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For tea, or not for tea, that is the question! When trying to plan your evening meal, it can be tough to find inspiration, so why not let SPAR and the Bard himself inspire you this Shakespeare Day, with these old English meals?

These classic dishes are sure to satisfy the heartiest of appetites and have an equivalent available from your nearest SPAR store, so yes, that is a shopping list you see before you…

The Pasty

You can’t get many older old English meals which are still as popular today as the Pasty, or Cornish Pasty as most commonly known. These have been around since the 13th century, some 200 years before Shakespeare’s birthday. However, the great man himself even gave Pasties a reference in his play All’s Well That Ends Well as Parolles says, “I will confess to what I know without constraint: if ye pinch me like a pasty, I can say no more”, so this is the ultimate Shakespeare food.

A pasty is a pastry cased dish, most commonly containing diced beef, onion, potato and swede – to qualify as a pasty, it has to be shaped like a D and crimped on one side. The filling then becomes irrelevant. In centuries gone by, it’s reported that pasties could contain any meat, veg, cheese, or even sweet fillings.

Toad in the Hole

This dish came a little after Shakespeare’s time, but it’s as timeless as his work! First developed in 1747 as pigeon in a hole, we have unfortunately found a supply issue with pigeons, so we are focussing on the sausage based alternative instead!

Toad in the hole is a fine example of traditional English food – simple and delicious. The main ingredients are sausages (minimum of 6) baked in a large Yorkshire pudding batter and drizzled with onion gravy. Why the name? Well, we’re not sure, other than to assume it’s to do with the sausages peeking out of the batter.

Cottage Pie

In his play Henry IV, Shakespeare wrote “I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit”. It’s not one of the more famous or best Shakespeare quotes, nor the most flattering of statements about this cow given classic, but it’s a recognition of beef’s high status in British cuisine.

Fast forward a couple of centuries and the Cottage Pie was born – minced beef, cooked in gravy with onions and often other vegetables like peas, celery and carrots. It’s then topped with mashed potato, and if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can top with grated cheese too.

This was a pie developed from leftovers from Sunday Lunch of roast beef, mash and vegetables, so like most beloved old English meals, it came from humble beginnings. A simple-to-prepare tea time classic for all the family.

Why not make this at home, either as a chosen dish or as leftovers from Sunday.

Apple Pie

Now for dessert! America and Holland have both tried to claim this as their own, but back in the 14th Century in Great Britain, the first references to the Apple Pie were found, therefore spanning Shakespeare’s time.

The earliest recipe contained apples, spices, figs, raisins and pears, cased in pastry with a lattice top and saffron was used to give the pastry colour. Nowadays, everyone is quite satisfied with stewed apples in a sweet shortcrust pastry.

This is a pie that has stood the test of time, it is still enjoyed now and you can really customise it – have it hot or cold, with ice cream, whipped cream, pouring cream or custard!

Shakespeare actually referenced pies in Titus Andronicus – a line that really sums up the flexibility of pies, in that they can contain a whole food chain; “Why, there they are both, baked in that pie; Whereof their mother daintily hath fed, Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.” See our British Pie Road Trip for more pie talk!


As we are celebrating the birthday of Britain’s greatest wordsmith, we thought we’d finish on a teatime classic which has divided the nation with pronunciation. The scone (as in gone) or scone (as in tone) was introduced in 1513 so again, right around Shakespeare’s time. It is debated whether scones were founded in England or Scotland, but as they have become so synonymous with English summertime, we are still going to define these as an old English food.

You’ll need self-raising flour, baking powder, caster sugar, unsalted butter, milk and eggs to make these at home, and feel free to throw in some currants too. Serve with jam and cream and you’ll have the family queuing up for seconds.

This bringeth to a close our favourite savoury and sweet old English meals to celebrate Shakespeare Day this year. We hope you enjoy serving these at home via your local convenience store. Happy Birthday William!