English Watercress Soup by French Tart
English Watercress Soup, a photo by French Tart on Flickr.

It’s cold. It’s drizzly. The gray clouds are moving slow in cumulus billows above the wings of chilly ravens that scrape a lowering fog. It’s the kind of weather that drives inside, either to melancholy or cozy reflection. At this time it’s imperative that you

     a) grab a chunky sweater (jumper) and a hot mug of tea (see my newly revised post on how to make the perfect English cup of tea)
     b) make something a little more substantial: a warming winter soup or stew 

One popular option is the famous British beef stew with dumplings, but I’ve found two other interesting recipes that might make your fingers itch to grab a hefty wooden spoon and get cooking!

The first is a soup that comes from Elisabeth Ayrton, author of the pithily titled The Cookery of England: being a collection of recipes for traditional dishes of all kinds from the fifteenth century to the present day, with notes on their social and culinary background. Supposedly it “makes a perfect supper served with toast and cheddar cheese,” which sounds marvelous to me. The quirky thing about this dish is that it contains a pound of apples! 

The second is a classic oxtail stew. Personally, I believe that there are many much, much nicer parts of an ox than its tail–but that’s just me. I’ve actually never eaten an oxtail (am I missing out?), but one food writer says they’re like “braised beef short ribs…with even more flavor.” Not bad, but the aesthetics just turn me off. I know, I’m a wimp.

Post a comment below and tell me how you are overcoming the winter blues!

Mrs. Ayrton’s Winter Soup
Found on British Food in America, a fascinating site dedicated to the discussion and revival of British foodways.

  • 1 quart of lamb stock (or substitute beef, but lamb is traditional)
  • about 1 lb apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • about 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 oz barley
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • salt if needed (depends on your stock)
  • Simmer the apples in the stock until mushy, then puree the apples with a hand blender or push them through a strainer.
  • Return the pot to the heat, add the minced ginger and barley, then cover and cook until the barley swells and softens.
  • Stir in the ground ginger, check for salt and serve.
Untitled by titanium22
Untitled, a photo by titanium22 on Flickr.
Oxtail Stew
This recipe comes from Elaine Lemm over at About.com’s British and Irish Food

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp English mustard powder (optional)
  • 1 whole oxtail (approx 2¼lb/1 kilo in weight) cut into 2″/5cm chunks
  • 1 glass red wine, or small dry glass sherry
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and thickly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 ½ pints/ 1.25 litres dark beef stock
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, stalks and leaves, roughly chopped + leaves for garnish
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp soft butter
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Serves 6. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C/Gas 3.
  2. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish. Add the salt, pepper and mustard pwder to the flour and mix thoroughly. Toss the oxtail chunks a few at a time in the flour and brown, again two or three at a time, in the hot oil. Remove from the oil and keep to one side.
  3. Once all oxtail pieces have been browned, add the wine or sherry to the pan and scrape the bottom of the pan furiously to remove any flour or meat juices. Keep stirring until the wine has reduced to a thick glaze on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the onion and garlic, stir well and cook for 3 minutes to soften the onion, but not brown it. If the onion is starting to brown, lower the heat.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients, stir well, bring to a gentle boil and the cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 3 hours.
  6. Remove the dish from the oven, remove the lid and cover with a tea cloth and leave to cool. Remove the meat from the casserole and place in a separate bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator. Also, place the casserole in the fridge if it will fit, if not decant the vegetables and stock into a large jug or bowl which will fit. Leave overnight.
  7. Next day, remove all the dishes from the fridge. There will be a layer of hard fat on the vegetables and stock, carefully remove this from the surface with a spoon. Place the cleaned stock and meat back into the casserole cover with a lid and place in a hot oven (400°F/200°C/Gas 6) for an hour.
  8. Meanwhile mix the butter with the flour and place in the freezer.
  9. After the hour, remove the flour from the freezer, break into small pieces into the stew and stir until the flour has dissolved. Return the casserole uncovered to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, adjust the seasoning to your personal taste, sprinkle with the parsley leaves and serve.

P.S. The recipe for the English watercress soup in the first photo can be found here.


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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 4 comments

  1. AmandaJane Reply

    It makes me smile when I see American people talking about English/British food, it seems to be Aerican foods that fascinate me! I’m actually having stew tonight, it’s been simmering in the slow cooker all day so it will be lovely and tasty when it comes to suppertime.

    • Abby Rogers Reply

      Isn’t that funny? I suppose that whatever we consider to be “foreign” is fascinating.

      Stew sounds lovely! I think that my mom is fixing Taco soup for lunch…mmmm.

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