Hugh Thomas rounds up the winning British takes on our favourite imported foods, from chorizo to halloumi, Greek yoghurt to fizz.
When we set out on a summer holiday, it’s no wonder we pack empty luggage to make space for the food we can’t get at home. But many of these products, or riffs on them, can be found in the UK. Look hard enough and you can find brilliant British versions of feta, salami, and Belgian ale. Even black truffles are now grown in the UK. As you’re about to find out, some of these products are often better than the originals.
Greek-style yoghurt may mean two things. Either the yoghurt has had something added to it to taste of cultured, strained milk. Or it is cultured yoghurt sure enough, just not made in Greece. This latter style of yoghurt from the likes of Neal’s Yard Dairy and The Dorset Dairy Company is delicious, rich and silky. Just as good as the Greek stuff with an altogether less cardboard-y taste than their supermarket equivalents. For Greek holiday vibes, pair it with honey, roasted figs and bashed pistachios. Or go British and enjoy your yoghurt with a seasonal glut of blackberries, like in this Blackberry-ripple frozen yoghurt.
You may find that Mediterranean salads just aren’t the same without a good soft cheese. And for all intents and purposes, Greek feta covers that remit very well. But here we have Blackwoods’ Graceburn cheese; a Kent-made interpretation on the Med favourite. It’s creamier than what you might be used to. In a marinade of extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorn, it’s even better. Try it crumbled over a salad of heritage seasonal tomatoes, oregano and olives for a Greek salad with a British twist.
Cypriots say ‘halloumi’. We say ‘squeaky cheese’. If pending EU rules are anything to go by, it might be that halloumi can only be called halloumi if it’s made in Cyprus. Aside from its country of origin, demand for halloumi is higher in the UK than any other country. So perhaps it makes sense Britain has its own versions, from World Cheese Award-winning Squeaky Cheese from Yorkshire, to the buttery Anglum made by Kupros Dairy in North London.
British charcuterie largely died off at the time of the industrial revolution, but it started making a name for itself again about 10 years ago. Now that the quality has found its footing – and is arguably enough to rival the continent – there’s no better time to explore Britain’s pantry of cured meat. Not convinced? Try Moons Green’s chorizo (made with three different kinds of paprika) and see how it compares with Spain’s finest.
Unlike a lot of cheese, mozzarella is best eaten as fresh as possible. An issue most manufacturers have ‘solved’ by using additives to prolong shelf-life. But a few British-based cheesemakers are producing it without compromise. One such cheesemaker is De Luca cheeses; these Italian artisans, based in Wiltshire, make mozzarella using only organic milk from a neighbouring free-range farm. As a result, it’s some of the best mozzarella this side of Naples. For a taste of Italy, serve your mozzarella with sliced tomatoes, basil and a good drizzle of olive oil, or for something oozy and delicious, try these mozzarella-stuffed courgette flowers.
On similar lines to ‘nduja, Devil’s Mortar has bounced around the pages of British cookbooks for centuries. Still, its Calabrian cousin continues to be a favoured pizza topping. But introduce some of Crown & Queue’s Devil’s Mortar to your toast and there may be no looking back.
Are booze cruises a thing of the past? Good wine (what once required an empty-car-boot-trip to Calais) now needs little more than a thirsty jaunt to your neighbourhood wine merchant. Local vineyards have certainly helped with that, restoring a sense of pride in English winemaking. It’s no longer just about the fizz though. Still wine is catching up on sparkling, with Lyme Bay, Flint, and Three Choirs among those leading the charge.
British tourists have traditionally come home from Spain with a leg of Iberico ham tucked under their arm. Thanks to some producers however, they needn’t have to. Pannage pork is from pigs that have fed on acorns from the woodland floor of the New Forest. Likened to Spanish Iberico ham, this UK equivalent is tipped to be the next hot thing.
Finally! A tomato that actually tastes like it’s spent time in the sun. The Tomato Stall have grown heritage tomato varieties on The Isle of Wight for 30 years. Missing how bruschetta or pan con tomate would taste on the continent? With these beauties you’ll realise there’s no big secret to it.
Lagers, pilsners, and saisons provide superb refreshment from the summer sun. Light, clean, and best served cold as they are. The Germans, Czechs, and Belgians may be the respective masters of those styles, but British breweries are often on par. Check out Cloudwater’s Tettnanger Helles, Bohem’s Amos, and Burning Sky’s Petit Saison.