A Tasty Tour of the United Kingdom!

What are we eating in… the United Kingdom!

So this is quite a long time coming, but I’ve finally gotten around to making a sequel to a fun post I made on Scandinavian food. Not many people back home were very interested in what the food was like while we were in the United Kingdom, because in North America it all seems so familiar. But Nathanael and I really enjoyed the food the UK had to offer! So without further ado, check out a bit of what we were eating in… the United Kingdom!

Nathanael and Muffin in Greystones, Ireland
Lets start off we something familiar and beloved… Fish and Chips! While we were staying in Stoke-on-Trent one night our host, Phil, took us to their favourite fish and chip place. I was excited, because I love fish and chips, but I wasn’t prepared for just how awesome this particular place truly was. It was your typical take-away restaurant, the kind they call “Chippies”, but the fish was phenomenal. I had died and gone to deep-fried heaven. After this delicious introduction, we continued to have fish and chips throughout Great Britain. Depending on where you are, Cod or Haddock are the most popular choices but you can see some regional variation. Mushy peas, marrowfat peas simmered into a mushy soup, are usually served alongside as well. While most places serve it up with the simple options of salt and vinegar, in Edinburgh the mysterious-sounding “Brown sauce” (typically HP sauce) is also offered to top up for fish and chips. Yum!

Fish and Chips
© Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/ [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Something they do particularly well in the UK is a phenomenal breakfast. The “English Breakfast” that we typically ordered usually contained a combination of ham, bacon, eggs, toast, jam, marmalade, beans in tomato sauce, sausages, potatoes, black pudding, mushrooms, and/or tomatoes. Oh yeah. No room for any of those silly, slice-of-toast-and-a-croissant breakfasts here! Just thinking of them makes me miss beans in tomato sauce. Sigh. They truly appreciate and pay homage to the most important meal of the day.

English Breakfast
Speaking of black pudding, that’s a tasty treat, though it takes getting used to once you know what it’s made of. Black pudding is a type of blood sausage, typically made from pork blood and oatmeal. We also encountered black pudding’s arch nemesis (not really) white pudding while in Ireland. In contrast to black pudding, white pudding doesn’t include blood but instead contains pork, suet, bread, and oatmeal. Both are definitely the tastiest breakfast sausages we had in the UK.

Black and White Pudding
We can’t forget about Scotland’s pride and joy, haggis! Probably a bit of an acquired taste, haggis is a simmered sheep’s stomach stuffed with sheep’s heart, lungs, and liver mixed with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, and stock. Usually it is served with a side of “neeps and tatties”, which are mashed turnips and potatoes, respectively. Personally, I find it all delicious, and the Scots have some creative variations like haggis pie, deep-fried haggis, and even vegetarian haggis (figure that one out…).

Haggis with neeps and tatties
© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Something else both varied and popular throughout the UK are meat pies and pastries. The traditional one in Britain is the steak pie, made from stewing beef and gravy, but not to be confused with the also popular steak and kidney pie, usually filled with a mixture of beef, kidney, onions, and gravy. Other common ones include shepherd’s or cottage pie, mince and vegetables with a mashed potato crust, and fish pie, similar but creamier and with fish rather than mince.

Don’t even get me started on desserts… While we were volunteering in the Shetlands Dan and Sharn were constantly outdoing themselves with fabulous sweets. One of my all-time favourites had to be the millionaires shortbread, an incredibly addictive combination of layered chocolate, caramel, and shortbread. Shortbread in general is probably the best Scottish invention ever, but topped with chocolate and caramel? Divine. A close second would be their sticky toffee pudding, a super moist cake made of dates topped with a toffee sauce, mmmm. Our host Phil in Stoke-on-Trent also introduced us to a traditional British apple crumble, a tasty rhubarb and apple pie topped with sweet, crunchy crumble. Yum!

One staple in modern British cuisine that at first seems a bit puzzling is curry. I remember laughing when one British guy we met in Finland told us Britain’s national dish is curry, but he really meant it! It’s everywhere, people make it at home and they get it as take-away in restaurants. For a country whose food overall is somewhat bland, I think it’s hilarious that something as spicy as curry is served alongside something like fish and chips.

Butter chicken
By stu_spivack (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Before coming to Europe, I wasn’t a beer drinker. Not a bit. I’m proud to say that these days I can sit back and appreciate a nice, cold draught, but I was happy to have cider to help me through the transition. This deliciously sweet, fruity beverage occupies a place alongside the beers in the pubs, so I never had to feel embarrassed about ordering it. My favourite was probably Magners, a delicious Irish cider that was on tap in just about every pub we went to.

I can’t get away with saying nothing about beer when talking about the UK, where going to the pub for a pint is a national institution. There are so many different beers to try, and so many local breweries, that I won’t even begin to try and list some out. One that is familiar to most people is Guinness. You can visit the factory in Dublin, and give this dark, distinctive brew a taste at the source!

Guinness Factory, DublinAnd this is just scratching the surface of our tasty adventure through the United Kingdom. Lesson learned, don’t knock food in the UK until you try it! You may find yourself with a new favourite beer, after-dinner treat, or pie that you never saw coming.

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