Despite being a relatively small and compact island, Britain has a lot of wonderful (and maybe not so wonderful) traditional foods people should try when they visit. Being a non-fussy eater (but mushrooms are an absolute no) who is happy to try something at least once, I have tried and enjoyed many of the traditional foods of my home country, and I have put together a list of the foods people should try on a visit to Britain.
Sausage and Mash
One of my favourite comfort foods is sausage and mash. It was the usual Saturday night meal when I was younger which my dad made (and slightly burnt the sausage and fried onion). Also known as ‘bangers and mash’, the dish includes sausages and mashed potato, sometimes served with onion gravy, fried onions, peas, though I prefer baked beans. And then a big dollop of HP sauce.
Pork pies are a cold meat pie consisting of chopped cured pork and pork jelly sealed in a hot water crust pastry, that is normally eaten with a snack or with salad. For me, I see it as a summer food, being a cold dish. A well-known variation is the Melton Mowbray pork pie, named after the town Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. Melton pies became popular in the late 18th century, and their variation is to use uncured meat and made with a hand-formed crust, giving the pie a slightly irregular shape. The Melton pork pie has also been granted European protected designation of origin in 2008.
A baked pastry that is associated with Cornwall, it is made with an uncooked filling of vegetables and meat, and you can find some interesting variations (leek, bacon, and cheese is my favourite). The Cornish pasty has protected status, and the traditional feeling is diced or minced beef, onion, potato and swede with some light seasoning. The use of carrot in traditional pasties is frowned upon. There are no clear origins of the pasty, but the strong association with Cornwall is due to the pasty being popular with working people in Cornwall, where miners could use its unique shape to have a solid, warm meal without cutlery and could discard the thick edge they have held with dirty hands.
When I lived in Cardiff, Welsh cakes were one of my favourite things to eat. It’s a travesty you can’t find them in shops outside of Wales. The flat cakes are traditionally cooked on a bakestone and made from butter, currants, eggs, milk and spices, circular and around a centimetre thick. Popular variations include jam in the centre or chocolate chips instead of currants, and they can be served hot or cold, dusted with caster sugar. In Cardiff, there are a few places to get Welsh cakes baked fresh, and they are delicious.
Black pudding is a blood sausage and is not to everyone’s taste for sure and eaten around Britain, more so northern England and Scotland. Made from pork fat or beef suet, pork blood and oatmeal, it is grilled or fried in its skin and often comes with full English breakfast. The Stornoway black pudding has been granted Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin status (sadly I have not tried this variation). You can also find deep-fried and battered black puddings in the north of England if you’re lucky. Most people are put off by the fact it is made of blood, but it is actually rather healthy, providing a good source of protein, high in zinc and iron and low in carbohydrates.
The Scottish dish haggis is something I wanted to try properly on my holiday to Scotland and enjoyed it served with a jacket potato and cheese. The savoury pudding contains sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt, mixed with stock and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach, although artificial casing is used now. Though the description is rather unappealing, the nutty texture and salty, savoury flavour make it quite tasty. A common serving is haggis, neeps and tatties (swede and potato) and the first known written recipe of haggis can be dated to circa 1430. There is a joke that a haggis is a small animal with longer legs on one side that allows it to run around the steep hills of the highlands.
Fish and Chips
A trip to Britain is not complete without traditional battered fish and chip shop chips. There is nothing quite like British chip shop chips, and you can usually find a decent shop in every town, though they are more common in seaside towns. Saying that, I still think my favourite is around the corner from my parents, in a town two hours from the sea. For people who don’t like fish, there is also sausage (battered or not), pie or fishcakes to have instead, and there is often the option to have mushy peas on the side.
Anyone who knows what’s good for them has a Yorkshire pudding with their Sunday roast. The English food consists of eggs, flour and milk and traditionally used to make use of the fat that dropped into the pan from the roasted meat. Originally, the pudding was served as the first course with thick gravy to dull the appetite so diners would not eat the expensive meat in the next course. Nowadays they are part of Sunday roasts along with meat, veg, potatoes, stuffing, gravy etc., and you can get giant ones filled with all the ingredients.
Have you tried any of these traditional dishes? Any personal favourites I have missed off? Let me know in a comment!