Uniquely named English dishes worth a try

Knickerbocker Glory dessert
Knickerbocker Glory dessert

Uniquely named English dishes worth a try

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

So, you thought moving to the United Kingdom would mean only a little culture shock? While it’s true we speak the same language, at least sort of, a lot of the foods that get plated up across England on a daily basis have such odd names that most Americans could hardly hazard a guess as to what they might be. We’ve singled out the following foods to try, not so much for their culinary greatness, but rather the cachet they’ll add to your persona when you casually mention their thought-provoking names in conversation.

Bangers and mash: Bangers are a synonym for sausages, while mash is simply short form for mashed potatoes. (Bangers is seldom used as a stand-alone term for a sausage on its own.) Traditionally made out of pork, the term banger is thought to have originated around the time of World War I, when food shortages led to sausages being made from inferior ingredients that caused them to burst open in the pan. A typical time to feast on bangers and mash is Nov. 6, Guy Fawkes Night.

Bubble and squeak: The two main ingredients of this dish are potatoes and cabbage, and it is typically made with the leftovers from a Sunday dinner. The name of this very old and traditional dish is inspired by the noises made when precooked mashed potatoes and chopped greens are dropped into a buttered frying pan.

Faggots: Essentially a large meatball, faggots are typically made with ground pork and other pig parts such as hearts, livers and kidneys and seasoned with herbs including parsley and sage. What makes this dish unique is its cooking method. Traditionally, the meat would be placed into caul fat, a thin, transparent membrane found in a pig’s stomach, before cooking. Confusingly, faggots are known as “ducks” or “savory​ ducks” in some parts of England.

Knickerbocker Glory: This eye-catching dessert akin to an ice cream sundae is typically made of vanilla ice cream, layered with whipped cream, chopped fruits and fruit syrup. To be a true Knickerbocker Glory, it should be served in a tall clear glass and eaten with a long spoon. The origins of the dessert’s name harken to a swanky hotel in Manhattan that closed in 1920.

Mushy peas: The side dish that adds a dash of bright green color to a plate of fish and chips, these peas stand out for their texture. The high starch content of this particular type of pea, marrowfat, is what gives this dish its stodgy consistency. The traditional means of preparation is to soak the peas overnight in water to which baking soda has been added, but cooks in a hurry can just heat up a can of them. This particular type of pea was introduced from Japan over 100 years ago due to its suitability to the English climate.

Spotted dick: One of Britain’s beloved steamed puddings, this heavy dessert is traditionally made with the raw hard animal fat called suet, dried fruits such as currants and raisins and a dash of lemon zest. It is traditionally served in slices, drizzled with a creamy vanilla custard sauce.

Stargazy pie: A savory custard made of bacon, hard-boiled eggs, onions and potatoes fills a pie crust. When the top layer of pastry is laid atop the filling, slits are cut into its edges to accommodate whole pilchards, the fish we know as sardines. Their heads poke out of the pie, eyes and all, as they seemingly gaze up into the skies. The dish traces its origins back to the diminutive and delightful coastal village of Mousehole on the southern Cornish coast, where it serves as the centerpiece to Tom Bawcock’s Eve celebrations. 

Toad-in-the-hole: This dish consists of whole sausages embedded in a layer of pancake-like Yorkshire pudding and baked to perfection. The sausages, which thankfully stand in for real toads, are first roasted in a pan placed in the oven. Once crisp, they are removed and the batter is poured into the pan containing the residual fat. The sausages nestling cozily in the batter are what give this classic comfort dish its name.

Welsh rarebit: Also known as Welsh rabbit, this classic meat-free dish consists of slices of toasted bread served with a hot cheesy sauce. The sauce is likely to contain extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, black pepper, mustard and ale, and it’s the perfect dish for using up yesterday’s crusty white bread that’s no longer suitable for sandwiches.

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