Every country and culture in the world has weird foods. You can have puffin heart in Iceland, reindeer in Norway, and tuna eyeball in Japan but what about on our very own turf? Turned away by name, by production method, or just by the way it looks, all of the items on this list have had their time in the press for just being plain weird. But what if you could look past that and enjoy them objectively, for the great national foods they really are?
It’s the universally recognised dessert for making you giggle, but Spotted Dick is actually deeply misunderstood. Merely a steamed pudding dotted with dried fruit or raisins, and served with gooey, hot custard, Spotted Dick is the classic dessert to enjoy on a chilly winter’s day. Its distinct name derives from multiple sources making its origin hard to pinpoint. Whilst Spotted is easy to account for (referring to the spotted effect that the fruit gives the pudding), Dick is much harder to explain. Some theories suggest that “Dick” comes from the German dick which means thick, describing the heavy, rich nature of the pudding, as well as linguistic corruptions of the last syllable of “pudding” or even “dough”. Either way, its unfortunate name should not deter you from enjoying a classic English dessert that serves as a staple of many a Sunday Roast.
Haggis is another misunderstood classic. The national dish of Scotland is often shunned due to its perceived dodgy origins but what most people don’t understand is just how similar it is to a normal British sausage. Made from the offal of a sheep, mixed together with oatmeal, suet and beef as well as spices and onions and then boiled in the stomach of a sheep, you can see why this may not sound like the most appetising of meals. And yet, the spicier cousin of the pork sausage, Haggis makes a great alternative to stuffing in a Roast, classically with neeps and tatties or modernised in a fresh, light salad.
Unfortunately, the term Faggot has taken on a derogatory meaning that overshadows its innocent, delicious predecessor. Faggots are a traditional dish from the West Midlands and Wiltshire that are made from animal offal, mostly pork then rolled in herbs and bread crumbs. Think of them as the old grandfather of the modern day meatball and try serving them with some vegetables and mashed potatoes to soak up all that lovely accompanying sauce.
Stargazy Pie, a traditional Cornish pie, is a fish pie made with pilchards, eggs and potatoes but what makes this pie so distinctive is the heads and tails of the pilchards that poke through the crust make it resemble something from The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Rather than being something purely of decorative value however, the holes formed in the pie allow the oils released during the cooking time, to be cooked. Don’t be afraid of the presence of heads in the food but rather tuck into this classic fish pie full of tender white fish and potatoes. Serve with peas for that typical seaside British charm.
Laverbread is a fairly unknown Welsh delicacy made from seaweed that’s cooked down to a rather intriguing looking green paste. Whilst some are put off by its suspicious lack of form, laverbread is full of little known health benefits and absolutely packed with minerals including B12, iron and iodine making it a real superfood. Its taste recalls that of other seafood and the fresh coastal air and as such pairs brilliantly with other fish as a replacement of spinach. The Welsh also put it into a Full English – or should we say Welsh? – to contrast the rich, fatty flavours of the meats.
Buckinghamshire Bacon Badger
Both a difficult tongue twister and a pastry dish, the Buckinghamshire Bacon Badger is among the lesser known items on this list. You can think of it as a giant sausage roll with the innards of a Cornish Pasty: a length of suet pastry is filled with bacon, potato and onion before steaming. Two thirds of the name are easy to derive meaning from but term ‘Badger’ is relatively obscure in nature although some think it comes from an ancient usage of it meaning dealer, specifically in flour. Enjoy this delicious county treat as part of an extended Ploughman’s or even served with a bit of salad for a lunch.
The Bedfordshire Clanger is yet another suet pudding and county favourite but this time with a bit of twist, with one end being sweet and the other savoury. The pudding is the original answer to the question “What to do with Sunday Lunch leftovers” as traditionally the ends of the joint were boiled and mixed with a sweet pudding in separate ends of the Clanger; because of this rich, hearty combination it was a great meal for workers during the fields, the Bedfordshire equivalent of sending a Cornish worker down the mines with a Pasty. The interesting use of the world ‘Clanger’ is said to come from either the mixing of the two fillings together so that the flavours ‘clang’ as well as ‘clang’ meaning to eat voraciously according to the local Northamptonshire dialect. To differentiate between the two distinct flavours, enjoying with a good cup of tea around 5 would be ideal so as not to confuse the taste buds.
Love in Disguise
Love in Disguise is a disguise within itself; the recipe of which being pig or sheep hearts stuffed with bread crumbs and stewed in a tomato sauce for a few hours. With relatively little known on the origins of the name or the dish, what can be known for certain is that this dish is not taken advantage of enough – the soft, tender meat pairs perfectly with mashed potatoes or pasta and serves as a great alternative for more expensive options of stewing meat.
Have any of those options tempted you enough to give them another chance? Or is it really true what they say about British food?