Our favourite local foods

There are loads of great dishes which have originated here in the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Shropshire. Take a look at our pick of the best and see how many you have tried...

Our favourite local foods

Good traditional food is good for the heart... well soul. Flickr: Fabio Venni

Pork Scratchings

The general consensus is that pork scratchings originated in the West Midlands or the Black Country – Centre of heavy engineering and mining in the industrial revolution.

Pork Scratchings

They were then the snack of the working classes; with origins back to the 1800′s where families kept their own pigs at home, feeding them up for slaughter. With food scarce, no part of the pig was wasted and either by design or by trial and error, the famous Pork Scratching was discovered.

Nowadays they are undergoing something of a revival. The tasty nibble is moving away from its historical patronage as a “Black Country pub snack” and is fast becoming a highly desirable product in bars, restaurants and gastropubs as well as independent retailers. We still don't think there's a better way to enjoy a bag than with a refreshing, local pint though!

Shrewsbury Cake

Shrewsbury cakes

Traditionally Shrewsbury cake was baked as thick, large biscuits, which could be kept for long periods of time.  The cakes are renowned for their texture, being crisp and brittle and were given to people of importance when they visited the town. There’s a significant variation in recipes, but they all seem to agree that they were similar to a round, large shortbread with rose flavouring.

The most famous maker was a Mr Pailin (or Palin, or Hailin,). A tribute exists of him on a plaque on an old shop near to Shrewsbury Castle. It reads, “This shop occupies the site of a building where Palin first made the unique Shrewsbury cakes to his original recipe in the year 1760”.  Lovely to accompany a cup of tea and a good old natter.

bclm faggots

Faggots (aka ‘savoury ducks’)

Birmingham and the Midlands are considered the home of Faggots in Britain, but now with the revival of Faggots, they are eaten and enjoyed all over the UK.

Also referred to as "ducks" in the Midlands,  Faggots were most popular during rationing in World War II. Traditionally, they were made from offal- usually pork, and from the bits of the animal that are generally discarded; the heart, the liver etc. This made Faggots a cheap and nutritious dish. 

Nowadays, recipes vary but they are still usually accompanied by mushy peas, mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Cold winters day and crackling fire are optional.

Balti Triangle

The Balti Triangle in Brum

The balti was brought to Birmingham in the mid 1970s by the city’s large Pakistani and Kashmiri communities. It rapidly became established as a favourite, both within and outside the community. In response to popular demand, more and more restaurants began offering the delicious combination of fresh meat and vegetables with sizzling spices. 

There are now approximately 50 restaurants and takeaways clustered along Ladypool Road, Stoney Lane and Stratford Road, to the south of Birmingham’s city centre

The naan is as much a feature of balti houses as the bowls and are perfect for dipping into your curry. In fact, Birmingham’s balti houses are renowned for giant naans which practically cover the table! They're perfect for sharing so grab the clan and head on down.

Satffordshire Oatcakes

Staffordshire Oatcakes

One of the more unlikely 'local heroes', the Staffordshire oatcake, has kept a bit of a low profile. Oatcakes are a delicacy, which have reportedly been around for hundreds of years. Making them is an inherited tradition that still flourishes today, but its history is much debated and many people have their own stories to tell about its origins. It's a history shrouded in mystery - full of myths, exaggerations but also humble beginnings.

The county is famous for its pottery and Staffordshire Oatcakes are the original potter’s fast food. They’re affectionately known locally as a 'Potteries Poppadom', a 'Tunstall Tortilla', and,  in the words of the late local poet Arthur Berry,  a 'Clay Suzette'.

You wouldn't exactly call these 'lookers' in the food stakes. In fact, they look and feel a bit like a dirty flannel, but don't be fooled... They are delicious!  Try them with a bit of bacon and cheese or maybe just a spot of homemade jam? Whatever you choose, you'll be sure never to judge an oatcake by its appearance again!

Shropshire Fidget Pie

Shropshire Fidget Pie

Arguably, the county’s best-known dish now, Fidget Pie was in danger of becoming a distant memory. Not that long ago, it was only the elderly who owned recipes or remembered its function as a portable meal. That was until TV's Hairy Bikers visited Ludlow! 

No one knows exactly when the pie was invented, but they have been eaten for at least the last 400 years. It made a great lunch time snack for a working man out in the fields as they could carry them around in their pockets! The name probably comes from the fact that they were originally ‘fitched’ or five-sided in shape, although others come up with the less appetising theory that the name comes from ‘fitchett’ or ‘fitch’, the name locals used for a polecat, due to their foul smell during baking. 

The pie uses ingredients that are readily available in the country – gammon or ham, apples, onions, cider and cheese. Many cooks top their pies with pastry but in a modern twist, mash potato is being increasingly used. Either way, this pie is certainly enjoying a huge revival. 

Malvern Pudding

Malvern Pudding

Malvern pudding is a traditional pudding from the English town of Malvern in Worcestershire. It is a baked dish made with apples or other seasonal fruit and custard, although variations exist. Although highly calorific, it is fruit-based so scores points on the health front; and it’s pretty simple to make. 

Worcestershire is famous for its apples, of which there are believed to be 25 varieties including the Worcester Pearmain, Green Purnell, Dick’s Favourite, and King Coffee. The creamy taste of the pudding has the characteristic flavor of apples and spices, normally cinnamon which enhances the taste. A very simple recipe you might want to dish up in small portions due to its richness in butter and sugar.

Shropshire soul cakes

Shropshire Soul Cakes

A tradition from the county is that of Soul Cakes. On All Souls’ Day on the 2nd of November, the dead are remembered and children would go ‘a-souling’, where they would sing a short song and receive, a cake marked with a cross.

The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices,  raisins or currants. Before baking they were topped with the mark of a cross. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick-or-treating. Unlike like hot-cross buns, Soul Cakes have mostly disappeared but there is nothing stopping you from having a go and making them at home. 

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