The Best Secret British Foods
You’ve heard of the classic dishes: fish and chips, haggis, and bangers and mash. And you’ve also heard awful rumours about British food. But we’re willing to bet you haven’t heard of our best-kept secret foods. We Brits feel that we have lots to offer an adventurous foodie, and London is the perfect place to satisfy both your hunger and your curiosity.
So, to whet your appetite, here’s our list of some of our favourite lesser-known dishes.
Let’s warm up our taste buds with a quick snack, shall we? Despite the name the scotch egg is not from Scotland. And (sadly) it doesn’t contain any single malt Scotch.
The scotch egg is simple, but beloved. It’s a hard-boiled egg, covered in sausage meat, with a breadcrumb coat, which comes baked or fried.
Its origins aren’t certain; it might have been invented by the posh London department store Fortnum and Mason, which supplies food to Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family. Or it may have been invented in Yorkshire, in the north of England, where fish paste was used instead of meat. Yum.
In any case, the humble scotch egg has been a smash hit for a few hundred years, starting as most food crazes do when the wealthy began snacking on them. You can find the Totally Tailored countdown of London’s best scotch eggs by reading our blog post here, or you can head straight to Borough Market.
Tour Guide Tip: Skip lunch before visiting Borough Market. There are so many snacks to try, you wouldn’t want to be overwhelmed, or too full!
Pie and Mash
The name speaks for itself on this one, and every region of the UK has a signature pie, which was the original street food. Traditional fillings include minced beef or lamb and onions or eels (yes, really), and there used to be a pie and mash shop on every street in London. It’s less popular today, but you can still find some great traditional locations serving up innovative flavour combinations.
You could just have two pies with a side of mashed potato. But if you want a true Londoner experience you should get it with ‘liquor’. Which is a fancy name for a sauce made from parsley. And if you’re feeling brave, try a traditional side dish: jellied eels.
Tour Guide Tip: Our favorite pie and mash shops in London is Goddards at Greenwich, a historic borough associated with the Navy, Royalty, and artists. And since we offer a fabulous Greenwich tour, we could even make Goddards a lunch stop for a lunchtime pie.
Yes, yes, we know. This isn’t what you think; it’s a traditional steamed sponge pudding made with suet and currants. The currants (dried fruit similar to raisins) look like spots, and the word ‘dick’ is thought to have evolved from the word ‘dough’.
For many Brits, this dessert will bring up memories of school lunches where it was a common sight. It often comes with custard or cream, and a wave of nostalgia. Spotted Dick leads the pack on the number of silly name-based jokes about British food, though a local council cafeteria tried, renaming it ‘Spotted Richard’. Yeah, no.
Tour Guide Tip: If your sweet tooth is tingling, you can find this at Sweetings Restaurant, close to St Paul’s Cathedral, which is a star of our Best of London tour.
Bubble and Squeak
How can anyone take us seriously when this is what we name our food?
There’s no universal recipe for this, as it’s mainly leftover vegetables and potatoes from last night’s dinner. These are mashed together and fried for a delicious breakfast.
It’s thought that the odd name comes from the weird noises it makes in the pan as it cooks. It’s common for families to eat this the morning after Christmas day, when we still have more food than we know what to do with. For hundreds of years the leftover meat was also commonly added, but we stopped around World War II, when meat in Britain was heavily rationed, and we’ve never gone back.
Tour Guide Tip: You can find this at most places that offer fry ups – British for cooked breakfast – and Bill’s Café in Soho is a reliable location to find it.
Toad in the Hole
OK, so the name may not be appetizing, but the dish itself is top-notch! And it doesn’t even contain any toads (we’re not the French). The dish itself is simply sausages baked into Yorkshire pudding batter, served with rich onion gravy.
Toad in the hole was created in the 1700s as a way for poor families to stretch out what little meat they could get. Using batter in dishes was common at the time as it was cheap and filling, and it’s still a hugely popular comfort food.
The name probably started as a joke, based on the fact that poor people could get creative with the meat they used. No toads, but we do know of pigeon being used as filling!
This is a classic British staple which you can find in many pubs around London.
Cullen Skink, another comical name. ‘Cullen’ is a Scottish town, and nobody seems to know what the ‘skink’ is! But it’s one of the most iconic Scottish foods, a hearty fish soup of smoked haddock, potato, and cream. A Scots cousin to clam chowder, if you will. ‘A perfect warming dish for a winter day, and you can even create it at home. There’s fierce debate over the most ‘authentic’ way to make it.
Or we can include it as a lunch option on your Best of Edinburgh tour with Totally Tailored!
So, if this list has made your mouth water (and why wouldn’t it?) you can discover many more tasty British treats on our Borough Food Tasting Tour or our East End Food Tour. Or we can create a custom food tour tailored to you and your interests! Our passionate foodie guides will give you a whole new view on British food.