So you’ve sorted out your UK visa, shipped your stuff for the big move overseas, figured out your London accommodation and booked your flight. You’re just about ready for the big adventure. What next? It may seem unimportant, but if you’re moving to the UK it may pay to familiarise yourself with the lexicon of weird and wonderful English foods – it could well save you moments of embarrassment later.
Firstly, it’s not what you think. Secondly, it’s actually pretty good. Spotted dick was named by a cook with a sense of humour, and is simply a suet pudding with raisins dotted into it. Some versions have other types of dried fruit, but usually spotted dick is served with creamy, rich custard. The etymology of the name is attributed to it’s appearance – the raisins look like spots – and the German word “dicht” which means thick. As an aside, in the UK, generally puddings are desserts (some, like Yorkshire pudding are savoury), but pies are always savoury, usually meat filled pots of deliciousness topped with golden crusts – don’t order a pie as a dessert!
Created at Eton College and traditionally served during the annual cricket game with Harrow School. It is believed to have been created in the 1900s and is made with strawberries and ice-cream or whipped cream. Meringue pieces are broken up and mixed into the dish. Some varieties use other summer fruit like peaches or blackberries, but strawberries remain the traditional option. The name probably refers to the appearance of the dish (it does look rather messy!)
Bangers and mash
The second half of this dish needs no explanation, but what are bangers? In short, this dish is sausages and mashed potatoes. The type of sausage is usually Cumberland sausage, and it sometimes served with gravy, peas, baked beans, or a combination thereof. A quintessential British food, you’ll see bangers and mash being served in pubs across the UK and is a staple in many a Englishman’s repertoire of food choices. The name is thought to have come about from World War II, when war rations resulted in sausages that had a high ratio of water to meat; when cooked, the water expanded and the sausage exploded under high heat with a bang.
Toad in the hole
The French may eat frogs, but the British, in their neverending quest to one-up their Gallic counterparts, eat toad in the hole. In reality, this dish has nothing to do with frogs or toads; instead it is pork sausages baked into a Yorkshire pudding. The dish does look like little toads emerging from the mud. It is believed this dish dates from the late 17th century, and originated from a time when batter puddings were cooked on the fire underneath spit roasts – the fat dripping off the meat would make holes in the batter, and as people helped themselves to the spit, bits of meat would fall off into the batter. It’s a delicious traditional English dish best served with plenty of gravy.
Bubble and squeak
Bubble and squeak used to be a staple dish for Sunday dinners in English households. Made from leftovers from the Sunday roast, this dish consists of fried cabbage and mashed potato. Fresh carrots, leeks or other vegetables are sometimes added, then a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. You can also add offcuts of meat to this dish, though traditionally and in its simplest form, it is made only from vegetables. The name comes from the bubbling of the juices from the vegetables in the pan, and the squeaking of the cabbage as the pan heats up and cooks it down.