The city of Manchester is one of the most distinctive and vibrant in England, rivalling Birmingham as one of the biggest cultural, economic and social hubs outside London.
The Manchester area, known as Greater Manchester, was originally founded on a plain that was comprised of glacier debris and river gravel, enclosed by the Pennines to the east and the spurs of Rossendale to the north. The area was also known for its substantial coal deposits, which played a part in Manchester’s astonishing Victorian economic growth.
Most of the city itself is in the county of Lancashire, but Greater Manchester also includes some of the area towards the south of the River Mersey, in Cheshire. It is the biggest metropolitan area in the north of England, and was once the powerhouse of the industrial revolution.
In fact, the city was something of a prototype and could claim to be the first of the new rising generation of huge industrial cities that were created in western Europe as a result of the changes in industry that swept the continent. In 1717, Manchester had been just a market town of 10,000 people, but by 1851, the Manchester textile industries had grown so fast that the city had expanded to become a commercial and manufacturing centre, with over 300,000 inhabitants, from which the populations were already spilling out and urbanising other areas.
By the start of the 20th century, the growth had linked Manchester itself with the series of cotton manufacturing towns that surrounded it, including Oldham, Bolton and Rochdale, making Manchester one of the first conurbations or metropolitan areas in Europe.
By 1911 the city had a population of 2,350,000, but over the next few decades, the rate of growth slowed as other nations in the world caught up. The textiles trade began to be less profitable, due to foreign competition and changing technology and by the 1970s and 1980s, Greater Manchester was struggling. In recent years, the city has reinvented itself as a cultural centre, with a strong musical and creative tradition, and the position of Mayor of Manchester has become one of the most significant political posts in England.
The industrial cuisine of English towns and cities is one of the most remarkable aspects of our culinary heritage, and the Greater Manchester region has made a major contribution to the genre of hearty and carb-heavy dishes that typify this era of food.
This is a delicacy that originates from Bury, now part of the Greater Manchester region. Black pudding is a dark sausage that is made from pig’s blood along with other ingredients such as barley, oats and suet. It is possible to buy black pudding in a hot boiled at many local markets in the area, or it can be eaten, with malt vinegar, as a takeaway snack, and for many English people, a slice of black pudding is a crucial component in the perfect English breakfast.
It may have Lancashire in the name, but this hotpot is heavily associated with Manchester thanks to its connections with the famous Manchester-based soap opera Coronation Street. It is possibly the most well known of the dishes on this list, enjoyed in many locations outside the city.
The traditional Lancashire Hotpot is made using lamb or mutton, onions and stock and is then topped with sliced potatoes before it is cooked slowly at a low heat, until the potatoes on top go crispy. It’s the perfect dish for a cold wet Manchester autumn day!
The Eccles Cake has a history that dates back to the 1600s and at one point, they were even banned by the English government, under Oliver Cromwell, as some believed they had pagan associations.
The cake itself is made from a rich sugary puff pastry shell encasing a mix of currants and raisins, making a delightful sweet treat that can serve as a snack or an afternoon tea option. They are less engagingly known as ‘fly cakes’ as the dark interior of the pie are thought to look like squashed flies! The Eccles cake is one of the city’s most successful exports, and they are sold all over the world. You can also find more ‘up market’ versions of the cake in some Manchester restaurants.
This is a traditional English baked tart, which is made from a shortcrust pastry shell, which is spread with raspberry jam, then covered with a custard filling and finally topped with flakes of coconut. It was once common as a school dinner dessert, although has declined outside Manchester and there is some room for debate over the precise combination of the ingredients. Like the Eccles cake, this dessert has also been reinvented by some of Manchester’s best chefs as a stylish dessert.
This is a Manchester food that is not for the faint hearted, or for those who are trying to cut down on the carbs! Hailing originally from Bolton, it consists of a floured bread roll (which is referred to as a barm cake in Manchester) which is then filled with a meat and potato pasty.
Also sometimes known as Friday pie, it is said the butter pie was originally created by Catholics who would not eat meat on Fridays and so swapped butter for beef. This simple but tasty pie, that relies on just a handful of ingredients: potato, butter, onion, salt and pepper, is now a Manchester classic, and while it may not win any prizes for its looks, it is perhaps the ultimate in comfort food.
Produced from the purple podded pea which is first soaked overnight and then simmered to produce a type of mushy pea dish, parched peas are also sometimes known as black peas or maple peas. Parched peas are popular throughout the Greater Manchester area and are particularly associated with Bonfire Night. Usually served with plenty of vinegar, you can buy Parched peas at markets throughout the Manchester area and they sometimes make an appearance in city restaurants.
This is one of the most distinctive of Manchester dishes. It is made from a dollop of diced and minced beef and onion gravy, which is wrapped in suet and then hand-folded before being traditionally cooked in a ‘rag’ or muslin cloth, which gives it a distinctive shape as well as its name. It was created in Oldham, but has become a popular dish throughout the Greater Manchester region, and it is particularly popular in the many chip shops in the area.