About the Blog

Hello and welcome to British Food: A History, my blog that attempts to tell the history of Britain through its food and food cultures. In addition to all the history, I also want to provide plenty of recipes to try and that actually work – even if sometimes the ingredients are a little to strange to our modern tastes. I also hope to be able to show you some basic (and not so basic!) cooking techniques so that you can increase your own arsenal of culinary skills.

For those interested in history, cooking food from the past is the closest thing one can get to a time machine; assuming you know how things were cooked and what the ingredients were like at the time in question, then you get to experience something just like our ancestors did. Nothing else can do it in my opinion!

One of the most interesting topics for me is that of sustainability. When it comes to home cooking, this does not mean living on a diet of wholegrain gruel with a few green leaves strewn over it. It does, however, mean giving a thought to the foods we eat, asking where it has come from, how it was produced and how food waste can be reduced. I like to eat meat, and don’t really want to stop, so I eat it infrequently and when I do, I don’t use a prime cut. After all, a lamb did not die for its shanks, sweetbreads or kidneys, but its racks, rump and hindlegs. There are recipes for stocks to that carcasses, offcuts and vegetable peelings can all be put to good use by being the ingredients of a second meal from last night’s dinner.

To help with this we just need to look at our forebears’ habits: things were not wasted, even in well-to-do houses, and no one turned their noses up at a dish of devilled kidneys!

About Me

My name is Dr Neil Buttery and I have been writing on the history of British food for over ten years and through the process of writing and cooking I have become a professional chef specialising in cooking food from our past. Prior to this, I was a secondary school teacher and then a research scientist, researching social evolution, a branch of ecology and evolutionary biology.

I starting my original blog, Neil Cooks Grigson, all the way back in 2007 as a way to help me practise writing for my PhD at Manchester University. I didn’t take long however for me to become hooked on the food and history writing. So much so, that when I moved to America for my first research job, I started up this blog too!

One day the penny dropped and I realised I had taught myself a wide range of skills, especially when it comes to preparing and cooking unusual cuts of meat, offal and game. I moved back to Manchester and started up my own food business, even running a small restaurant for two years.

I then went onto specialising in banquets and taster menus; I even turned my house into a makeshift restaurant several times, serving up five-course menus of British food and getting nominated for Manchester Food & Drink Award in the process! And then I opened my first restaurant The Buttery in Levenshulme with a certain Brian Shields (trouble!). Unfortunately it had to close after two years but I have lots of other things going on.

I feel very lucky too; the blogs and the cooking have attracted attention and I have had the opportunity to appear on Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns, Radio 4’s The Food Programme, as well as in a Telegraph cookery competition for food bloggers (where I came second!) I also cooked the food for a scene in Monkman and Seagulls’s Genius Adventures, and became offically cool when I ended up in a Vice article.

Then in 2020 I made the first season of my podcast and am currently putting out episodes for a fifth season.

In May 2022 my first book, A Dark History of Sugar, was published by Pen & Sword History. You can order it straight from the publishers here, or from any good bookseller.

My second book Before Mrs Beeton: Elizabeth Raffald, England’s Most Influential Housekeeper is out around Easter, and can be preordered wherever you can buy books, including the Pen & Sword History website.

I do hope you enjoy the blog and find it interesting, and that it inspires you to cook some of the dishes I post about.

Please send your comments and questions – I love getting them and replying to them.

Thank you for reading!

Neil Buttery

Last updated: January 2023

If you like the blogs and podcast I produce and would to start a £3 monthly subscription, or would like to treat me to virtual coffee or pint: follow this link for more information. Thank you.


66 responses to “About

  1. Great thought! I look forward to this blog too. Now how about some entries on your science side at http://sociobiology.wordpress.com/


  2. I’ve greatly enjoyed your posts. We have a few things in common. My Mom is English, and I have some family living in Ilkley and Maltby. I am also local in St. Louis. There is a great little English food shop on Main Street in St Charles – I could spend hours in there. Thank you for bringing England a little bit closer to home.


    • buttery77

      thanks for commenting, Anita!
      i have yet to go to St Charles, but I have heard of the English shop there, so I should check it out. I hear there is a good tea room there too.
      Ilkley is one of my favorite places – I used to go there almost every Sunday for walks. Great memories…


  3. So happy to have found this! Where do you live?


  4. Marilyn McMorris Gottwald

    I googled your site because I am reading another book which talks about “Hester” cooking “Monk” some bubble and squeak. Sounds good and I’ll be making it If I ever have leftover beef (my family loves beef). We all love leftover cabbage and mashed potatoes, so it should be a big hit. Marilyn McMorris Gottwald, Peoria Illinois.


    • Hello Marilyn. Hope you give it a go. It’s great comfort food. I actually forgot to photograph the finished thing, but I’ll be rectifying that when I cook it next.
      Let me know how it turns out!


  5. Paul

    As someone not British but very interested in British cooking, I absolutely love both of your blogs! I plan on picking up Jane Grigson’s English Cooking as soon as I can. 🙂


  6. Josephine

    Thanks for your thorough posts on eels, and pie and mash. After a trip to London and F. Cooke in Hackney I am writing up the experience for LTHforum, the Chicago-based food chat site. Your eel history is an excellent source which I will cite. BTW-I am also a St. Louis resident with a WashU better half!


    • Glad you like the posts – I’ll be adding more eel posts in the next few days.

      A St Louis resident? It’s a small world. I do miss Wash U – you always feel very looked after there.



  7. Andy Jones

    Funny how becoming an expat makes you obsess about British Food. when in France I crave a pork pie, I come back to Jersey eat one and it smells like my dog after it has eaten a bone. Being originally from the West Country I love Faggots but have given up on finding any like Bainbridge the Butcher used to sell in Stroud on a Wednesday. Perhaps somethings are best just left and remembered with affection, a bit like an old lover.


    • Hi Andy
      Well i thnk you are both right and wrong! Some things are definitely left forgotton, but others are just waiting to be rediscovered; and a really good pork pie tastes nothing like a wet dog munching on a chewie!


  8. CM

    Hi! I have to do a project for school on a recipe from Europe between the 1330s and 1600s. I’m doing a recipe called Rosy Almond Cream, and I was hoping you could help me out. For the project, I’ll need the history of the recipe. All I know is that it’s from England in Medieval times. I was hoping that maybe you could help me to find the history of the recipe? I’ve looked everywhere, and I just can’t seem to find it! Please write back if you can help me. Thanks! 🙂


    • Hello there. I am sure I can help you out here. I’m a little busy for the rest of the week though, but after the weekend I’ll have lots of spare time to give you a hand. In the mean time – try looking in Google books. It’s where I get a lot of my information from. I’ll look through my books for you aswell.



  9. What a fascinating blog, the perfect read when I am feeling homesick. Obviously written with love and care.


  10. Hi, you don’t know me but I have followed your blog for a while now. I nominated you for the WordPress Family Award because I find your blog inspirational. http://thesimpleabode.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/feeling-more-confident-about-all-of-this-3/


    • Hi Simple Abode, I recognise your Avatar. Thanks so much of this Family Award! It’s nice to know that people read – and enjoy! – the blog. I’d better get thinking about who I should nominate…


  11. I recently found your blog and am really enjoying it. I’m nominating you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. No pressure to accept (there’s some work involved), but here’s the link to my post about this: http://revolutionarypie.com/2013/12/19/versatile-blogger-award/#more-1625


  12. Kitchen-Counter-Culture

    Hello! What a fun blog. I am an American living in Wales, love Jane Grigson (particularly Good Things) — love making oddball things, cooking historical recipes…. Will enjoy reading you.


  13. Tina

    Hi Neil, I’ve got a food history story for your blog if you’re interested – can you get in touch? It’s about Jane Austen’s favourite cake, the Devizes Cheesecake, and a baker who has finally resurrected the long lost recipe.


  14. Kurt muggleton

    Hi there, I have come across this blog by chance and was looking at the toasting plates the belong to the Victorian range stove. I myself own one of these old Victorian range stove cookers and have realised that the toasting plate component is missing from the stove. I have searched extensively for one of these and as you can imagine they are very difficult to come by. I have been looking out for one with the possibility of having a mould professionally made of this component and then having one cast. I noticed in the article that the authors friend ‘andreas’ has one of these on her stove and I was wondering if there would be any chance in us having a chat! The unit in the picture looks identical to our own! It would be fantastic to get this piece made to complete the unit and preserve a piece of history! Many thanks Kurt


  15. Hi, I just stumbled across your blog yesterday and just wanted to say that I love it! Spent way too long reading all your old posts, its absolutely fascinating reading about the history of British food and I just wish I could have been a guest at your dinner party through time!


  16. Dave Hunt

    Hi Neil…I love your blog, really fascinating stuff. I worked in the industry for several years, then became a senior lecturer in professional cookery and food production…loved it…I’m long retired now but still very interested in the origins of dishes etc. I still keep picking up cookery books (about 600 now! )
    lots from charity shops – original price anything up to £30, charity shop price generally about £1 …I can lie in bed reading cookery books for ages. I go to France a lot and get cookery magazines and secondhand books there too….one never stops learning. I must admit that some of the modern dishes are not my type of thing..,a Swiss colleague once described it as ‘painting with gravy!’ .I know you like eels and when in France last year was taken by a French friend to a restaurant on the Loire that specialises in eel dishes…wonderful menu! Very many yeas ago I was working in Hereford and we sometimes got given buckets of elvers…..probably not so freely available these days.!


    • I think I am a cook book addict! I love them. I am particularly interested in mediaeval food these days and have a few posts up my sleeve about it. I’d love to do more teaching, something I’d like to develop in the future.
      And you’re right, it’s all about lifetime learning I think.
      I do love my eels and very glad the conservation effort is going so well with them.
      Thanks for your comment! I’m going to try and post more this year!


  17. Sarah

    Hi, I was wondering if I could email you about a story?


  18. Lucie Massey


    Great blog! So interesting.

    I’m currently researching English cuisine in the year 1818, and would love to have a chat with you about your amazing wealth of knowledge.

    I couldn’t find an email but you can reach me on lucie.massey@gmail.com.

    Hoping to hear from you!


  19. claire

    You asked about the medieval dining picture posted in September 2017. It is
    Holy Dinner, by Jaume Ferrer I (active until the middle of the 15th Century. Holy Dinner. Detail of a group of apostles. Tempera painting on wood. Catalonia


  20. Gordon Alexander

    Hi Neil
    I collect Brown & Polson memorabilia and have many of their recipe books . I also have them in French & German. If your ever looking for a specific recipe of theirs please get in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Why have I only just found your blog? Anyway, I’m very glad I have because I think I can spend a lot of time rooting around in here!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: Seven traditional Westcountry recipes you might not want to try - elmenulocal

  23. Pingback: Seven traditional Westcountry recipes you might not want to try – The Best Food Recipe

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  25. Vilis Uzans

    Great blog. Really enjoying reading it, it’s very interesting. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Pingback: "The perineum of the year": A round up of 2020 | The Past is a Foreign Pantry

  27. Hello Dr. Buttery! You have a great blog! I’m currently working on self-publishing an edition of Shakespeare’s “A Misummer Night’s Dream”. Would you like to contribute in a small way? I want to have a page that gives a recipe for Lamb’s Wool. While there are plenty of recipes for Lamb’s Wool on the internet, it’s hard to tell if any of them are accurate to what they would have enjoyed during the bard’s time. Would you like to contribute the recipe for Lamb’s Wool that you think would have been what they drank in that time? Even if you want to say that it’s hard to really know for sure, but you’re giving your best estimate, I think my readers would enjoy it very much. Of course, I’ll give you credit and I’ll link to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Ted

    Dear Dr Buttery, I am finding the origin of the foldable steaming tray (made of a stainless plate and numerous petals around the plate so that it fits in the deep pan nicely). My guess is it was invented by a Japanese wife, but I have not found the evidence yet. As steaming is a major method of cooking in China, it may have been invented in Hong Kong. I would be very grateful if you could enlighten me with your knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ted. I had always assumed it was or Chinese or Japanese design for the same reasons as your wife. Aside from that, I can’t be much help. I had a quick look on my shelves but have found nothing


      • Ted

        Many thanks for your reply. My friends in the UK said they had the free size steamer since the 1980s and it was used to steam vegetables which was a surprise to me. All I remember back then was over-boiled vegetables. This is why I am after the origin of the steamer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah I see. I would say they were an anomoly in the 80s. All I remember is overcooked veg!


  29. Simon Gooden

    Hello Neil,

    I love your blog on Grigson and have been using it for a couple of dinner parties.

    I’m absolutely gutted to have missed your restaurant as I’m obsessed with traditional and regional English recipes.

    Do you have any popup events planned and how far do you travel to do events?



    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Simon – glad you’ve been inspired by Jane in the kitchen. I’m not doing any popups or other events for time being as I don’t have anywhere to suitable to cook or serve. I’m focussing on writing these days really. I’ll let you know if that changes though.

      Thanks again,


      • Simon Gooden


        Thanks for your response, do you know of any restaurants anywhere in the UK that do focus on historical or regional food?



  30. Pingback: A Dark History of Sugar is essential reading, maybe not for the squeamish - Neil Sowerby

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