I am fiercely proud of growing up in Lancashire, particularly because the gastronomic delights the county has to offer. But for many the area might not be well known for its cuisine, apart from the perennial hotpot.
However, we have a startling range of culinary gems, from locally brewed beer to the surprising emotional resonance of a rather plain pastry dish. The food is almost always indulgent, and various region-focused food businesses are keeping local traditions alive. I’m no longer based in the North West, but it’s memories of the (often ridiculous) foodie traditions that fill me with warmth- the list below is just a selection of what makes a Lancashire meal the best in the UK.
Speaking to friends from different parts of the country, the butter pie is a comical quirk; the unbelievably humble list of ingredients an obvious punchline. The butter pie isn’t just a pocket of lard- filled with onion and potato, it was used as a cheap alternative to Friday fish by Catholics living in Preston. As if the dish itself isn’t heavy enough, some eat it between an oven bottom muffin (or teacake, or barmcake, or bap- whatever you call it) to guarantee a satisfying start to the weekend. Frankly delicious, this savoury delight reminds me of dinners with my extended family; an easy, one-pot solution for large parties and special occasions. This carb-concoction was there when I turned 18; my cousin has vowed to serve it at his wedding. Truly the best thing to come out of Lancashire!
Lancashire sauce is a surprisingly versatile condiment that makes very little sense as a part of the county’s heritage. A staple on the cafe table, the curried vinegar is shaken over soup, eggs, stirred into salads- almost everything. There are even Lancashire sauce flavoured crisps, which taste like a curious mix of salt and vinegar, and paprika. A packet was recently spotted in the Tate Modern’s cafe, so a taste of the North West can be grabbed across the country.
Curry sauce and gravy on chips
Sweet and Sour Chicken, Egg Fried Rice, Chips and Curry Sauce pic.twitter.com/sOrzo1RYL5— What’s For Dinner? (@ShareYourDinner) November 3, 2019
Speaking of our insatiable appetite for sauces, nothing screams a meal out in Lancs like both curry and gravy on chips. Like the weather, we like it wet- and there’s not a more indulgent meal than a chippy tea swimming in condiments. Throw in some mushy peas, and maybe even a dab- deep fried mashed potato- and your Friday night is sorted.
Don’t let people from Yorkshire tell you otherwise - this November treat is quintessentially a red rose dish. This gingerbread loaf is perfect for crisp autumn nights, after an evening watching fireworks and twirling sparklers around in the garden. The moist cake might not look the most thrilling, but its golden hue matches the time of year perfectly, and is a delicious accompaniment to bumping into half the town at a bonfire display.
Bowland Brewery beer
A night out in Lancashire isn’t complete without some of this locally sourced beer. Whether it’s a pint of Hen Harrier or Bowland Gold, it’s a classic choice. The traditional village pub will serve it, but for the full experience, an evening has to start at Holmes Mill in Clitheroe, which claims to have the longest bar in the country- spoiler, it’s not that long. It’s a charming venue though, complete with disused industrial machinery and multiple rooms dedicated to the brewing process. You’ll definitely bump into an ex, or an old teacher, but after enough of the ale you’ll be dancing the night away regardless.
Blackburn blend, Exchange Coffee
If a boozy evening isn’t what you’re looking for, the county can definitely provide in the non-alcoholic department too. Exchange Coffee have cafes based in various locations across Lancashire. They team delicate William Morris wallpaper with award-winning coffee, which is roasted on site. The expertise of the staff is brilliant, as are the secret blends made especially for each shop. Grab a bag of beans, and your mornings will be much more manageable.
Christmas book from Booths
This is a less a foodstuff and more a full culinary concept- Lancashire food is fully encapsulated in the absurdly high-quality Booths Christmas book. The supermarket (the North West’s answer to Waitrose) has delightful delis full of crumbly Lancashire cheese, and baked goods to rival the fanciest patisserie. It isn’t Christmas until your mum has texted you an excited picture of the dreamy brochure, chock full of festive photographs of truffles and turkey, and ridiculously fancy set pieces involving hampers. Even the interviews with goose farmers feel a bit posh. This food highlight is a true family tradition.
It’s hard to express how strange the Lancastrian’s relationship with the hotpot is. It’s probably the county’s most famous dish, but the meat-and-potato casserole doesn’t seem to be anyone’s favourite. As a child, however, the dish popped up a surprising amount- as a literal anthropomorphised mascot for the council. ‘Hotpot’- a suspiciously human-sized red pan- used to visit the primary school at lunchtime, and hand out fruit to infants in a comically unenthusiastic manner. The mystery of Hotpot, however, quickly dissipated when he was spotted having a cigarette out of the staff room window. The dish has also inspired another export- the Lancashire Hotpots, a folk band known for their comical songs about local football clubs and discount shops. Maybe the dish deserves its iconic status after all.