British Pub Grub Recipes

This seafood platter was served up to me in the Port Charlotte Hotel on the Isle of Islay, off the West Coast of Scotland, when I visited for a pub lunch
This seafood platter was served up to me in the Port Charlotte Hotel on the Isle of Islay, off the West Coast of Scotland, when I visited for a pub lunch

The pub (short for public house) is in many ways, for a lot of British people, the very hub of society. It is not only to consume alcohol that people head to the pub; there are those who regularly visit pubs without touching a drop of the hard stuff. Pubs are where people go to meet and socialise with friends. They are where many people go to watch live sport such as football (soccer) or horse racing. They are where people go to play pool, darts or snooker, or perhaps take part in a pub quiz. Pubs are also, however, about pub grub, served in many cases from morning opening time right through to late evening.

Pub grub (food) should of course be tasty, interesting and at least worth the money the customer spends. Traditionally, pub grub was recognised as representing the tastes of Joe Bloggs or John Smith - the average bloke on the street. It was essentially good old-fashioned home cooking, the only difference being that it was served in the pub. After all, the traditional British pub landlord thought of Michelin as the company who would put the tyres on his car, not a star on his menu!

It is the increasing popularity in recent times of the so-called gastro pubs which has changed the style of the food served in some British pubs, particularly outside the major cities. Top chefs now own pubs and serve food the likes of which the pub diner of yesteryear could never have envisaged. The good news is that there is plenty of room for both food styles - the traditional and the new - and that the British pub dining experience is as alive and well as ever it has been.

Black pudding and pan seared King scallops formed the basis of this delicious pub grub starter
Black pudding and pan seared King scallops formed the basis of this delicious pub grub starter | Source

Simple, Sustainable and Traditional British Fish and Chips

Whiting is the fish served in this instance instead of the traditional cod or haddock, along with freshly prepared chips and peas
Whiting is the fish served in this instance instead of the traditional cod or haddock, along with freshly prepared chips and peas

Fish and chips is a British classic - perhaps the British classic. It is our unofficial national dish and it is important not to mess with it too much if it is not to lose its authenticity. What is important in modern times, however, is that we try to look beyond the traditional cod or haddock when considering which type of fish to serve. These species have been inappropriately fished to the point of threatened extinction, so this recipe uses the delicious and fortunately plentiful whiting, a member of the cod family and often called English whiting in North America. Here, I've also used the three stage cooking method for the chips - for extra crunch and perfection!

Cooled parboiled chips are refrigerated
Cooled parboiled chips are refrigerated
Chips are patted dry before being fried
Chips are patted dry before being fried
Once fried chips
Once fried chips
Fillet of fresh whiting
Fillet of fresh whiting
Whiting fillet is dipped in batter
Whiting fillet is dipped in batter

Ingredients per Serving

1 large floury/starchy potato
1 fresh fillet of whiting
2 tbsp plain/all purpose flour
Cold water
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp frozen peas
Lemon wedge to garnish

Method

Peel the potato and slice and chop it in to chips. Add them to a large pot with enough cold water to ensure they are fully covered. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to achieve a moderate simmer for five minutes. Drain the chips carefully through a colander, spread them on a plate and cover to cool. Add them to a large plastic dish with a lid and to the fridge for at least half an hour.

Spread a clean tea towel out on a work surface and remove your chips from the fridge. Lay them on one half of the towel, fold the other half over on top and gently pat dry. Deep fry the chips at 150C/300F for five more minutes. Remove to kitchen paper on a plate, cover and cool before returning them to the plastic dish and fridge for another thirty minutes.

The really basic batter for the fish is prepared twenty minutes in advance and rested in the fridge. Add the flour and salt to a suitable dish and stir to mix. Very slowly, pour in cold water in stages, whisking with a fork or hand whisk, until you achieve the consistency of pouring cream.

A twin basket deep fat frier would be very useful at the next stage, as the chips and the fish have to be deep fried at about 170C/350F. If you do not have one, fry the chips first for five or six minutes until crisp and golden, sit them on a plate with clean kitchen paper and cover with foil to keep them warm while you fry the fish.

Draw the fish carefully through the batter. Hold it up over the dish for a few seconds to allow the excess batter to drip off before carefully submerging it in the batter. A fillet this size took about six minutes before the batter was beautifully coloured and crisped. Drain the fish also on kitchen paper before plating.

The frozen peas should be added to a pot of boiling water for three minutes, while the fish is frying. Drain them well through a colander or sieve, plate along with the fish and chips and garnish with the wedge of lemon.

Sea salt, malt vinegar and tartare sauce represent the ideal condiments to serve with this dish.

The Cascade was the local pub where I grew up. This was its Lounge Bar in its final form. The one time pub is now a supermarket.
The Cascade was the local pub where I grew up. This was its Lounge Bar in its final form. The one time pub is now a supermarket.
The Last Drop is a wonderful pub in Edinburgh's Old Town, where I have enjoyed pub grub and ale since my late teens - before, during and after my time spent living in Edinburgh
The Last Drop is a wonderful pub in Edinburgh's Old Town, where I have enjoyed pub grub and ale since my late teens - before, during and after my time spent living in Edinburgh | Source
The Cowley Brick was my local pub when I lived in Uxbridge, Middlesex
The Cowley Brick was my local pub when I lived in Uxbridge, Middlesex

From Devon to Dingwall - My Personal British Pub Crawl Discovering Great Pub Grub

I have eaten British pub grub in more locations over the years than I could ever hope to remember. These experiences came about for a number of reasons, not just the fact that I have lived in different parts of the UK. I have travelled around Britain for work and for the simple pleasure of doing so - but most of all as a result of my great love of sea fishing and exploring new venues.

I have eaten pub grub in city centres from London, to Bristol, to Newcastle, to Inverness. I have eaten pub grub in beautiful country pubs from Essex, to Northumbria, to the Scottish Western Isles. I have eaten in British pubs as far south as Plymouth in Devon and as far north as Dingwall, Ross and Cromarty, in the Highlands of Scotland. While I do not claim this gives me any form of expert status on British pub food, I believe that these experiences have given me sufficient knowledge on the subject to allow my creation of this page and to hopefully do the subject at least some level of justice.

The aim of this page is to provide an insight in to the relevance and importance of pub grub in Britain, an idea of the traditional dishes which you are likely to find served and hopefully a few suggestions for adaptations of established classics which you may wish to prepare yourself at home - or in your pub.

show route and directions
A markerDingwall, UK -
Dingwall, Highland, UK
[get directions]

B markerPlymouth, UK -
Plymouth, UK
[get directions]

Iconic Sunday Pub Lunch - Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

Chilli Con Carne in Pitta Bread Pocket with Mexicana Cheese

Chilli made with real beef is stuffed in to a pitta bread and served with Mexicana cheese salad
Chilli made with real beef is stuffed in to a pitta bread and served with Mexicana cheese salad

The TexMex dish, Chilli Con Carne, is a big favourite in pubs the length and breadth of Britain. Unfortunately, there are occasions where it is a little bit bland and unimaginative. It is normally made with minced (ground) beef and served either with boiled rice or tortilla chip dippers. This recipe uses shin of beef, an inexpensive but delicious cut of beef, and sees the chilli served in a pitta bread pocket with a simple salad and spicy Mexicana cheese.

Shin of beef
Shin of beef
Slicing the onion
Slicing the onion
Chopped green bell pepper and red chilli peper
Chopped green bell pepper and red chilli peper
Toasting cumin seeds
Toasting cumin seeds
Mexicana cheese
Mexicana cheese

Ingredients (Serves Two)

1 lb shin of beef
2 pints fresh beef stock
½ bottle red wine
1 large white onion
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 14oz can red kidney beans in water
1 green bell pepper
1 red chilli pepper
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
Small bunch coriander leaves (cilantro)
Sea salt and black pepper
2 pitta breads
6 green lettuce leaves
4oz Mexicana cheese

Method

Cut the shin of beef up in to small to medium bite sized portions. Add a little drizzle of vegetable or sunflower oil to a large pot. Put the beef in and season with salt and pepper. Stir it around over a medium heat until it is browned and sealed. This should take two or three minutes.

Peel and half the onion. Set half of it aside for later inclusion in your simple salad. Finely slice the other half and add it to the beef for another minute or so of stirring. Pour in the beef stock and red wine and increase the heat until the liquid reaches a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer uncovered for one hour.

Drain the red kidney beans through a colander and add them to the pot, along with the chopped tomatoes. Put the cumin seeds in to a small, dry frying pan and on to a high heat until you smell them toasting. Grind them in a pestle and mortar and add to the chilli.

The bell pepper should be halved, seeded and sliced. Whether you leave the seeds in the chilli pepper or not depends upon how hot you want the finished dish to be. Either way, chop finely and add the peppers to the pot. Bring back to a simmer for a further hour, until the beef is beautifully tender and the sauce is lush and thick.

The coriander (cilantro) should be roughly chopped and around a handful added to the pot for the final five minutes of cooking. Stir well. The remainder will be used as a garnish.

Roll the lettuce leaves in to a cigar shape and roughly shred. Finely slice the remaining onion half, mix with the lettuce and lay as a bed on the serving plates.

Grill the pitta breads for about a minute each side. Carefully make a slit along one long side and open up to form a pocket. Spoon in the chilli con carne and lay on the plate. Crumble the Mexicana cheese over the top and scatter with the remaining coriander as a final touch.

Rule, Pie-tannia! Pies of Many Types are Popular in Great Britain

Steak and ale pie is just one of the many types of pies you may find served as British pub grub
Steak and ale pie is just one of the many types of pies you may find served as British pub grub

Pies of so many different types form an integral part of the British food culture and not just in pubs. I enjoyed the steak and ale pie pictured above at The Wide Mouthed Frog - situated in a beautiful location at Dunstaffnage Marina, just outside Oban, Argyll - but the variety of pies you will find around the country is incredible. Steak and kidney pie, Melton Mowbray pork pie, steak and sausage pie (much revered in Scotland) and rich and satisfying game pies are just a fraction of the possible pies you are likely to find offered for your enjoyment in British pubs.

The Scottish venison game pie recipe featured below sees the pastry cooked separately from the meat and laid on top immediately before service, representing a very simple preparation and assembly technique.

Succulent Scottish Venison Game Pie

Slowly braised Scottish venison topped with puff pastry and served with roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts
Slowly braised Scottish venison topped with puff pastry and served with roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts
Diced loin of Scottish venison
Diced loin of Scottish venison
Browned venison and sliced onion
Browned venison and sliced onion
Cutting the pastry disc to size
Cutting the pastry disc to size
Peeling the cooked potatoes for roasting
Peeling the cooked potatoes for roasting
Venison stew ready for pastry lid
Venison stew ready for pastry lid

Ingredients for Two

1lb diced loin of Scottish venison
2 pints fresh beef stock
1 small white onion
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt and black pepper
¾ lb puff pastry
Beaten egg for glazing
Baby new potatoes (quantity as desired)
Brussels sprouts (quantity as desired)

Method

Begin by adding the potatoes to a pot with enough cold water to cover them and put them on to a high heat. When the water boils, reduce to simmer for thirty minutes.

Put a little vegetable oil in a large pot and gently heat. Add the venison and season with salt and pepper. Stir around over a medium heat to brown before peeling, halving, finely slicing and adding the onion. Pour in the beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally and adding a little boiling water if required to maintain a stock level.

Drain the potatoes after a half hour's simmering and return them to the empty pot. Cover and set aside to cool.

Put your oven on to preheat to 200C/400F, around half an hour before the venison is due to be ready. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to a thickness of about half an inch. Use a 5" serving bowl to cut two discs. The pastry can be made more attractive by scoring a pattern and/or using the pastry offcuts to fashion a design to add to the top centre. Sit the discs on a non-stick baking sheet and glaze with beaten egg. Sit any additional piece of pastry on top and glaze that also. Bake for twenty minutes or so until beautifully risen and golden.

The Brussels sprouts should be simmered in boiling, salted water for ten to twelve minutes.

Rub the skins off the cooled potatoes, deep fry for five or six minutes until crisp and golden and drain on kitchen paper.

Ladle the venison stew in to the serving bowls and plate. Arrange the potatoes and drained sprouts alongside. Remove the pastry discs from the oven, carefully sit on top of the venison and serve.

Great British Pub Grub is Best Served with Great British Ale

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scottish Heather AleVictory AlePiddle in the HoleBirds and Bees Summer AleExciseman's 80 Shilling Ale (Photo is of Robbie Burns)
Scottish Heather Ale
Scottish Heather Ale
Victory Ale
Victory Ale
Piddle in the Hole
Piddle in the Hole
Birds and Bees Summer Ale
Birds and Bees Summer Ale
Exciseman's 80 Shilling Ale (Photo is of Robbie Burns)
Exciseman's 80 Shilling Ale (Photo is of Robbie Burns)

What do you like to drink with your pub lunch? It may be that you are a wine drinker, or prefer to stick to a soft drink with your meal. If like many, however, you prefer a beer and are visiting a particular pub for the first time, it may well pay dividends to consider the beer menu as well as the food menu. It's a great shame that so many people automatically see the taps on the bar representing the brewing giants and hastily make their selection. Particularly in rural areas, there may well be a local classic sitting on a bottle on the shelf. In the examples pictured above, Heather Ale has been produced in Scotland for about 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest beers in the world - and who can resist the curiously named, Piddle in the Hole?

Mixed Root Vegetable Stew with Bruschetta (Vegan Friendly)

A simple but delicious root vegetable stew that makes a healthy and satisfying lunch
A simple but delicious root vegetable stew that makes a healthy and satisfying lunch

At one time - actually not so very long ago - someone requesting a vegetarian food option in a significant number of British pubs would have had two choices: a packet of salted peanuts or a packet of ready salted crisps (potato chips)! Times have of course changed considerably, however, and the overwhelming majority of British pubs will now offer at least one substantial vegetarian option on their menu. These options may be pasta, salads of many different types, or even a vegetarian burger or vegetarian chilli.

The dish featured here is designed to be tasty and satisfying, as well as incredibly simple. It is quick and easy to make in small quantities at home, or in larger quantities in a pub - and can even be embellished for omnivores by the addition of beef, chicken or lamb.

Selection of root vegetables
Selection of root vegetables
Prepared vegetables
Prepared vegetables
Sauteeing the onion and leak
Sauteeing the onion and leak
Chopped coriander is added to the vegetable stew before service
Chopped coriander is added to the vegetable stew before service

Ingredients for Four Portions

2 large potatoes
1 small Swede turnip/rutabaga
1 large carrot
1 small leek
1 medium onion
1 tbsp olive oil
2 pints of fresh vegetable stock
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaf/cilantro

12 slices of granary bread
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Peel the potatoes and Swede and dice to about one inch. Wash and trim the leek and slice to half inch discs. Top and tail the carrot, scrape and chop in to fairly large pieces. Peel, half and finely slice the onion.

Put the olive oil in to a large pot and gently heat. Add the onion and leek, season and sautee for two or three minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and add the remainder of the vegetables. Bring to a simmer for thirty minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Stir through the coriander and simmer for a further couple of minutes.

Slicing the granary bread at an angle makes for more attractive presentation but it's not essential. Toast on both sides until golden. Peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves and rub on the hot toast before drizzling each slice with a little extra virgin olive oil and seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

Ladle the stew in to serving bowls, arrange the bruschetta alongside and serve immediately.

What's Your Favourite Style of Pub Grub?

  • I like the traditional classics like steak and chips, fish and chips or chicken curry
  • I like the new options afforded by the gastro pubs
  • I like the variations on the traditional featured on this page
  • I prefer fast food from the nearest burger bar
See results without voting

Thank you for visiting this page and spending some time looking through it. Hopefully you have found something interesting and useful in its content, especially where you are not particularly familiar with British pub grub. Good luck in making anything you decide to try to I hope you very much enjoy it.

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    25

    Chip shop style potato fritters make an excellent variation on potato based meal accompaniments. This page shows you how to easily make potato fritters at home, every bit as good as you will get from a fish and chip...

  • How to Cook Duck Eggs 10 Different Ways
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    Duck eggs make a wonderfully tasty and refreshing change from chicken eggs and can largely be cooked almost exactly the same way. This page features ten different ways in which you can cook duck eggs (or chicken eggs)...


4 comments

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, alocsin. I hope you enjoyed your time in London and managed to try some pub grub during your trip. If not, hopefully you'll have the chance to do so on your next visit. Thanks for the visit and comment.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I wish I had this guide when I was in London about a year ago. That Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding looks yummy. Voting this Up and Useful.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, Paradise7

You should have a go at making Yorkshire puddings. There are a lot of great recipes online from top British chefs and you may be surprised how easy they are to make. (The biggest mistake I have found is not putting the batter in to hot enough oil! ;) )

Yorkshire is a county which I have passed through many times by car, bus and particularly train but to the best of my recollection, the only time I have set foot as such on Yorkshire soil was when I had a mad rush to change trains one time at York station. I have been told that Yorkshire puddings in Yorkshire are often eaten as a starter or appetizer, rather than as part of the main meal, as they would be in other parts of the country.

I'm glad you like English pub food. There are a great many wonderful cooks in England and throughout the whole of Britain, particularly in some of the family run pubs where they are unsung food heroes.

Thanks for visiting and commenting and I hope you give Yorkshire puddings a go.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I haven't had a decent Yorkshire pudding since I last vistied England many years ago.

I like English pub food. Who says the English can't cook?

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