Manchester can do fine dining very well indeed, boasting a host of international restaurants and cafes offering authentic cuisine from all around the world.
At the same time, we need to celebrate the food that the city (and its surrounding districts) is really famous for. And some dishes just taste better when eaten in their hometown.
From black puddings and pasty barms to Manchester caviar and the Manchester Egg, these dishes may not be fancy, but they’re the dishes many Mancunians miss when they are away from the city.
Here are ten mint meals made in Manchester.
Bury black pudding
Black Puddings first arrived in the UK via European monks, who first visited Yorkshire and then crossed over the Pennines to Lancashire where “bloodwurst” became known as “Black Pudding”. People outside the North might be squeamish about these plump black sausages made with pig’s blood and studded with visible cubes of fat, but to Mancunians black pudding is a piece of porky perfection. Whilst they are available all over the country and feature on the menus of many a top restaurant, Bury is the home of the black pudding and synonymous with quality. The Bury Black Pudding Co uses a recipe dating back over 100 years – find them on Bury market, or in various stores.
No, that’s not guacamole on your plate. To those outside of the North, Manchester caviar means mushy peas. Dried marrowfat peas, soaked overnight and slowly simmered to form a Hulk-green pulp. The perfect accompaniment to a chippy tea, with fish and chips or a pie. Parched peas (parched being a defunct term for long, slow boiling), made from the purple podded pea, are a traditional regional variant popular in Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale and Oldham. A chip and mushy pea butty is a glorious thing. They’ve even been spotted on pizzas in Manchester (at Dough Pizza Kitchen), such is our passion for the pea.
In 1908 (John) Noel Nichols, who ran a small wholesale druggist and herbalist business in Central Manchester, created the drink we all know and love. Originally launched as a herbal tonic that gave the drinker ‘Vim & Vigour’, Vimtonic (as it was known then) soon became known simply as Vimto. In 1912 the drink was registered as a medicine. Purple Ronnie featured on the adverts for seven years during the ‘90s. Vimto is so revered in Manchester we have a statue dedicated to it, behind the University of Manchester’s Sackville Street Building. Drink it cold, drink it hot, try it fizzy, in original, cherry or strawberry flavours, or in a range of sweets and ice lollies. Just don’t ever tell a Mancunian you actually prefer Ribena.
Photo: Manchester Egg
The Manchester Egg was created by amateur chef Ben Holden in 2010, when he wondered how to put a Mancunian spin on the classic Scotch egg. His creation – a pickled egg coated in black pudding and sausage meat, wrapped in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden-brown – became a local sensation at The Castle pub in the Northern Quarter, and people travelled from miles around to try the new Mancunian delicacy. A huge hit at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, it’s even been sold to City fans at Etihad Stadium.
— The MICHELIN Guide (@MichelinGuideUK) March 14, 2015
A traditional shortcrust pastry shell, spread with raspberry jam, and topped with custard (maybe sliced banana depending on the recipe) and flakes of coconut, the Manchester Tart is a pudding many Mancunians of a certain age will remember from their school dinners. The tart, which has had a revival in recent years thanks to chef Marcus Wareing, is a variation on the traditional Manchester Pudding, first recorded by Victorian cookery writer Mrs Beeton. Find it on the specials menu periodically at restaurants around the city, or on the dessert menu full-time at Mr Thomas’s Chop House. Manchester House does a posh, updated version.
Made with lamb or mutton and onions and topped with sliced potatoes, baked long and slow on a low heat, this is a dish that makes a virtue out of simplicity, although there are lots of slight regional variations on the Lancashire hotpot. The traditional recipe included oysters, until increasing costs meant they started to be omitted. Sometimes lamb’s kidneys are included. The hotpot had a starring role in Coronation Street in the Rovers Return, and chef Nigel Haworth has given the dish a rather elegant revival in recent years.
Photo: Wikipedia, Chazzquire
Native to Bolton, the pasty barm consists of a buttered barm (or barm cake, bap, cob or bun depending on where in the North you’re from – but let’s not get into that here), with a meat and potato pasty as the filling. Yes, that’s a carb-heavy delicacy of a pasty inside a buttered bread roll. There’s even a Facebook appreciation page dedicated to them. You know you want one. You can get one at Carrs Pasties in Bolton for just £2. You’re welcome.
Banned by Cromwell’s puritans in the 1650s as they were considered sinful, Eccles cakes – made with flaky pastry and butter, filled with currants and topped with sugar – date back to at least the 17th century. James Birch is credited with being the first person to sell Eccles cakes on a commercial basis from his shop at the corner of Vicarage Road, Eccles in 1793. Eccles cakes – also known as dead fly pies – are now famous throughout the world. Not to be confused with Chorley cakes. They’re from Chorley. Obviously.
Meat and potato pie
A simple pie made traditionally with stewed beef, potatoes, onions and gravy, although sometimes mutton or even game, the meat and potato pie is a Northern classic, and for many Mancunians it’s the taste of home. As the industrialisation process began to expand in the c18th and C19th, the meat and potato pie became a large part of British culture in working class cities and towns such as Manchester, Salford, Wigan and Bolton. Now, you’ll find the meat and potato pie popping up on restaurant menus, at football matches, in bakeries such as Galloways in Wigan or Preston, and Holland’s meat and potato pies in most Manchester chippies. Just add that other local delicacy, chips and gravy.
Tripe has fallen out of favour somewhat, but there used to be 260 tripe shops in Greater Manchester alone. The lining of an animal’s stomach such as cattle, sheep, pigs or goats may not sound especially appetising. Hell, even the word tripe doesn’t fill one with confidence. But tripe is undergoing a bit of a resurgence, and more fashionable restaurants are putting it back on the menu, albeit with new twists on the classic Northern dish of tripe and vinegar. Solita deep-fried tripe and rebranded it Lancashire Calamari, a dish which pops up periodically on their specials menu. Yang Sing offer ox tripe in green pepper and black bean sauce. And check Tripe Adviser from the Tripe Marketing Board if you fancy buying some to prepare yourself.
Main image: Manchester Egg
A few more Manchester food tips…
14 of the best restaurants in Manchester for any budget
10 of the best brunches in Manchester
Cheap eats in Manchester: 12 of the best budget restaurants and takeaways
The infamous Patty Melt arrived in Manchester and we tried it
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