The following is a guest post.
What’s in a name? After Smitten by Britain’s recent post about national comfort food Toad in the Hole, this seemed a great opportunity to explore some other British foods with strange names. For a small country, Blighty has an incredible variety of regional dishes.
Their names range from bizarre to slightly naughty, and without inside knowledge, it can be hard to know exactly what will show up on your plate.
Welsh Rabbit or Welsh Rarebit
Just as we learned that Toad in the Hole contains nothing more exotic than a British Banger (sausage) in golden batter, don’t be concerned that any small furry animals were harmed in the making of Welsh Rabbit. Also known as Welsh Rarebit, this traditional dish of cheese on toast is rather different from the American grilled cheese sandwich. With a single slice of bread underneath and bubbling cheese on top, it enjoys an extra kick from the addition of ale, mustard or Worcestershire sauce.
Bubble and Squeak
Another dish that’s safe for vegetarians is Bubble and Squeak, which is named for the noises made in the pan rather than rodent ingredients. Mothers across Britain know that the mashed potato is a great decoy for the portion of greens the dish includes. This is also an easy recipe for a beginner: simply fry up leftover mash and some veggies and wait for a golden crust to form.
Although not a vegetarian dish, if you encounter Cullen Skink, there isn’t much to fear. The name might suggest a Harry Potter character, but in fact this is a hearty Scottish soup featuring smoked haddock and potato. Often served as a starter at formal dinners, if you imagine chowder with Scots twist, you’ll be pretty close.
However, I would suggest caution if you come across the dreamily named Stargazy Pie on a menu. Especially if you’re on a first date, this could be a dish to avoid, since this pilchard pie includes fish heads – complete with eyes – staring up at you from the pastry. Originating from the Cornish village of Mousehole, legend states this recipe was created to celebrate a brave 16th century fisherman.
Moving to dessert, things get much safer, with fish eyes happily absent. Singing Hinnies are griddle cakes, named for the sizzling hiss they provide while cooking. Apparently, ‘hinny’ is a term of endearment for those living near Newcastle in the north of England. A close cousin of Welsh Cakes, these are at their best when enjoyed warm from the stove.
Finally, no article on strange British food names is complete without a mention of Spotted Dick.
This world-famous pudding is also known as Spotted Dog, but that provokes fewer giggles from school children and bemused tourists. In Britain, ‘pudding’ usually means a steamed, cake-like dessert, with the spots here courtesy of raisins or currants in the vanilla sponge. If you decide to make this, you’ll need to find suet or a close substitute. And be sure to serve it with a side helping of custard: to the Brits, the two are as inseparable as Morecambe & Wise.
Pauline is British by birth and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area nine years ago and, apart from a yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes, has never looked back. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Toasted Cheese and Alfie Dog Fiction. Her first novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, was released in Spring 2013. Visit her site here.