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As regular visitors to our CK Travels blog will know, we love our food, and relish (mmm, spicy relish) nothing more than sublime street food in south east Asia, gourmet goodness in the great outdoors or fine foreign fodder. Even writing this is starting to make us hungry! That said, traditional English food is some of the best in the world and is literally a ‘home’ comfort to us – of course we’re biased, but when we’re away from ‘Blighty’ for several months, there are several go-to dishes we crave and immediately look for as soon as we depart the tarmac at Heathrow.
If you don’t know your ‘bangers’ from your ‘bacon butty’ or your Scotch Egg from your Yorkshire Pudding, then dive into these traditional English foods (although the jury is still out on ‘black pudding’…)
Traditional English food – Afternoon Tea
No trip to the UK is complete with having an afternoon (or high) tea. Most hotels and rural cafes offer their own versions but generally, this teatime treat consists of small sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jams, cakes and pastries served on a silver stand, accompanied with a choice of tea types (or …our favourite…a glass of champagne or similar bubbles). Indulge, enjoy and drink like ‘nobili-tea’.
Traditional English Breakfast
Comprising (usually) of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, mushrooms, buttered toast and sometimes black pudding (fried pig’s blood no less!), this is hearty, wholesome fare but also pretty calorific so not something to have everyday.
Although their standard pub grub fare is so-so, the Wetherspoons chains of pubs do a smashing full English breakfast (various versions of it) at very cheap prices – you can get a hearty breakfast for less than £4 at the time of writing. E Pellicci Cafe in Bethnal Green, east London also serves a great fry up!
Fish and chips
Quite simply our favourite traditional English food and takeaway meal, and one we yearn for most when away from the UK. Yes, you can get fish and chips elsewhere in the world but nowhere does it like the UK. Some of the best places to get them in London include Kerbisher and Malt, Poppies and The Hook in Camden – although we’ve yet to find a pub that does really good fresh fish and chips in London (suggestions welcomed). And make sure you have yours with mushy peas (better than it sounds – you won’t regret it…)
Originally from Melton Mowbray in Leicester, pork pies for the first-timer can be quite an acquired taste, primarily due to getting acquainted to the glue like gelatine inside (not as bad as it sounds) keeping the pork meat separate from the pastry. Generally served as a cold snack (especially in pubs) or with a salad, this sounds a little odd but it is definitely no ‘pie in the sky’.
Not from Scotland but actually from Yorkshire, this is a whole hard or soft boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and then coated entirely in bread crumbs. Although it doesn’t sound that inviting, it is actually rather delicious (very rich though so sometimes best to share between two people). Scotch eggs are undergoing a bit of a resurgence at the moment, quite trendy and often featured at farmers and organic food markets, with vegetarian scotch-eggs (using fake meat or mycoprotein) becoming increasingly popular. Pictured below are scotch eggs from Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey, London.
Believed to originate from Eton College at the end of the 19th century as a snack during cricket games, this is a sweet dessert comprising strawberries, whipped cream and meringue (have we piqued your interest yet?). Generally served in the summer when fresh berries are available, this is one of our perfect pudding picks.
English Roast Dinner
Traditionally served on Sundays (and available at most UK pubs), roast dinner consists of meat (roast beef, chicken, pork or lamb – possibly even a mixture), potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing balls, roast vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, accompanied with gravy. Vegetarian roasts are also very popular, the most common of which is a nut roast or vegetable wellington.
As expected by its name, this meat and potato pie is most closely associated with Cornwall in Devon but can be bought at bakeries and specialised chains (e.g. the West Cornwall Pasty Co have shops up and down the country). A truly traditional Cornish Pasty is beef, diced potato, swede and onion, with a dash of salt and pepper – the outside of the pastry is then ‘crimped’ to give it a unique shape.
Scone with clotted cream and jam
An afternoon favourite, scones and jam (sometimes also served with clotted cream) are subject to a big debate about whether you put the jam or cream on first (in our opinion, the jam goes on first – the Queen also reportedly feels the same so we MUST be right by law!). Best enjoyed with a pot of tea on a delightful sunny afternoon (or roaring log fire if winter time).
Bangers and Mash
Essentially fried sausages served with mash potato and onion gravy (nom!) but why are they called ‘bangers? There are several theories but the most common is that it relates to the sausages produced in WWI when there were meat shortages, meaning the water content in sausages was much higher then, causing them to pop when they were cooked.
British bacon butty
If you weren’t sure, ‘butty’ is an informal / slang term for sandwich (generally used more in the north of England). Quite simply, two rashers of bacon in a white bread sandwich with some HP brown sauce.
Bread and Butter Pudding
This is a classic and traditional English dessert dish consisting of layers of buttered bread, covered with sprinkles of raisins and then baked in a spiced egg custard. Not something you see that often in restaurants, this is more of a home cooked dish (we’re not a massive fan of it to be honest – kind of a waste of bread and butter in our unexpert opinion).
Also known as Cottage Pie, this perennial pie has many regional variations, but generally consists of ground meat, onions, carrots and other vegetables with a mashed potato topping (don’t get us started on whether a pie with a non pastry topping is actually a pie or not…). Very filling, we also like to add a dash of Worcestershire sauce to our homemade version for a little extra zing.
Pie and Mash
A particular favourite of ours, the traditional dish of meat pies, mash and liquor (jellied eels with parsley – not alcoholic) are a staple of London history and dining tables – alas the traditional pie and mash shops in London are now sadly on the decline but there are still some around and definitely worth a visit – the interiors are like stepping back in time. F Cooke and M Manze are two big pie and mash shops left, each with several branches still open (particularly around east London).
Yorkshire Pudding / Toad in the Hole
Another seemingly oddly titled dish (‘Spotted Dick’, anyone?), Toad in the Hole is a Yorkshire Pudding with sausages served and set inside, usually served with onion gravy. You will most likely see this served in pubs on a Sunday as one of the Sunday roast options.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sweet as and deliciously decadent, this is sticky and moist sponge cake, covered in a treacle-like toffee sauce and often served with ice-cream or whipped cream. In Australia and New Zealand, they have it as Sticky Date pudding. A ‘modern classic’, this first came about in the 1970s, created in the Sharrow Bay Country House in the Lake District.
Other posts you might like
- Borough Market guide – London’s most famous food market
- Maltby Street Market in London
- The best Sunday markets in London
- Things to do in the historic City of London Square Mile
- Top things to do in King’s Cross, London
- Top things to do in Camden Town
- The 10 best markets in London to visit
- South Bank walk – one of the best walks around London (plus map)
- Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London guide
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