Updated June 25, 2020.
It’s everyone’s favorite… What I Ate Wednesday! This past year I checked all the countries of the United Kingdom off my “must do list,” and it’s safe to say I ate my way through them all! British food gets lumped together into one genre, but upon closer investigation, one starts to realize that each of the UK countries has their own distinct food. I don’t know about you, but I’m up for trying them all!
Take your pick of hearty English fare! It should be no surprise to find out that people who live in a rainy, often gray country know how to make good comfort food.
Fish & Chips
The exact origins of fish & chips is up for debate, but I think everyone would agree it’s a London tradition! I even read that it’s the national dish of Britain. Whether you’re enjoying it dockside or in a local pub, fish & chips is a sure winner!
If you don’t get afternoon tea in England, did you really go? We can thank Anna the Seventh Duchess of Bedford for starting the tradition of afternoon tea in 1840. Those dainty English ladies got a bit hungry between luncheon at noon and dinner at 8:00pm (or later!), so finger sandwiches, scones with cream, and a spot of tea did just the trick to get them all through!
This British confection is perfect when you don’t know whether you want cake, pie, or perhaps a scone with jam! It includes a shortbread crust, jam, frangipane (which is cake-like), almonds, and sometimes powdered sugar. This one went above and beyond and came with strawberry ice cream and custard sauce!
Northern Ireland was the biggest and best surprise for me in the UK! I was expecting some cold stares and gruff people, but what I found was aggressive friendliness and true joy for having visitors in their country.
What’s black pudding? If you’ve never seen it or heard of it before, you will be greatly disappointed. It is black, but it’s not the sweet and creamy variety of pudding that you may think it is! It’s a sausage, so it’s savory and usually served at breakfast, but the part many visitors find most disturbing is the part that makes it black: blood!
So that might gross you out, but you should try it anyway! If you’re like me and have perpetually low iron levels (I have never been allowed to donate blood because my iron levels are always borderline anemic!), you should definitely indulge in a few slices of iron-rich black pudding. Its history goes back well over 1000 years, and it has always been a dish for both the poor and the most royal of royals!
Irish Breakfast Fry
An Irish Breakfast Fry is similar to a full English breakfast, but instead of toast you get Irish soda bread (pictured under the egg) and/or Irish potato bread (pictured under the black pudding). So all together, that’s mushrooms, tomato, potato bread, black pudding, bacon, soda bread, fried egg, and sausages!
Read on: What to Eat in Belfast
Scotland is farther north than you might think! It was chilly even in summer, but that means one very important thing: comfort food! And not just any comfort food, but amazing comfort food.
Ah, Haggis! It’s Scotland’s national dish, and you’ll either love it or hate it. I’ve heard people compare its texture to dressing, but instead of turkey it’s stuffed in a sheep’s stomach to be cooked. It’s a meal in itself and includes oats, meat, and spices, then it’s often served with “bashed neeps” (turnips) and “mashed tatties” (potatoes) on the side. According to the Visit Scotland website, the first reference to Haggis came in 423 B.C. and has similar food-cousins in Scandinavia!
Sticky Toffee Pudding
This is perhaps the best thing I ever ate in Scotland! It’s sweet, it’s sticky, it’s cakey, it’s gooey, and it comes warm with a custard sauce. Yum! Supposedly it only dates from the 1907s, but one taste will tell you why and how it became an instant classic British dessert!
Read on: What to Eat in Scotland
Welsh food was surprisingly difficult to find in its capitol city of Cardiff, and the locals told me so every time I asked where I could find some! But not to worry, I got some of the best anyway!
When I asked a friendly Welsh lady where I could get Welsh Rarebit, she looked at me as if I’d asked her how I could walk to India! She said, “Isn’t that just toast with cheese on it?” Apparently it’s traditionally a poor man’s supper, but it has Welsh in the name, and there’s melty cheese involved, so what’s not to love for a simple tourist hoping for a taste of Wales?
Welsh Cakes are small, thick, sweet, pancake-style cookies! They’re a wonderful treat to have any time of day, but especially when your backdrop is a castle. They’re pretty simple and made with regular kitchen staples, but the end result is anything but ordinary. They can come flavored with peanut butter, chocolate chips, raisins and cinnamon, and more. My favorite was definitely peanut butter!
Read on: What to Eat in Wales
Which UK favorite would you like to try first?
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