Brit Food: Top 10 Classic British Meals to Warm Your Soul and Fill Your Stomach

Coronation chicken, faggots, bubble and squeak…the words are enough to bring up homey sights and smells from kitchens across Britain. Despite negative stereotypes (and years of living up to them), Britain has recently rediscovered the beauty and flavor of its culinary past, and good food is now easy to find all over the UK. It’s an exciting time to be an Anglophile as classic British cuisine gets an overhaul, and British chefs whip new life into traditional favorites.

Here, in absolutely unbiased order, are ten of Britain’s most beloved classic dishes, some newer, some older. There is no definitive list, of course,  and no doubt some of your favorites are missing. Please leave a comment below and let us know about the scrumptious dishes I missed!

Bacon Butty

8127861491Bacon sarnie, a photo by idleformat on Flickr.

According to the Top 100 Food Index commissioned by Food Network UK, bacon is Britain’s #1 favorite food. Though it might sound unappetizing, a bacon butty is actually just a bacon sandwich—but the preparation of an authentic specimen must be executed very carefully. Everyone has their own opinion about the “perfect bacon butty,” but it’s generally accepted that the bread must be white and on the dry side, the bacon crispy and full of flavor, and the condiments added for moisture and flavor without becoming the star. Check out The Gentle Art of the Bacon Butty to see a detailed butty-making chart.

Haggis

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This could be the British food with the all-time worst reputation. The national dish of Scotland, haggis is as classic as bagpipes and the Loch Ness monster. It’s a kind of sausage made out of sheep’s stomach, heart, and liver, fresh suet, oatmeal, onions, and various seasonings. Only a hard-core Scotophile would dare try one of these things, but if you’re up for it here’s a traditional haggis recipe.

Bangers and mash

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Bangers and mash, a photo by gifrancis on Flickr.

Along with pie and mash, this dish is a British icon that’s been described as the “working class hero’s meal.” As any good Anglophile knows, “bangers” are pork sausages and “mash” is short for mashed potatoes. If a hearty sausage with buttery warm taters doesn’t get you salivating, then top it off with fried onions and gravy. Mmmmm. The best part is you don’t have to go to a pub to eat this dish; here’s a recipe for making bangers and mash at home.

If you’re looking for a similar delicious recipe that’s a great vegetarian substitute then check out the Quorn recipe for Garlic Mash & Onion Gravy. http://www.quorn.co.uk/recipes/sausages-garlic-mash-onion-gravy/

Cornish Pasties

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RTW2009-0049Cornwall, a photo by plusgood on Flickr.

Also known as “oggies,” these savory treats are a specialty of Cornwall, and have been awarded protected status by the EU (in other words, if you’re selling “Cornish Pasties” they’d better be made in Britain’s most south-westerly county according to a strict set of guidelines). A pasty is defined as a mixture of chunky meat and vegetables, wrapped in a hearty pastry case in a traditional crimped “D” shape. It has an illustrious history, dating back to the 1200s, and in the 18th century it was popular with poor Cornish miners who used the crimped crust as a disposable “handle” to hold with their sooty hands. Click here to watch a video on how authentic Cornish pasties are made.

Lancashire Hotpot 

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Simple, but comforting, Lancashire Hotpot is a lamb and potato casserole layered with browned onion, fresh thyme, stock, and seasoning. It’s the kind of dish that cooks slowly all afternoon, then gets drawn out of the oven, bubbling and smelling like heaven. Perfect for a party with lots of friends!

Fish and chips

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Modern Fish and Chips, a photo by LearningLark on Flickr.

Possibly Britain’s national dish, fish and chips is one of the most popular meals in the UK. While fried fish and potatoes aren’t unique to British cuisine, the Brits were the first to put the two together in a big way, and now with an estimated 10,500+ chippies (fish and chip shops) at its disposal, the UK consumes 250 million fish and chip meals annually. Last year a pub in Yorkshire fried the World’s Largest Fish & Chips, weighing in at a shocking 45.36 kg (100 lbs.). The dish is “a force for national unity.”

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

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These two dishes simply can’t be separated; together they create what might be Britain’s most famous meal. Nothing says Sunday dinner like a juicy slice of roast beef and a crispy Yorkshire pudding, all drenched in gravy. Though it’s called a pudding, this is actually nothing like the Christmas plum pudding or chocolate pudding. It’s a batter pudding, and the “secret ingredient” that makes it so tasty is the drippings from the roast. Discover how to bake light and lovely Yorkshire puddings.

Scones

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Buttermilk and Mixed Fruit Scones with Sour Cherry Jam, a photo by French Tart on Flickr.

Britain isn’t Britain without tea, and tea isn’t tea without scones. While the fluffy Claridge’s variety is a staple, there are plenty of other kinds: girdle scones (soda scones from Scotland), Welsh cakes (a cross between a fruit scone and a pancake), and tattie scones (made with potatoes) are just a few. Sweet and savory, covered in clotted cream and jam or simply served warm with butter, scones are eternal favorites.

Steak and Kidney Pie

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The British love their internal organs, or at least those of oxen, sheep, and pigs. Once eaten as a cheap and filling meal, steak and kidney pie is now a comfort food for many Brits and Anglophiles. Usually consisting of beef, kidneys, onion, and gravy, some recipes liven it up with wine, mushrooms, and puff pastry. Cockney rhyming slang has had fun with this dish, coming up with Kate and Sidney pie, snake and kiddy pie, and snake and pygmy pie. Here are two recipes for steak and kidney pie, one easier and one lighter.

Toad-in-the-Hole

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By Robert Gibert [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last but not least, toad-in-the-hole is one of those curiously named foods that earns strange looks from outsiders. It’s pretty simple, actually, like a gigantic Yorkshire pudding poured over bangers (you can also make individual toads in a muffin tin). Pick your favorite sausages, whip up the batter, and you’re a little over half an hour away from classic British bliss. Try this economical and heart-warming dish at your next family supper with this easy guide.

This post was written by Abigail Rogers, a writer and foodie who is addicted to all things British. If you enjoyed this post, check out her eBook on historical English cookery at www.CooksAndQueens.com. She blogs at www.PictureBritain.com.

Comments

  1. avatarGloria Fisher says

    Just a suggestion. I would like to have seen Bread and Butter pudding on your list!
    You could have made the number up to twelve with Bread Pudding…
    Cheers,

  2. avatarDavid Theldry says

    Put a plate of bangers and mash in front of me and I’m a happy boy!

    Lovely post, Abi.

  3. avatarSylvia Skinner says

    I love to visit Britain, and I think I’ve eaten everything you showed except haggis, and maybe toad-in-the-hole. Don’t remember having that. I’d love an order of fish and chips right now.
    I usually bring home blackcurrant jam, chocolate covered digestive biscuits and of course, tea!

  4. avatarKacee says

    How about ‘steak and Kidney Pudding’? Not Pie—————steamed and unbelievably mouth watering.

    • avatarSheona says

      oh yes, Bubble & Squeak. With a fried egg on top. I always eat that on boxing day (although we have been known to cook veg especially to make it…)

      And why no picture of the Yorkshire pudding? The food of Champions.

  5. avatarNatalie says

    In my gaff, we have several packs of sausages in the freezer at all times (there are shops which sell just sausages – lots and lots of different sausages! Even Tesco has several varieties!) When you have a handy pack of sausages, you’re not too far away from a decent meal! Bangers, mash and onion gravy… My mouth is watering already! Sausage sarnie (for when there’s no bacon), sausage rolls etc. etc.

    But I do concur with a few others here, Bubble and squeak it the ultimate “leftover” comfort food, with a fried egg and the yolk oozing over it (and a couple of sneaky rashers of bacon for good measure).

    I saw a TV show a little while back that the UK’s second favourite comfort food is the humble tea and biscuit… never underestimate the power of a well-dunked Hob Nob!

  6. avatarDeanna says

    Definitely the chicken tikka masala mentioned in the above post is worthy of a mention. Yorkshire pudding is my favorite traditional British dish.

  7. avatareliza graham says

    I am English and rarely eat any of these things, apart from roast beef, and occasionally scones.

    Most British people probably eat more pizza than steak and kidney pud. Fish and chips doesn’t feature much on the regular menus of anyone I know. It’s the kind of thing you might eat at a sports match, when it’s cold. Or perhaps at the seaside.

    I think this is a slightly archaic view of Britain. It’s now possibly the most multi-racial and multicultural European country, and most Brits eat curry, Thai, Indonesian, Itallian, etc, far more than haggis.

    • avatarMichelle Hiscott says

      Well I’m English and eat most of the food on the list….not all the time or I’d be the size of a house. I do eat curry which should be on the list. I think a lot depends on your location in Britain.

    • avatar says

      p.s. It’s not archaiac in that the article says these are “Classic” British dishes – my British husband eats a variety of foods, but loves his old fashioned dishes listed here, just like I like the comfort food in America: Meatloaf or Mac and Cheese.

    • avatarMinerva says

      Total nonsense.
      If you & your friends/family don’t eat ‘traditional’ British fare (& most of it was ‘English’ rather than ‘British’ anyway), fair enough….but it’s foolish to make such a comment when speaking for the rest of us.

      I make a lot of the ‘traditional’ dishes both those mentioned & many others besides, & I bake many of the old recipes I grew up with. I preserve & pickle, mostly to traditional recipes…….as do many of the women I know.

      In these days of people being shorter of cash then they might like to be, the traditional recipes are a good cheap way to feed a family on not a lot. They are tasty & they are wholesome.
      With so many lower fat/sugar ingredients available, it’s a fallacy that British (English) food is unhealthy & full of fat…..it’s certainly way better for you than a take-away curry or a McNumpty burger with fries!!!

    • avatar says

      Sticky Toffee is my husband’s favorite British dish. When we visit the UK he eats it when ever he finds it on the menu and I have made it several times here at home in the US.

  8. avatarGandalfsfrippet says

    Haggis is nae English. It is Scottish. There IS a difference. And for the record, you dinnae need to be brave to eat the haggis, it truly is a lovely dish.

  9. avatarNoelle says

    I was born and raised in England, but have lived in Canada for over 40 years, I have fond memories of Lancashire Hot Pot that I used to eat for lunch at a little cafe in my home town, on a lunch break from my weekend job at Tesco’s! I’ve never made it, and was disappointed you didn’t include a traditional recipe as most of the others had one?

    As for fish and chips, it’s hard to find a good chippie sometimes. In Canada with the British influence there’s lots of fish and chip shops and they’re very popular, but I visit the U.S. often and they don’t seem to have ANY! I think that’s weird, because they must have lots of ex-pat Brits living there? Those Arthur Treacher’s and other poor relations just don’t count! :)
    The desserts I’m looking forward to…everything was with custard when I was growing up! Love Sticky Toffee pudding (made right) and Manchester Tart was a lovely snack from the local bakery…oh, and those meringue cases filled with real whipped cream! Mmmm…getting hungry!

    • avatar says

      What about pigs trotters and mushy peas ,half a dozen pigs trotters slowly cooked in a big set pot over a coal fire with mushy peas poured over them ready for me and my brothers coming from the local dance hall or local pub on Saturday night,we were Yokshire coal miners and loved our beer and grub and the lasses of course those are memories of my youth ps the trotters and peas would have salt and pepper or any mixed spice you chose for that extra taste

      I am 82 now but still recall the 1930s and early world war2 years when the food was plain but moorish

  10. avatarMelanie says

    Can’t start my day without the Full English breakfast! We had it every day while visiting England. Strange combination of foods but wonderful to eat!