A recent survey found the iconic food of the British is fish and chips. It started me thinking about other foods that might be specificially associated with the British. There’s roast beef and yorkshire pudding, of course, and cucumber sandwiches. A few years ago, Chicken Tikka Masala, an Indian dish, was voted the nation’s favourite, showing the best of multi-cultural Britain.
For me, one of the foods that is peculiarly British is malt loaf. I don’t know what other country you can find it in. (If you can think of anywhere else in the world where it is cherished and relished, do let me know by adding a comment!)
Malt loaf is a small, dark, fruity loaf which is about the size of a mini-brick. It is sticky and soft so that when you cut into it with a knife, you have to be careful not to press down too hard or you will squash the loaf. When you’ve sliced it, it looks like a slice of bread soaked in syrupy Guinness and crammed with currants and raisins. It tastes best with a slathering of butter on it. Inside your mouth, it is sticky and caramelly, clinging to your palate and teeth. The combination of slightly salty butter and fruity, toffee-like sweetness is just yummy!
Now, we have a rule about malt loaf in our household. We are only allowed to have it after a long, bracing walk - preferably in briskly chilled air. Or, after we’ve worked hard in the garden. In those circumstances, we can luxuriate in the taste and stickiness in the belief that it is good for us - as opposed to just being sweet and fattening. Ideally, we always have it with a cup of strong tea.
Protestant work ethic, sticky currant loaf and a mug of strong tea - how much more British can we get than that!
Hmmm, even writing about it makes me drool. I will have to go for a quick march round the neighbourhood now so I can break open my stache of malt loaf in the kitchen cupboard….