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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.