Food & Drink

English Christmas Food Makes Us Want To Move Across The Pond

We're feeling very Dickensian this season. Here's why you should too.
12/10/2014 07:00am ET | Updated December 14, 2014

As of today, we're in the double digits of December, which is both incredibly scary and very exciting, because Christmas is really close. With Christmas in plain sight on the calendar, it's officially time to start panicking about holiday shopping (and then calming yourself with gift inspiration from your favorite chefs). It's also, of course, time to start enjoying all the Christmastime food, so that you can get it all in before "diet season" begins in January.

Unlike Thanksgiving food, which is fairly standard across the board, Christmas recipes in the United States look pretty different depending on who you're talking to. Depending on where you or your family is from, you could be eating goose, ham or turkey on Christmas Day, or a Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Your holiday treat might be anything from Greek Christmas cookies and Bûche de Noël to Gløgg, which is mulled wine, and gingerbread.

The diversity of Christmas food in America is part of the beauty of celebrating the holiday in this country, where so many different cultures can come together and share their traditions. Since there isn't enough time in the holiday season for us to sample every cuisine's Christmas highlights, however, we're forced to focus our energy. As much as we love all traditional Christmas food and we hate to pick a favorite, this year -- or at least this week -- we're looking across the pond to England. From all the puddings to the mincemeat, there's just something charming about iconic English Christmas dishes. We're feeling very Dickensian this season, and everything England's putting out we're embracing with open arms -- even the plum pudding.

Before we show you what all our gushing is about, there is one critical thing you should know. In England, "pudding" refers not to pudding as we Americans know it, but to dessert in general. Figgy pudding, plum pudding and Christmas pudding are all the same thing, and as NPR explains, it's "more cake-ish than pudding-ish." And for the purposes of this post, and all of our English Christmas daydreams, we're talking about foods that are popular in England at Christmastime, not foods that necessarily originated in England. Now that you've got that down, you're ready to appreciate England's classic Christmas food as much as we do.

Here are eight Christmas foods that prove England is doing it right this time of year:

1
Christmas Pudding
New Media Publishing
Get the Christmas Pudding recipe from Shelley Wiseman Also known as plum pudding or figgy pudding, Christmas pudding is made with a combination of dried fruit, breadcrumbs, egg, beef suet, citrus zest and nuts. It's molded and steamed before it's cooked. It gets weirder. Some people make pudding a few weeks up to a whole year in advance! The kicker? The pudding might get covered in brandy and lit on fire when it's time to serve. England, we love you and your bizarro pudding.
2
Yorkshire Pudding
Martha Stewart
Get the Yorkshire Pudding recipe from Martha StewartYorkshire pudding is like plum pudding's normal cousin -- except they're not actually related at all. In fact, they couldn't be more different. Remember when we said "pudding" is a very loose term in England? Well, Yorkshire pudding refers to puffy pastries made from eggs, flour and milk. It's basically a popover, and it's traditionally served with prime rib at Christmas.
3
Roast Goose
Martha Stewart
Get the Roast Goose recipe from Martha Stewart As Martha says, "roast goose is an Old World tradition, a central part of the Dickensian Christmas tableau." We're in.
4
Mulled Wine
Simply Recipes
Get the Mulled Wine recipe from Simply Recipes Jamie Oliver aptly describes mulled wine as "Christmas in a glass." It's equally perfect for holiday parties as it is for sitting at home on the couch. With warming spices like clove, nutmeg an cinnamon, mulled wine pretty much reeks of Christmas, in a great way. It's not exclusively an English tradition, but it's definitely popular in England -- as it should be.
5
Chestnut Soup
Simply Recipes
Get the Chestnut And Fennel Soup recipe from Simply Recipes Chestnuts roasting over an open fire... Whether they're served with Brussels sprouts or blended into soup like this one, chestnuts are a staple on the English Christmas table.
6
Mincemeat
Food52
Get the Mincemeat recipe by MrsWheelbarrow from Food52Mincemeat is probably not what you think it is. It's a mixture of chopped-up fruit that's been soaked in booze. While it used to contain meat, the only meat to speak of in mincemeat these days is beef suet, and even that's not used all the time.
7
Bread Sauce
Michael Powell via Getty Images
Get Nigella Lawson's Bread Sauce recipe from Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities Bread sauce is exactly what is sounds like: a sauce made of bread. It's typically served as a side to poultry, and made with hunks of bread, onions, milk, butter, cream and spices. Nigella Lawson admits, "The idea of bread sauce remains intensely baffling, possibly even disgusting, to any person who hasn't been brought up with English traditions," but she can't imagine a Christmas lunch without it.
8
Yule Log Cake
Use Real Butter
Get the Dark Chocolate Praline Bûche de Noël recipe from Use Real ButterThe Yule Log (or Bûche de Noël in France) is a traditional sponge cake modeled after a real log that has medieval roots. The History Channel explains that in the medieval times, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans used to burn a log with holly and pine cones to purify the air of the previous year's bad deeds. When Christianity came into being, people started burning the log on Christmas Eve. Somewhere at some point, someone made the tradition edible, like all good traditions should be. While we may never know who made the first yule log cake, The History Channel says that the first known recipe for sponge cake, which is traditionally the base of a yule log cake, comes from Englishman Gervase Markham's book, "The English Housewife," published in 1615.

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