My favourite British foods to try

British foods don’t often bring to mind a gourmet treat but there are some classic English foods that we do miss from our childhoods. This is part of the reason I love house sitting in England the chance to have all my old childhood favourites as well as enjoying the fabulous markets and food halls you can find around London.

When I think of my favourite food in England – things like fish and chips or a roast beef Sunday lunch come to mind but there are certain traditional English foods that make me smile because of the memories attached to them.

My favourite British foods to try 1 My favourite British foods to try

The English had a reputation for some of the worst cooking in the world and my mother is proof of that.  It used to be that the English boiled the crap out of everything and when it was served all the food was the same grey mess. And then there were those quirky British dishes that defied explanation. English meals have come a long way in the past 30 years.

34 British Foods to try

English traditional foods can be – hmm – well shall we say unusual in other countries. For example in Canada we wouldn’t dream of trying a meat pie from tin and when I mention Toad in the Hole to friends they give me that “oh no here comes some weird food” look.

These are some pretty traditional foods in England. How many have you ever had?

The following list of 58 British foods some of which may sound weird or unappetizing to those of you who haven’t been to England, but give them a try you never know you may just like them.

Pie in a tin

Specifically Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pie. Lever off the lid and pop this into the oven and it doesn’t look too bad once the pastry crust starts to fluff and turn golden. However, upon its release from the oven and an attempt to serve on a plate, all your illusions of lovely steak and kidney turn to ashes because there really isn’t any in this pie merely some gluey gravy, nasty slimy undercooked pastry and tiny little pieces of some kind of meat. Exactly what I remembered LOL and kinda tasty anyways.

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BUY YOUR FRAY BENTOS STEAK & KIDNEY PIES

Saveloy and chips

oh on the drunken nights wandering home from the pub absolutely skint broke and needing some greasy food to sop up the alcohol.  Meal of choice you ask?  Saveloy and chips a load of lovely hot cooked chips smothered in salt and then Sarsons Malt vinegar alongside a rather large tube of meat encased in an orangey skin –  the saveloy. 

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Best when eaten drunk with ketchup the saveloy is merely a hot dog by another name, around 12 inches long and thicker than the average dog and of course made of pork it is a rather bland tube meat but does the job of soaking up some beer.

Chips with Curry Sauce

Another treat to soak up the alcohol. Screaming hot chips with a creamy curry sauce slathered on top. So popular that you can now buy a myriad of curry sauce versions to make your own at home.  This sauce probably first invited the English to try curries and thank god for their taste buds (well some of them) have evolved since that point.

Pie, mash and liquor

No not alcohol but the “gravy” that is always served as Piemashliquor, which is exactly what it says a meat pie, mashed potatoes and the liquor is the green thin liquid splashed on top of this tasty treat that fuelled many a working person in the East end of London.

Liquor is said to be the traditional water in which jellied eels were cooked, parsley is then added and a greenish thin liquid is the result. This liquor is then poured over your mash and pie and seems to some to be quite enjoyable. I always thought it smelled funny and never tried it.

pie mash and liquor British foods

Haggis

The National dish of Scotland haggis is a tasty mix, much like a sausage, of a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal’s stomach.

Black pudding

My husband’s favourite especially when served with a Full English or Irish breakfast, I have to say it does nothing for me. Blood sausage is exactly that – pig’s blood is collected, mixed with some herbs and a little oatmeal or binder pushed into a large sausage skin and served fried with breakfast.

Black pudding best of british foods

White pudding or oatmeal pudding

This is another very traditional English food favourite. Like black pudding in size, it is a creamy white appearance but is made of pork meat and fat including lots of suet and oatmeal. Some areas have spiced it up with black pepper, and herbs but it still tastes like it is a sausage made out of fat.

Mushy and marrowfat peas

Oh, I remember my Bachelor’s tinned peas with great fondness. I hated those fresh frozen green spring peas we got in Canada and vowed to never eat peas again. On my return to the UK, the first thing I bought was a tin of marrowfat peas. Marrowfats are green mature peas that have dried on the vine, it is a starchy kind of pea that is soaked overnight and then cooked with sugar, salt and a little bicarb of soda. 

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They can be found dried in many Canadian grocery stores but here in the UK, there is always a quick cook canned kind that I remember fondly from my childhood.  Marrowfats also make mushy peas that are the perfect side dish for fish and chips.

BUY SOME MUSHY PEAS

Battered sausages

It is what it is a cheap sausage; cooked, battered with the same stuff they use on the fish and then deep-fried. Not a particularly gourmet treat but cheap and available in every chippie anywhere in the British Isles.

Here in England, there is a great fondness for battered and fried foods of any description from the famous fried Mars bars to everything in between. Another area of British foods that I just can’t get my teeth into.

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Potato chip sandwich

Or as we like to call a crispy butty. Soft white bread slathered with butter and then crisps (potato chips are added). Sounds simple but its delicious particularly when you add cheese.

Baked Beans on Toast

As simple as it sounds Heinz baked beans warmed up and then put on buttered toast and served. Can also be made into Baked Bean butties – a simple Sunday night tea after a big roast dinner yum.

Fadge

Known by several names in Ireland fadge is what we called it and we hail from Northern Ireland. Fadge is a simple potato cake that uses flour and leftover mashed potates flattened into a round shape cut into triangle and cooked in a griddle. The resulting flat bread is usually served with a Full Irish breakfast or I like it simply with butter and jam.

Potato Boxty with bacon, tomatoes, onions and sauce close-up on the table. horizontal top view from above

Scotch Eggs

My most favourite treat in the world. These days these things have gone right upmarket and are even sold in Harrods no less. A hard or semi-hard boiled egg (lovely when the yolk is runny) is coated in tasty sausage meat, then rolled in breadcrumbs or oatmeal and deep-fried till golden.

A warm Scotch egg tastes like nothing else when that gorgeous orangey yolk bursts over your plate.  A cold Scotch egg is the perfect picnic treat, or midnight snack oh hell anytime.

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This traditional English food is just that English, not Scottish, it is believed they were invented by Fortnum & Mason’s for picnics to be taken to the Ascot races.

Sunday Roast Dinner

The roast in question can be beef, lamb, chicken, turkey or pork doesn’t matter except they all have specific condiments that must be served with them. Pork = applesauce, Lamb = mint sauce, beef = horseradish cream or possibly mustard, chicken/turkey = stuffing. Now these days it is changed up a little with redcurrant jelly being served or possibly cranberry sauce.

Accompaniements to a Sunday roast will include roasted potates (preferably rosted in duck fat), Yorkshire pudding, roasted vegetables and sometimes a red cabbage dish or my worst enemy swede – also known as horse turnip. In Scotland this is called neeps and usually served with potatoes which = neeps & tatties.

Toad in the Hole

Warning contains no toads and no holes unless you count the deep ditch in your pan of Yorkshire pudding that the sausages nestle in. I know I complained about battered sausages above but Yorkshire pudding is not mere batter. Yorkshire’s are cooked in hot fat and roast juices and rises on the edges like a heavenly pillow. Served with good gravy, mash and cabbage my families favourite English dinner – say no more. 

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Marmite

A cracker spread like no other. Made from a yeast extract it is sticky, smelly and a dark brown with a very distinct taste some have names umami. It is super salty and loads of vegetarians are using it these days as an ingredient, also note that the Australians have a version called Vegemite.

Apparently, a “marmite” was a covered earthenware pot, my guess is that is what it used to be cooked in or was dumped in after the beer had finished brewing. I’m not sure why this is such an English traditional food – its yeasty, salty soy sauce sort of flavour does nothing for me. 

The early 20th Century saw Marmite become a classic British savoury treat as it was included in World War One rations. It would remain popular among troops and civilians alike in World War Two and beyond – it was sent out to homesick British troops in Kosovo in 1999.

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Piccalilli

I love that name so British. This is a mustard-based veggie pickle that if god forbid it doesn’t include cauliflower it is not authentic Piccalilli. It is sharp and mustardy and coloured with turmeric and it is the best pickle to have with pork pies and cold ham.

Branston Pickle

Best served with a Ploughman’s Lunch, good cheddar and thick slabs of ham. Branston is a pickled chutney based product that always includes swede (also known as rutabaga or turnip), carrots, onions and cauliflower.  The sauce is made from sugar, tomato, spices and vinegar. It is sweet and sticky and can be bought with a small chunk or a large chunk – heaven with a good cheese sandwich or a Ploughmans Lunch. 

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BUY YOUR BRANSTON PICKLE

Pickled eggs

Are seen in every chippy that might indicate that they are good for those already pickled with alcohol (that’s the only time my hubs eats them). They are hardboiled eggs, pickled in brine or mainly in Malt vinegar with sugar, salt and occasionally some spices and herbs are added to gourmet them up a bit. My guess is that they used to preserve eggs this way centuries ago.

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Chip butties

My favourite treat in the world, white bread just slathered with butter (Kerrygold Irish butter springs to mind here) then stuff with fresh crispy chips doused in malt and salt. The resulting mess is stuffed into your mouth and enjoyed for its pure and simple taste, nothing better.

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Spotted Dick

Ah, the great traditional English pud Spotted Dick is a very dense thick pudding made of suet, flour lots of sugar and dotted with currants. The pudding is boiled for hours and served with custard.

Traditional English Trifle

A pretty multilayered concoction Trifle includes Ladyfinger biscuits or sponge cake soaked in sherry and usually tinned fruit then topped with jelly, custard, and cream. It’s a very pretty layered dessert that looks great and to some tastes wonderful but it was never my favourite that soggy cake was quite off-putting.

food, dessert, sweet

Eton Mess

A traditional dessert from Eton which is basically crushed meringue mixed with

Melton Mowbray pork pie

Made from chopped or minced pork often combined with bacon and put in a hand raised pastry crust. The pie is named after its place of origin Melton Mowbray, a town in Leicestershire.

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Bakewell tart 

A perennial English favourite this is simply a small tart with layers of frangipane (an almond flavoured filling) with jam on top and flaked almonds. It is always topped with a glacé cherry.

Lancashire hotpot

A classic British savoury treat the Lancashire Hotpot is slow-cooked lamb stew with a mix of seasonal vegetables and covered in sliced potatoes. Cooked low and slow to tenderize the meat.  

Cornish pasties

Everybody’s favourite handheld pie. Shortcrust pastry encloses ground beef, onions small diced potatoes and seasoning including lots of pepper. It should be according to the pros 12.5% beef and 25% vegetables. That traditional Cornish food the Pastie is a thing of beauty incredibly flavourful given it only contains salt and pepper as seasonings but oh you can’t resist it – trust me.

Pastry case filled with meat and vegetables

Bubble and squeak

What can I say about my favourite leftovers. Bubble and Squeak is supposed to be potatoes and cabbage and gets its name from the “squeak” made from the cabbage as it fries. My mum always made it with Sunday dinner leftovers so turnip, potatoes, carrots, Brussels, onions and tiny bits of Sunday roast. 

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Kippers

We do love a kipper for breakfast at our house. These are herrings that have been butterflied and then cold smoked for four hours. The end result is a yellow fish that is the perfect ingredient for a kedgeree or served with a pat of butter in a full English breakfast. 

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Ploughman’s

A cold selection of bread, cheese, pickled onions and raw onions, with some cold meats and of course Branston Pickle. The bread is white and crusty and good English butter is served with it. You will find these in pubs and cafes and they make a great light lunch. 

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Scouse

A Liverpool stew of root vegetables and lamb or beef. Served in pubs and it was the choice food of sailors as it is cheap and filling. Sensing a theme here with these English pies?  

Battenberg  Cake 

A light sponge cake that has been coloured usually pink and yellow then cut into long square pieces and layered into a checkerboard pattern. It is then covered in marzipan and served sliced at a High Tea so you can see the pattern. 

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Jam roly-poly 

Everybody loves a jam roly-poly. Traditionally this is a suet pudding with is spread with jam and then rolled up and served sprinkled with icing sugar.   

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British Chocolate

Last but never least is British chocolate. Who can resist a Fry’s Cream bar or a Flakey perhaps a Yorkie. That great British chocolate that simply melts in your mouth and tastes so good. It wouldn’t be right to miss out on that.

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BUY YOUR CADBURY’S CHOCOLATE 

It goes without saying that everyone who loves meat enjoys a Sunday Roast meat dinner and of course a Full English breakfast I should definitely mention that some of the best Food Halls I have ever visited with a superb selection of products to enjoy are available in London- foodies should all visit at least once in their lives.

If you want to taste some of these traditional English food favourites you should head to Leather Lane Market or Borough market for some truly great British food. Recent modern British cuisines is now the darling of food tourism and you will find some of the greatest Chefs in the world in London and the rest of Great Britain.

Do you have a favourite British food?

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