Looking for a foodie escape to East Sussex or just to consume some local produce while you’re here? Either way, here we bring you the lowdown on some East Sussex food traditions. From centuries old recipes to one contemporary, global hit that you’ll find on restaurant menus all around the world, this article is designed to whet your appetite to visit East Sussex. Come hungry and with space in the car to take home a healthy Red Cross parcel of East Sussex food and drink treats.
Whether you choose to eat out three times a day or take up the true self-catering mantle at one of our coastal holiday homes, you’ll eat and drink well. Leave sated, inspired and espousing the joys of our county’s culinary delights. Renowned English vineyards beckon, yes, but their non-alcoholic counterparts reflect the rich fruit growing heritage of this part of South East England. With copious farmland comes all manner of produce, from organic and optimally treated meat, to fresh fruit and vegetables, spectacular cheeses and plentiful condiments too. Age-old and start-up the foodie landscape of East Sussex is brimful with quality and innovation. We hope you’re ready to tuck in!
Some East Sussex food traditions
If you’re in search of 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. In fact, it is said that Mrs Beaton developed her steak and kidney pudding recipe following correspondence with someone in Sussex.
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!
Sweet Sussex recipes
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!
Sussex Pond Pudding
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.
Here’s Prue Leith’s version of Sussex Pond Pudding from one of her Great British Bake Off technical challenges. Can’t be that hard, surely…
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 note worthy 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!
- Rye herrings
- Pulborough eels
- Selsey cockles
- Chichester lobsters
- Arundel mullets
- Amberley trouts
- Bourne wheatear
Best East Sussex produce to eat today
Book a foodie escape in Sussex
To make the most of foodie visit to our county, the South Downs Heritage Centre is well worth a visit. But for now, it provides this fabulous collation of local food producers, so you can indulge in all things foodie while staying in one of our East Sussex holiday cottages.
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