Essex is a fertile and mild county where a rich variety of vegetables and animal life have flourished . The area has been home to Romans, Saxons and Bretons all of which have added to the rich gastronomic history.

For up to date Essex recipes you need look no further than Jamie Oliver - The Naked Chef who is Essex born and bred.

Books were expensive and so recipe books represented unjustifiable expenditure for many people . Recipes were passed between relatives and friends which meant that most housewives had  a small hardback book in which recipes were handwritten. Some of the favourite recipes in our family come from the handmade recipe books that belonged to my great grandmother and was added to by my grandmother..

Below I give a few of the traditional Essex Recipes enjoyed by Marsh men and village dwellers alike in the last three centuries. 

They tasted good then and they still taste good now . Why don't you give them a try?

Grandma's suet pud
Like many families in the 1920's my grandmother had little income to feed up to 10 children and adults on a regular basis.
Suet pudding served as a starter with gravy was her secret weapon on the one traditional good meal - Sunday Lunch. It was so tasty that large slices were demanded, These large slices filled up stomachs to such an extent that small portions of meat were required with the main course.

2 lb plain flour
1/2 lb beef suet ( vegetable suet can be used if desired)                 
salt  ( Maldon Sea Salt is recommended)
water to mix

1. Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, binding together with water.
2. Place the mixture in greaseproof paper and tightly cover with cooking foil.
3. Boil water in a sauce pan
4. Drop the package into a saucepan and boil for 3 hours.
5. Carefully unwrap and serve with gravy.

Boiled eels

Any ingredients able to be harvested locally were either free is harvested by a family member - usually a child's task or cheap from a local dealer. As a marshland area eels were a natural resource found in drainage ditches through the coastal area.


4 small eels

bunch of parsley

3/4 pint of parsley sauce

pinch of salt


  1. Clean and skin the eels
  2. Warm enough water to cover the eels  in a stewpan
  3. put the eels , parsley and salt into the warm water
  4. simmer for 30 minutes or until tender
  5. Remove from water and poor the parsley sauce over the eels when serving



Rabbit Casserole

Before the second world war rabbit played a very important part on the menus of country folk. Certainly my father used to set snares on warrens in nearby fields and rabbit appeared at least weekly on our dinner table.
The larger farms on the marshes used to have a cauldron permanently simmering into which the housekeeper would  put vegetables and meat of any kind although predominantly the pot was stocked by rabbits caught by the farm workers. This cauldron provided the staple diet for single marsh men who lived on the farm
Rabbit is very versatile and can by used in many ways although the best know are rabbit casserole and rabbit pie.

4 rabbit joints or one whole rabbit
6 oz streaky bacon
2 oz bacon dripping ( or margarine)
12 oz chopped onion
12 oz sliced carrots
440 ml beer
4 oz mushrooms
1 level tsp corn flour
salt and pepper

1. Soak the rabbit in lightly salted water for 1/2 an hour then dry
2. Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces and gently fry
3. Fry the rabbit joints in a frying pan until the rabbit is golden brown
4. transfer the joints into a casseroles
5. fry the onions in the frying pan and add to the rabbit
6. Add the carrot to the casseroles and pour in the beer
7. cover and cook in an oven 180c for one hour
8. mix the corn flour with a little water and add the cornflour, mushrooms, salt and pepper to the casseroles.
9. return to the oven for another hour
10. serve and enjoy.


Ginger Pudding

Ginger pudding is a traditional dessert once again comparatively cheap but very filling

9 oz flour
3 oz suet
3 oz sugar
1/2 oz of ground ginger

1 egg

1/4 pint of milk

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1 tablespoon of treacle


1. Mix all dry ingredients
2. add the beaten egg and milk
3. pour into a greased basin

4.Steam for 2 hours.


Other traditional local recipes that you may wish to try are
Blackbird pie 
Burnham Oysters ( Not when there is a 'R' in the month)
Elderberry Wine
Pig's Head Brawn
Pigeon Casserole
Potato and leek soup
Pea soup
Pickled Herring
Plum Pudding
Ploughman's Pasties ( vegetable filling at one end and jam filling at the other)
Roast Pheasant
Rock Cakes
Stewed Eels
Summer pudding


Many Many more recipes are coming soon on our sister site www.essex-country-living.co.uk