A Pronunciation Guide to English Food


England. Food. What?

Believe it or not, there is a food revolution going on in the UK at the moment, and whilst you can find cuisine from all over the world here, many modern kitchens are revisiting traditional English recipes. Here’s our pronunciation guide to all things culinary and where to find them in London:

1. Fish & Chips /ˈfɪʃ n ˈtʃɪps/

Probably the most famous of all British dishes, though the fried fish part was originally brought here by Spanish Jews. You’ll find this dish on most streets in what is locally known as a ‘chippy’ /tʃɪpi/. It’s battered /ˈbætəd/ fish, normally cod /ˈkɒd/, haddock /ˈhædək/ or plaice /ˈpleɪs/ served with chips and a liberal dose of salt and vinegar /ˈsɔːɫt ən ˈvɪnəgə/ . Foodies /ˈfuːdiz/ will have theirs with mushy peas /ˈmʌʃi ˈpiːz/ and a tartare sauce /ˈtɑːtɑ: ˈsɔːs/ of capers /ˈkeɪpəz/, gherkins and mayonnaise.

Recipe: Traditional Fish n Chips by Jo’ Pratt
Where to get it in London: Kerbisher & Malt – or try your local pub.
Pronunciation Notes: Don’t say ‘and’, just say /n/.

2. Chicken Tikka Massala /ˈtʃɪkɪn ˈtiːkə məˈsɑːlə/

England’s national dish, according to some. The story goes that an English customer complained that their Chicken Tikka was too dry, the accommodating Indian chef then poured some tomato soup and yoghurt onto it and the masala version was born. Yes, the English need their gravy /ˈgreɪvi/. So it’s chicken marinated /ˈmærɪneɪtɪd/ in spices /ˈspaɪsɪz/ and yoghurt /ˈjɒgət/, and served in a rich tomato and garlic /ˈgɑːlɪk/ sauce with pillau rice /ˈpiːlaʊ ˈraɪs/, poppadoms /ˈpɒpədɒmz/, naan bread /ˈnɑ:n bred/ and probably a cold pint of Kingfisher /ˈkɪŋfɪʃə/ or Cobra /ˈkəʊbrə/ beer.

Recipe: BBC Good Food Recipe or see this article for in-depth info.
Where to get it in London? You won’t have to walk more than 50 metres to find an Indian takeaway.
Pronunciation Notes: ‘masala’ rhymes with ‘banana’.

3. Roast Beef /ˈrəʊs ˈbiːf/

The traditional Sunday lunch, a sirloin /ˈsɜːlɔɪn/, rib /ˈrɪb/ or fillet /ˈfɪlɪt/ of beef roasted in the oven with potatoes /pəˈteɪtəʊz/ and vegetables – parsnips /ˈpɑːsnɪps/, carrots /ˈkærəts/, broccoli /ˈbrɒkəli/ and brussel sprouts /ˈbrʌsəɫ ˈspraʊts/. It’s served with gravy, mustard /ˈmʌstəd/ or horseradish /ˈhɔːsrædɪʃ/ and if it has all the trimmings, you’ll also get a Yorkshire pudding /ˈjɔːkʃə ˈpʊdɪŋ/, which is savoury and floury, not sweet.

Recipes: Delia Smith’s Roast Beef Sirloin & Yorkshire pudding.
Where to try it? In an English home or a pub on Sunday.
Pronunciation Notes: No need to say the /t/ in ‘roast’.

4. Full English Breakfast /ˈfʊl ˈɪŋglɪʃ ˈbrekfəst/

You’ll see some of, though probably not all of these ingredients, when you order a “full English”. Where to begin?  Sausages /ˈsɒsɪdʒɪz/, bacon /ˈbeɪkən/, fried /ˈfraɪd/, scrambled /ˈskræmbɫd/ or poached /pəʊtʃt/ eggs /egz/, hash brown /ˈhæʃ ˈbraʊn/, baked beans /ˈbeɪkt ˈbiːnz/, mushrooms /ˈmʌʃrəmz/, black pudding /ˈblæk ˈpʊdɪŋ/ (blood sausage) and toast /təʊst/. Often accompanied by tomato ketchup /təˈmɑ:təʊ ˈketʃʌp/ or brown sauce (sometimes called daddy sauce). Healthier English alternatives are porridge /ˈpɒrɪdʒ/ or smoked fish known as kippers /kɪpəz/. All of which are washed down of course, with English Breakfast Tea /ˈɪŋglɪʃ ˈbrekfəs tiː/.

Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Full English Breakfast
Where to get it in London? Your local caff.

5. Pie n Mash /ˈpaɪ ən ˈmæʃ/

This is traditional London working class grub dating back centuries. Originally it was a crusty pie of eels from the Thames /ˈtemz/, but these days the pie contains mutton /mʌtən/ or beef, though jellied eels /dʒelid iːɫz/ might be served separately. Mashed potatoes accompany the pie, and then there’s a healthy dose of gravy to finish it off. These days you can find all sorts of fillings in the pies, but only a few traditional pie shops are left in London.

Recipe: This is probably one to eat out.
Where to get it in London: Traditional restaurants Goddards at Greenwich and M Manze in Tower Bridge, both over a century old. For a more modern and varied menu, try Pieminister.

6. Afternoon Tea /ˈɑːftənuːn ˈtiː/

What could possibly be more English than afternoon tea (sometimes known as ‘High Tea’)? As you’d expect, it involves tea, scones /skəʊnz/ or /skɒnz/ with clotted cream /ˈklɒtɪd ˈkriːm/, cucumber sandwiches /kjuːkʌmbə sænwɪdʒɪz/ and cake. A luxurious version would also involve champagne /ˌʃæmˈpeɪn/, which is… French, of course.

Recipe: Mary Berry’s scone recipe / How to make the perfect cucumber sandwich.
Where to get it in London: The Queen of all afternoon teas: Claridges. For more affordable options, see afternoontea.co.uk
Pronunciation Notes: the stress in ‘ˌafterˈnoon’ shifts to the first syllable ‘ˈafternoon’ because the next word is stressed.

7. Sandwiches /ˈsænwɪdʒɪz/

The English tend to eat their lunch ‘on the go’ – at their desk or nipping out ‘for a quick sarnie’. Traditional fillings are cucumber, Tuna & Sweetcorn, Egg & Cress, Ham and Mustard and Cheese & Pickle. Quite often eaten with a packet of crisps and a cup of tea. Yummy.

Recipe: BBC Good Food Summer Sandwich Selection
Where to get it in London: You’re never far from a Pret-a-Manger.
Pronunciation notes: you don’t have to say the /d/ in “sandwiches”.

8. Ploughman’s Lunch /ˈplaʊmənz ˈlʌntʃ/

A romanticised cheese board. Fortunately, England has a few good cheeses: Cheddar /ˈtʃedə/ is our most famous, but there’s also crumbly Cheshire /ˈtʃeʃə/, Red Leicester /ˈred ˈlestə/, Wensleydale /ˈwenslideɪɫ/ and if you like a bit of mould –  Stilton /ˈstɪɫtən/. Bread, pickles /pɪkɫz/, chutney /tʃʌʔni/ and possibly a scotch egg /ˈskɒtʃ ˈeg/ will also find their way into a ploughmans. The origins of the term ‘Ploughman’s lunch’ may not go further back than the 1950s, but lunch time bread, cheese and beer has been a staple for centuries.

Recipe: Four Variations on a Ploughman’s Lunch
Where to get it in London: Your local pub.

9. Cottage/Shepherd’s Pie /ˈkɒtɪdʒ | ˈʃepədz ˈpaɪ/

Another variation on the ‘meat and 2 veg’ /ˈmiːt ən ˈtuː ˈvedʒ/ principle, this is a dish from the 18th century consisting of mashed potatoes and minced meat /ˈmɪnst miːt/, normally served with a boiled vegetable on the side. If it’s made with beef, it’s a cottage pie, if it’s with lamb, then it’ll be shepherd’s pie.

Recipe: Nigel Slater’s shepherd’s pie
Where to get it in London: some pubs do one, but it’s really a dish to make at home.
Pronunciation notes: the ‘ph’ in ‘shepherd’ is pronounced /p/ not /f/.


10. Crumble /krʌmbɫ/

This is normally sweet rather than savoury, so it’s mainly a dessert /dɪˈzɜːt/. It’s essentially stewed fruit /ˈstjuːd ˈfruːt/ with a crumble of butter /ˈbʌtə/, sugar /ʃʊgə/ and flour /ˈflaʊə/ on top. It became very popular during World War II as a simple and versatile dish that could be made with few ingredients. The most popular versions these days are rhubarb /ˈruːbɑːb/ and apple /ˈæpɫ/. Normally served with custard /ˈkʌstəd/ (a hot sauce of egg yolk and milk) or ice cream. Mmmmmm.

Recipe: BBC Good Food Rhubarb Crumble
Where to get it in London: on any decent English pub or restaurant dessert menu.
Pronunciation notes: Don’t try to say the ‘h’ in rhubarb. In fact, more and more people now spell the word ‘rubarb’.