There is more to eating out than portions, price and covers. It should be an experience, an occasion. Something different.
Yet something that that often gets lost in the rush we are in.
Sussex is known for its strong tradition of bonfire celebrations and its proud musical heritage. The county is home to the Brighton Festival and the Brighton Fringe, England’s largest arts festival.
When searching for traditional Sussex recipes, you’ll find a smattering of puddings and a whole heap of suet. Traditional suet puddings seem to have dominated family fayre.
Sussex is also known for: Ashdown Partridge Pudding, Chiddingly Hot pot, Sussex Bacon Pudding, Sussex Hogs’ Pudding, Huffed Chicken, Sussex Churdles, Sussex Shepherds Pie, Sussex Pond Pudding, Sussex Blanket Pudding, Sussex Well Pudding, and Chichester Pudding. Sussex is particularly known for puddings: such was the reputation of Sussex that it was said that “to venture into the county was to risk being turned into a pudding yourself”. In one version of the Sussex folk tale, the knucker dragon at Lyminster was slayed after being fed a poisoned Sussex pudding.
Sussex Bacon Pudding
A delicious savoury pudding with its roots firmly in Sussex food traditions and dating back to the Anglo-Saxon period. Another suet pastry case into which chopped bacon, onions and apples, and s sprinkling of sage and seasoning is added before being bundled or rolled into a cloth for steaming.
While pudding recipes typically use suet made from cow fat, you’ll find that some Sussex recipes played to the fat sourced from pigs, known as flead or fleck. Flead cake is claimed by both Sussex and Kent as a traditional county dish. Despite the blandness of its ingredients relative to the modern diet, it was a delicacy of sorts that only appeared either in the family home upon the culling of the home’s ‘cottage pig’ or at the table of higher society.
Here’s one for your lunchbox. The Sussex Churdle dates back to the 17th century and pulls pastry around cheap meat (typically liver) filling topped with breadcrumbs and cheese. A hearty and nutritious feast back in the day and surely just as delicious today if only we would give it a try…
Sussex Drip Pudding
Not to be confused with Yorkshire Puddings. Sussex drip puddings use a basic suet pudding mix of flour, suet and salt that is steamed. The finished product is them sliced and placed beneath a roasting joint to soak up its juices and take on flavour. And it was traditionally served before a main meal so as to fill you up and reduce the amount of meat needed to feed the family.
Sussex Blanket Pudding
Mostly savoury but adaptable to sweet varieties, we’d describe Sussex blank pudding as a sausage roly poly. And perhaps you can see how the sweet varieties therefore came about. To make this pudding, the suet pastry method comes first as usual. Once rolled out, add your choice of filling (traditionally sausagemeat, chopped liver or leftover cuts of roast meat), and roll it up sealing the edges. Alternative that filling with a sweet spread of your choice and see which one the family prefers!
Ifield Hog’s Pudding
Last on the savoury list, is hog’s pudding. This has firm Sussex routes, named after the town of Ifield, yet elsewhere you’ll find most recipes tied to the West Country. Hog’s pudding is one of the only English efforts at producing dried sausage (that we readily devour in the form of salami from places like Italy). A combination of chopped pork and currants with the mandatory lard make for a unusual prospect, but we’ll try anything once!
Sussex Pond Pudding
The stubborn presence of suet remains as we wend more specifically into sweet pudding territory. Beside creating a sweet blanket pudding, we have four alternative sweet Sussex recipe ideas for you to try. You may be more familiar with the fourth and relieved to know it contains no suet, albeit its fair share of calories!
Anyone else enjoy a stodgy dessert to make it a proper Sunday roast? It’s not often we do this, but every once in a while, why not?!
Thought to have first appeared in Hannah Woolley’s book of 1670 The Queen-Like Closet, Sussex Pond pudding originated as a spiced buttery pastry cooked in pudding cloth. Today, you’ll find a variety of fruit-filled recipe versions – typically lemon, but also apple and gooseberry. This is said to have been inspired by the inclusion of a whole lemon to the centre of the pudding by Jane Grigson in the 1970s.
Not to be confused with Hunter’s Pudding, the Sussex Hunting Pudding is reminiscent of Christmas pudding although more reliant on the natural fructose of its dried fruit ingredients for sweetness than contemporary recipes. Another noteworthy of making before you tuck into this dish is the simple approach to serving – with a sauce of white wine or butter.
Tuck a handful of Sussex Plum Heavies in your pocket and out you go to play or off you head to work. That’s pretty much how it played out centuries ago. Thought of as sweet treats for the children they were designed small, but a sneaky handful for your pocket whatever your age would have sated a hardworking appetite until lunch, we’re sure!
This is perhaps the most heartwarming contemporary story tied to Sussex food traditions. The Banoffee Pie was invented in Sussex in the 1960s when inventive new foods were much needed! The pub where Ian Dowding developed the recipe is no more although the building bears a banoffee blue plaque! Although renowned the world over, Ian tells his first hand story of the recipe’s inspiration and subsequent fame. He even shares the original recipe…
Coastal Sussex food traditions
From the seashore was borne a ready supply of fresh fish, with some ports becoming associated with a specific catch. So much so, six specific hauls from the sea are included in what has become known as the “seven good things of Sussex” – the seventh is a bird. So we thought it apt, especially given the location of our Sussex coastal cottages, to share these seven with you. You never know when you might come across them on your travels round these parts!
Scallops are a prolific produce of East Sussex, most notably Rye
February typically welcomes the Rye Bay Scallop Festival. As the winter scallop season comes to an end, Rye erupts in celebration of this delectable seafood abundant off our shores. Taste scallops served in the simplest and fanciest ways, and if you don’t already love them, you soon will!
Spring ahead to October and Rye is also home to the Wild Boar Festival. A celebrated feature of the Kent and Sussex countryside, wild boar were hunted to extinction in the 17th century but reared back to life in captivity and when some escaped into the wild they prospered. The festival is a celebration of this delicious meat as well as a contemporary display of some of East Sussex’s most traditional produce.
The traditional speciality bread known as Lady Arundel’s market includes a recipe that was first published in the 17th century and is still being used in many market towns and pubs in West Sussex.
Sussex is the perfect destination for all beer and wine aficionados as they have been producing beer for centuries. Some of the most traditional and well-known breweries include the 18th-century beer brewers, Harveys of Lewes, as well as many newly established craft brewers with a passion for creating the perfect brew.
With Sussex also producing some of the best wines in the UK, they have been awarded awards such as the 2006 best sparkling wine in the world at the Decanter World Wine Awards and reaching international acclaim for being a destination for wine lovers. The county has over 23 vineyards and the largest cluster of vineyards in the UK.
At least 30 different types of apples originate in Sussex including Knobbed Russet, Crawley Reinette, and Egremont Russet. The Granny Smith apple was first produced in Sussex which is why the apple is named after Maria Ann Smith who was a native to Sussex.
Golden Cross is an English cheese produced by Kevin and Alison Blunt in East Sussex. The cheese is made from raw goat’s milk and it’s shaped into a log. It has a bloomy rind that hides a creamy, firm, and dense texture. The aromas are fresh, grassy, and floral, while the flavors are sweet and rich.
When young, Golden Cross is rolled in ash (lightly charcoaled), then matured for a few weeks in order to allow the development of natural rind. At peak ripeness, the flavors become very nutty, reaching notes that are almost reminiscent of peanut butter.
The cheese was named after a cross on the roof of a local pub. It’s recommended to pair it with sparkling wines.
Flower Marie is an English cheese produced in Sussex by Golden Cross Cheese Company. The cheese is made from sheep’s milk and has a bloomy white mold-ripened rind that’s tinged with pink.
The texture is creamy, soft, and fudge-like, almost like ice-cream. The flavors are sweet, aromatic, and slightly mushroomy, with hints of citrus. Flower Marie matures for about 3 weeks, although some cheeses are left to age a few weeks more. The name of this cheese is an anglicized version of Fleur de Maquis, a Corsican sheep’s milk cheese.
It is recommended to pair this cheese with a glass of good red wine.
Burwash Rose is an English cheese produced in Stonegate, East Sussex. This semi-soft cheese is made from raw Frisian cow’s milk and has a rind that’s washed in rose water during the first few weeks of maturation. The full maturation period lasts more than 8 weeks.
As a result, the rind becomes sticky and orange in color, with floral aromas. The texture of Burwash Rose is soft, silky, creamy, and springy. The flavors are rich, buttery, and slightly floral. It’s recommended to serve the cheese with sourdough bread and chili jam.