they thought best summed up British cuisine.
Matthew Nason, head chef at Devon freehold the Jack in the Green, said: “For various different reasons, I would have to say the Christmas pudding. As a chef whose heart is very much bound by the emotions of life
“I’ve always worked in the West Country and I’m very much a family person – making a Christmas pudding at home with the kids just personifies what food is all about.
It's about making it and eating it, not just cooking foie gras and wild mushrooms for customers at Michelin star level
“It’s about making it and eating it, not just cooking foie gras and wild mushrooms for customers at Michelin star level, it’s about sitting round a table and enjoying it, having a hand it and knowing where it’s come from,” he added.
Mark Dodson, chef patron of fellow Devon pub the Masons Arms, said the obvious choice for the most iconic British dish would be something like roast beef with Yorkshire puddings.
“Those really traditional dishes – think pies and game dishes – are earth, very heavy. But I think now there’s a movement of chefs who want to lighten those things up which I think is great,” he said.
“I think the secret is to still have those flavours but without floury, heavy sauces. You can lighten them up without being silly.”
British food is first and foremost defined by the quality of ingredients, according to Steven Smith, chef patron of the Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire.
“If you think of the main three [meats] – lamb, beef and pork – it’s the best in the world, or some of the best in the world at the very least,” he said.
“It’s very nostalgic for people. I think people generally wake up on a Sunday and think ‘roast beef’. If you look at North America for instance, there isn’t really a food culture, it’s just a mish-mash of all the people that are there. But things like roast beef really are a part of our culture.”
He added: “And you can’t say that fish & chips done fantastically isn’t a brilliant dish. Things like that; fish pie, shepherd’s pie, even something like asparagus with poached egg or a great piece of poached wild salmon, these are all absolutely iconic British dishes.”