By - 'The English Rose.'
Hi everyone. Well, Easter has been and gone again and it got me thinking about food (of course). We know that for certain festivals throughout the year, Easter of course, Christmas, Thanksgiving, there are particular foods which are usually only eaten at those times. (Although I’m sure there are many of us who would like to eat Easter eggs all year round!)
Every country must also have provincial dishes, many of which are unknown elsewhere in the world. I thought I’d take a look at some of the regional foods we have in the UK. I think you might find some of them a bit odd.
For such a small land, there are a lot of specific county dishes here, most of course, stem from the uses of the produce from that particular area. Some of these dishes have survived almost unchanged for centuries. Many of them were created in times of food scarcity, but they became popular and still exist today.
For instance, most of you will have heard of the famous Scottish delicacy, Haggis. However, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion in the USA, the haggis is not actually a small animal with legs which are longer on one side than the other, to enable them to go up and down Scotland’s steep hills without falling over. One poll suggested that 33% of Americans polled believed that story. Sorry, but I have to spoil your fantasy.
Haggis is a ball shaped, savoury pudding, made of the sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs) mixed with oatmeal, onion, suet, spices and seasoning, boiled together in the sheep’s stomach, and despite the sound of it, I can promise you it is delicious, spicy, crumbly and usually served with ‘bashed neeps’ or mashed turnips and mashed potatoes. Yum! (Really!)
Apparently, the word ‘hagese’ was used for a similar food item in England in 1430, and it was mentioned in a Scottish poem by William Dunbar in 1502, but it really took off as a traditional Scottish dish after the famous poet Robert Burns wrote his poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ in 1787, now, no Burn’s Night celebration is complete without a haggis.
In the Scottish/English Borders there is a very localized dish called ‘Rumbledethumps,’ which is bubble and squeak (mashed potatoes and cabbage all mixed together) with added grated cheese and lots of butter. Not very healthy, but supposed to be tasty. And you can even buy it frozen these days!
Wales too, have a food which is peculiar to that area, ‘Lava Bread’ No it doesn’t come from a volcano, it’s actually a seaweed, collected in huge quantities from the rocks, boiled for hours to make it soft, then pureed. The resulting bright green, gelatinous mass can be fried with bacon, rolled in oats and formed into a patty, or just used as a veg to accompany a meal of meat and potatoes. I can’t tell you how Lava tastes, I’m not that brave!
In Cornwall, there is a lot of fishing and their national dish is naturally fish based, ‘Stargazey Pie,’ is made using Pilchards, which are small, oily fish like sardines. They are baked, then laid around the pie dish with their tails pointing to the centre and their heads protruding from the pastry top, these pies can also contain chopped onions and bacon. The reason the heads are stargazing is that it proves there really are fish in the pie, not just bacon and onions!
Many of you will have heard of the famous London ‘Jellied Eels.’ In the 19th century, the River Thames was so polluted, the hardy eels were the only fish able to survive there and they became a staple for the poor. Now they are considered a delicacy and shipped world-wide. The eels are killed, skinned, chopped and boiled in gelatine, then served cold, either in a small tub on their own, or as a dish with pie and potatoes.
The North East of England has a dish with the delightful name of ‘Singing Hinnies,’ they are small, round, half inch deep, currant filled cakes, (I think they look a bit like your ‘biscuits’?) These are fried in lard in a pan or on a bakestone/griddle. The name is an amalgamation of the sizzling noise they make when they are cooking – singing, and the word Hinny which means ‘darling’ in the dialect of that area, so they should really be called Singing Darlings.
Now, here’s a controversial one for you! During WW2 when good meat was very hard to come by, people had to make do with the poorer parts of the animal, usually a pig. They would take the belly, liver and heart of the animal, chop it all finely, add onions and breadcrumbs, form the mix into balls and wrap them in the caul from the fat of the animal. These balls were served in onion gravy with potatoes, and were called ‘Faggots.’ (Sorry about the name! I don’t like pork, but I’m told by family members that these are delicious.)
From Bedfordshire comes a strange dish known as the ‘Bedfordshire Clanger.’ It is a suet crust rectangle with one end filled with skirt of beef and onions and the other half filled with chopped pears. A complete meal in a crust.
Here in the North of England, where I live, we have a wealth of strange dishes! In some areas we call Jam roly poly by the name ‘Dead Man’s Leg.’ In a town called Oldham, they eat ‘Rag Pie’ which is really minced (ground) beef and onion, wrapped in suet pastry then in a piece of cheesecloth and boiled. We eat ‘Tatty Hash,’ a mixture of mashed potatoes and corned beef, along with onions and carrots cooked in milk and water, all served together with a crust cooked separately and served on the side. ‘Tripe and onions’ are considered a delicacy in many parts of Lancashire, this dish consists of the linings of beef stomach, boiled with onions in milk, with seasoning. Despite the sound of it, that is rather tasty.
Liverpool, where I was born, has a dish all of its own named ‘Scouse.’ That is where Liverpudlians got their nickname of ‘Scousers.’ It uses the cheapest cuts of stewing meat, layered up with onions, sliced potatoes, chopped carrots and turnips, herbs and seasoning. It is covered with water or stock and left to cook for a minimum of four hours, often much longer. Delicious!
We also eat ‘Butter Pie,’ which was created especially for Catholics, who can’t eat meat on Friday. It is made of thick layers of sliced potatoes and onions, with seasoning and lots of butter, in a deep short pastry case. Love it. (Even though I’m not Catholic!)
Last but not least, in many parts of the UK, people will eat ‘Crisp Sarnies,’ simply layers of crisps (potato chips) on a slice of buttered bread with another buttered slice pressed on top. A strange habit, which varies in taste according to the flavour of the crisps!
I do hope you’ve enjoyed this little look at some of the UKs strange and calorie filled foodstuffs, but I bet you have many more? I’d really love to hear about the strangest!