While not exactly known as having the best cuisine in the world, British and Irish foods are way more than your infamous haggis and soggy fish and chips. You can find flavourful food all over the United Kingdom and Ireland, especially if you’re lucky enough to try homemade comfort food made by the wisest of British and Irish hands. Here are 20 dishes you absolutely must try during your Erasmus in the UK and Ireland
1. Irish Stew (Ireland)
Irish stew, or stobhach, if you please, is any variety of meat and vegetable stew native to Ireland. Purists defend that the only acceptable and traditional ingredients are neck mutton chops (a fattier type of lamb), potatoes, onions, and water. It goes great with a pint of… Guinness, obviously!
2. Guinness (Ireland)
Guinness. Any day is a lovely day for a Guinness, though, isn’t it? There is a specific science to pulling the perfect pint of this dry stout that originated in the 18th century in Dublin: tipping the branded tulip glass in a perfect 45 degree angle, pouring the black liquid until it’s just a few centimetres below the edge, letting it settle for a couple of minutes, and topping up before getting a foamy lip. Bottoms up!
3. Boxty (Ireland)
Boxty, or poundy in some regions, is a traditional Irish potato cake thought to date back to the days of the Potato Famine. There are many recipes, but they all include finely grated, raw potatoes and mashed potatoes. It’s so ingrained in local culture that it has inspired folk rhymes such as, “boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan, if you don’t eat boxty, you’ll never get a man“. Harsh.
4. Oysters (Galway, Ireland)
Being an island, there is no shortage of coastline in Ireland. Galway, a harbour city on the west coast of Ireland, is very well-known for its local oysters. Every year in September there’s even a Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival. Not exactly the most appetising texture, but their rare amino acids are an aphrodisiac.
5. Colcannon (Ireland)
There couldn’t be a simpler dish. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. It’s a very popular dish on Halloween — a coin, a thimble, a button and a plain gold ring are placed in the colcannon. Whoever gets the coin will be rich; the person who gets the thimble or button will remain unmarried; and the one who gets the golden ring will get married within the year. Again, Ireland. Harsh.
6. Haggis (Scotland)
Who said sheep are only good for making itchy jumpers? Infamous haggis is made from sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, and stomach. If you’re in Scotland, you’re likely to find it on the Scottish breakfast. Nothing like sheep bits to kick the day off.
7. Whisky (Scotland)
The land of whisky is split into five regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside. All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. It’s such a big staple in the country that there are currently five Scottish distilleries operating since the 18th century.
8. Scones (Scotland)
Scones are traditionally associated with English Afternoon Tea, but they’re also traditional in both Scotland and Ireland. No one really knows which country invented it first, but the first known mention of it was by a Scottish poet named Gavin Douglas. The very pronunciation of this lightly sweetened cake regularly comes up for debate — the Scots prefer the posh way of saying it, when it rhymes with “gone”. All we know is that it’s perfect with jam, clotted cream, and a cuppa.
9. Shepherd’s Pie (Northern England)
Shepherd’s pie is a savoury pie made with minced lamb meat and mashed potatoes on top. Cottage pie, a variation made with beef, is also very traditional. It’s the epitome of comfort food, so it’s best if you find an English gran who will gladly make it for you.
10. Lancashire Hotpot (Lancashire)
Another homely dish made with lamb, Lancashire hotpot originates from Lancashire in Northern England. Like the Irish stew, Lancashire’s hotpot originated from necessity and was made from everyday local ingredients such as potatoes, carrots and lamb. It’s the perfect dish to have during a crisp winter’s day.
11. Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Pudding (Yorkshire)
The quintessential British Sunday roast is, as the name suggests, a roast traditionally served on Sundays. It consists of roasted meat, roast potatoes, and is typically served with Yorkshire pudding, a baked batter pudding. It was named as the second best thing Brits love the most about their country. It’s the meal you’ll most likely go home for, as no one does a roast like mum!
12. English Breakfast (All over)
The famous full English breakfast is a staple dish in British culture. A Full English typically includes bacon, fried/poached/scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast with butter, and sausages. Black pudding and baked beans are usually also included, and the dish is topped off with a mug of coffee or tea. You can find one in any café.
13. Pork Pie (Leicestershire)
A pork pie is a cold meat pie. It’s a very simple snack, as it only includes chopped pork sealed in crusty pastry. It’s perfect for a picnic in the park when the sun comes out!
14. Jellied Eels (London)
Jellied eels are certainly a step up from Galway’s oysters on the gooey texture scale. They’re a traditional English dish served in London’s East End pie shops. The dish consists of chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock, which is then set to cool down to form a jelly. Refreshing.
15. Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas (All over)
Eaten all over the British Isles but best savoured by the coast, fried battered fish and hot chips are all you need to create an local staple dish. Either from the box on the seafront or with a pint, Brits eat around 382 million portions of fish and chips every year, usually accompanied by mushy peas.
16. Scrumpy Cider (Somerset/Devon)
Scrumpy is a term for certain types of cider that originate in West England. The name comes from “scrump”, a local dialect term for a small or withered apple. In the 14th century, children were actually baptised in scrumpy cider, as it was cleaner than water at the time! A holy drink indeed.
17. Cornish Pasty (Cornwall)
A pasty is a baked pastry more commonly associated with the coastal county of Cornwall in South West England. It is made with meat and vegetables wrapped up in a semi-circled shortcrust pastry. The popular chant “Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi” is thought to come from hoggan, the Cornish word for pasty. When the pasties were ready for eating, the miners’ wives allegedly shouted down the shaft “Oggy Oggy Oggy” and the miners would reply “Oi Oi Oi” in acknowledgment.
18. Conwy Mussels (North Wales)
The Menai Strait where it floods into Conwy Bay has the largest production of mussels in the UK. They’re regarded by many as the best mussels in the UK. They’re well-known for their colourful shells and rich, distinctive taste, preserved by the sustainable way they’re caught.
19. Welsh Rarebit (Wales)
Perhaps the most well-known Welsh dish, Welsh rarebit (originally Welsh rabbit, although no rabbit is included in the dish), is a dish made with melted cheese, usually cheddar, spiced with mustard and Worcestershire sauce, and served on toasted bread. Think of it as the original cheese on toast. They’ve got my vote already.
20. Welsh Lamb (Wales)
Yet another lamb dish. Welsh lamb is regarded by many to be the best tasting lamb in the world because of the quantity and quality of their pasture. Sometimes it’s cooked as an alternative to the traditional Christmas turkey.
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