Whether you’re from London, Lithuania or Los Angeles, here’s a quick foodie guide to some of Britain’s most odd sounding dishes, including of course the famous Deep Fried Mars Bar!
The list was inspired by reading an article about Neeps and Tatties (explained further down), and how even for people in the UK these strange sounding foods might baffle and bemuse.
1) Bangers and Mash is probably the staple diet of my and quite a few other generations, possibly as it was the best way to get kids to eat potato without actually realising it was potato.
Usually simply mashed potato and sausages, it naturally requires the sausages to be planted into the mash at random angles for reasons that have baffled aforementioned generations….plus of course you HAVE to have lots of gravy.
According to a post on the VisitBritain forum, there’s a restaurant called the Big Bang in Oxford which sells this exclusively.
2) Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie is another staple diet that most of us would have been brought up on, especially as it’s very cheap.
We had to research this bit, but they are not the same thing as Shepherd’s pie should be made with lamb and Cottage Pie with beef / mince topped with potatoes – something which an awful lot of cafes and restaurants get wrong. Technically Cottage Pie should also be covered in sliced not mashed potatoes, but that’s forgiveable in foodie circles.
Again, don’t forget the butter in the potatoes and we do recommend mash vs sliced for edibility.
3) Bubble & Squeak proves that the English are especially good at being tight fisted and reusing ingredients which would have previously been binned. For those in London and the US, think cold pizza. :)
The idea was after Sunday dinner, if you had any leftover veg you could mash them all up and reheat for dinner / supper the next day, but as recycled veg doesn’t sound very appitising, some enterprising person renamed it Bubble & Squeak.
It was supposed to be also made with leftover meat, but generally today it’s just veg mashed up and is about as horrible as it sounds. Again, not something you’ll find in 5 star restaurants.
3) Tatties and Neeps confuses the English no end but between you and me it’s just potatoes and sweed or turnip (officially turnips). Generally this would be accompanied with meat or similar and is essentially a nice cheap way to prepare a meal in Scotland. Many many generations were brought up on this diet. In England we just have mince and potatoes and I would assume the Welsh have a similar option.
4) Chicken Tikka Masala sounds very exotic and Indian doesn’t it….except you’ll get some very blank looks if you ask for that over there. The exact origin is a little unclear, but the most likely source is actually Glasgow (in Scotland) which could lay claim to be the third biggest source of Indian food outside India and Birmingham.
5) Spotted Dick is probably the butt of more British humour than pretty much any other food, but the ingredients are actually rather simple.
There are a number of variations these days, but essentially it’s just a steamed pudding traditionally steamed using a cloth which sat above the vegetables and used the flavours from those to add to the pudding. Any pudding with currants and raisins could qualify as long as it is steamed.
6) Marmite no doubt has left our shores mostly with those who travelled to far off lands like, well, Boston and Canada but for those who’ve not tried this be warned – there is a reason the adverts say “You’ll either love it or hate it”.
Never has a food divided opinion like this rather innocent looking jar of yeast extract. Spread thinly would be good advice from the jar for sure, but stand about 20 feet from the jar when it’s opened would be another piece of good advice. You can probably tell which side I’m on.
If you do like it, spread on toast or similar and then retreat to a well ventilated room and assume that you’ll have very few friends until you use mouthwash.
7) Yorkshire Pudding is what many regard as an absolute requirement for Sunday dinner and any other time you feel like spending 20 minutes making something and 3 minutes cooking it (see picture at the top).
The trouble with Yorkshire Puddings is there is very little to compare them with, but as long as they rise correctly they should be light, slightly crunchy and very moreish. They’re made from flour, eggs and milk so nothing complicated, all beaten into what’s referred to as a batter, but this is nothing like fish batter. You do require a seriously hot oven however.
Although named a pudding, it is rarely eaten as such and traditionally was actually a form of a starter, but these days is usually just included with the meal.
7) Toad in the Hole sounds like an exotic European dish, but actually it’s very much steeped in the English traditions of cooking. The ingredients require a rectangular Yorkshire Pudding and then a few sausages in the bottom, plus ample amounts of gravy is also recommended.
This dish turned the Yorkshire Pudding into a meal in itself and although often bought frozen these days, a proper Toad in the Hole beats any haute cuisine dish hands down.
8) Pease Pudding shows that the English have a rather odd fascination with misnaming foods, as once again this is not a pudding dish. Often mis-spelt as “peas pudding”, the dish is made from Carlin peas, water and salt mashed together with any other veg, and served with ham or Stottie Cakes.
Generally it has the consistency of hummus or mushy peas depending on the exact ingredients, but it does seem to be more of a North Eastern English dish than anything found widely.
9) Stottie Cakes are again a north eastern invention and generally not found that commonly around the rest of the country. The cake is similar in look to leavened bread but has an almost dough like taste and texture.
10) Faggots are another form of mashed up meat, similar in some ways to sausages and meatballs in ingredients, but most popular around southern and central England. The traditional faggot was in many ways not too far off a Haggis, but modern variations are simply various minced meats rolled into a ball and oven cooked.
Generally Faggots will be served with mashed potato and peas or similar, plus of course gravy which by now you might have worked out is quite popular.
11) Laverbread (Bara Lafwr) proves that it’s not just the English who like to misname their foods. If you ever order this, don’t expect something you can spread your Marmite on, as Laverbread is a seaweed based food often added to other foods in a similar vein to coleslaw for example.
It might sound a little odd, but it has surprising health benefits which are found in most seaweed based products, and is supposed to be especially beneficial to your heart…if you can stomach the taste and dark green appearance. We never said good-for-you-food looked nice.
12) Welsh Cakes (picau ar y maen) are in many ways the Welsh equivalent of the scone made from flour, sultanas, raisins or currants. However, the Welsh dish better known as bakestones must be cooked on a special cast iron griddle. They are at least cakes so points for not being confusing with the name.
The original Welsh Cakes weren’t sold with anything inside, but these days they tend to include butter or jam taking them even closer to the scone – probably so they can be sold to the English tourists.
13) Haggis is one of the most curious of all foods and the most confusing for many of those outside the UK. There are 2 versions of what Haggis is depending who you listen two:
- The traditional version told to American tourists specifies that a Haggis is a small very illusive creature with one leg shorter than the other as it has to run around the Scottish mountains, albeit usually anti-clockwise.
- Everyone else’s version also has variations, but these days it tends to be a mixture of usually lamb or similar minced up with herbs and spices, then cooked in a linen cloth or similar. Many don’t like the thought of it, but think sausages and it’s not that dis-similar in ingredients.
14) Black Pudding is another of those really daftly named foods which has never been a pudding. It can be thought of as the Southern Scottish and Northern English version of Haggis using up all the leftover meats and pulses plus a few other select ingredients.
Like Haggis, when people find out exactly what goes into it they won’t touch it, but being on the English side of the border we have to say it tastes nicer than Haggis, but that is a close second.
Best recommended that you try it before researching what goes into Black Pudding, and most B&Bs seem to offer it as part of their cooked breakfasts.
15) Deep fried Mars Bar (also Snickers Bars) being in this list might suggest that it has nothing to do with chocolate bars, but we included it simply to dispel the myth that these don’t exist.
You absolutely can buy a deep fried Mars Bar or a deep fried Snickers Bar in some areas of Scotland. The story goes that this was purely a novelty idea by the Haven Chip Bar (now The Carron Fish Bar) in Stonehaven on the north east coast of Scotland around 1995.
According to Wikipedia at least, a local journalist picked up the story in August of that year and within 24 hours it became a global sensation with chip shops around Scotland selling them. Oddly, this has tended to centre on Glasgow but Stonehaven is still its birthplace.
Further foods: This is by no means the exhaustive list of odd sounding food stuffs you can find around our shores, but hopefully should clear up a few of the more popular ones.
If you have any more, add them to the comments section below (click the title above first if on the front page).