Britain's Strangest-Sounding Foods

Lost in translation?
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by Dawn Gribble, British Foods Expert for the Menuism Blog

Here in Britain, we have strange place names, strange terms for everyday items that vary depending on where in the country you are, and no shortage of strange-sounding names for our traditional dishes. Often, these fantastical names have very little do to with the dish itself (there are no bubbles in Bubble and Squeak, and the dish doesn't make any noises when it is served!) Here are a few oddities you might encounter, and what the dish behind the name really is.

Bubble & Squeak

Bubble and Squeak is a leftovers dish, making use of what remains after a traditional Sunday roast. The main ingredients tend to be potato and cabbage, but other vegetables such as carrots, peas, or Brussels sprouts can be added. The whole mixture is added to a frying pan and cooked together until browned. Cold chopped meat is sometimes added or is served with the mixture.

The name of the dish comes from the sounds the ingredients make when being fried, and the bubbling of the moisture in the dish. It first became popular in World War II when rationing led to new ways of using leftover food, though its first written mention is in an 1806 recipe.

Spotted dick

Spotted dick is a suet pudding that contains dried fruits such as currants and raisins. No one is entirely certain where the name came from. "Spotted" refers to the fruit, while "dick" could be from a German word meaning thick. The name could possibly be a variant of the Spotted Dog pudding, which uses plums rather than currants. Spotted dick was first referred to in a cookbook in 1849.

Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit is also known as Welsh rabbit, but oddly does not contain any rabbit meat! In reality, it is a dish that combines savory sauce and melted cheese on toasted bread. It is traditionally made with cheddar cheese and can be served in a chafing dish, similar to fondue. Different recipes make use of extra ingredients such as ale, mustard, cayenne pepper, or paprika, while other variations include blending cheese and mustard into a Béchamel or Mornay sauce. The dish dates from the 18th century, and even then never used rabbit. It was, however, seen as a luxury version of cheese on toast and was often served in taverns with fine local cheeses.

Angels on horseback

Angels on horseback is a dish where oysters are wrapped in bacon and served on bread as a warm hors d'oeuvre or a canapé. Modern variations include skewering the oysters on sticks or frying them. No one knows for certain where the name came from, though it was mentioned in cookbooks from the 1880s and may have come from the French dish of the same name, anges à cheval.

Roly poly

Jam roly poly is a 19th century flat rolled suet pudding. Jam is spread on top and the pudding is then rolled up to make it look like a Swiss Roll. It was often steamed and served up in an old shirtsleeve, which led to its alternative name, Dead Man's Arm.

Black Pudding

Black Pudding isn't a pudding, but a type of blood sausage that is found across Britain, Ireland, and Sweden. It is made from pork blood and oatmeal with different ingredients added to absorb the blood, such as onions. It can be eaten cold, as it is cooked when it is being produced but is commonly grilled, fried, or baked. Black pudding is a traditional part of the full English breakfast and different parts of the UK have regional specialities.


Faggots, made from meat off-cuts and offal, particularly pork, come from South and mid-Wales and the Midlands area of England. Traditionally, faggots were made from a pig's heart, liver, and fatty belly meat with herbs and breadcrumbs added for flavouring. It was a cheap dish to make and was first mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1851.

Scotch eggs

Scotch eggs don't have to come from Scotland, but are simply a hard-boiled egg that is wrapped in sausage meat and coated in breadcrumbs before being either baked or deep-fried. The department store Fortnum & Mason of London claimed to have invented the dish in 1738, having been inspired by a Moghul dish called nargisi kofta (Narcissus meatballs). It is a common picnic dish and there are many variations, including using quails eggs and adding chopper bacon.

Bedford Clanger

The Bedford Clanger comes from the English county of Bedfordshire, and is a long suet crust dumpling that has a savoury filling in one end and a sweet one in the other. The savoury end is traditionally diced potatoes and vegetables, though meat is sometimes added, while the sweet end is normally jam, sweetened apple, or another fruit. It was made by farmer's wives for their husbands to eat at work, giving both a main course and sweet all in one dish!

And of course, there is Toad in the Hole, which I covered in another piece.

Have we missed anything? What's your favourite strange-sounding Brit dish?

Dawn has always loved food with a passion, she spends her time developing recipes, learning new techniques and cooking every spare minute she gets. In 2014, she appeared on MasterChef UK receiving praise from John Torode and Series 2 Winner Peter Bayless. These days she runs A Taste of Devon, a website dedicated to the homemade food and drink scene in the UK.

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