Category Archives: Puddings

Pancake Day

Happy Shrovetide!

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before the 40 day long fast-a-thon that is Lent, so we best have a big-old festival, no?

No.

Where do you think this is? France? America? This is Britain, and whilst the rest of the Christian world is dancing, drinking, feasting and parading, we do not bow to such vulgarities, instead we have some pancakes and a nice cup of tea.

I jest of course; though between you and me, I would happily swap Mardi Gras for Pancake Day any day.

In Britain and Ireland, we make and eat pancakes before Lent because it is a very good way of using up main staple ingredients: flour, fat, eggs and sugar before the onset of Lent. By pancakes, we typically mean crepe-style pancakes, but the UK has a wide variety of different pancakes which are all delicious. I suppose you could add the griddle/girdle cakes to the list too as they typically use the same ingredients, but they are a little hit-and-miss, in my opinion.

These days, of course, we don’t really fast for the run up to Easter, but I do like to follow traditions, at least when it comes to eating food (I happily ignore the abstinence bits). I remember as a child, my family always had pancakes for tea on Shrove Tuesday and I don’t think we ate them any other day, I remember thinking you weren’t allowed to eat them unless it was Pancake Day. I have made up for this as an adult, especially now I am living in America.

It is traditional to take part in a pancake race on Pancake Day, which involves running a course whilst flipping pancakes. I have very hazy memories of doing this when I was little, but I don’t think that I have seen nor heard anything about pancake racing in the last 20 years, maybe more. It’s a shame that these things are dying out, I know many think it’s a little naff or twee, but I love stuff like that. It enriches life. Next year I shall hold a pancake race I think.

Pancake racing in the chemistry lab of

Westfield College, London, 1963

Shrove Tuesday is really the final day of a two-day period known as Shrovetide which was part of an unofficial festival called Carnival that ran from Epiphany. It was essentially a period of time for a lot of gluttony and frivolity in order to prepare for the nightmarish 40 days of misery beginning on Ash Wednesday.


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Welsh Light Cakes

I love all types of pancakes, but the best ones come from Wales. This recipe from Jane Grigson for Welsh light cakes is excellent; they are made with soured cream, which gives them a wonderful tang. I have never found a pancake recipe to beat it, so I urge you to give it a go. If you make these with British soured cream, the resulting pancake batter is thin, giving them a frothy frilly texture. If you make them with American soured cream, the batter is much thicker, making them fluffy. Either way results in deliciousness.

Ingredients:

6 rounded tbsp. flour

2 rounded tbsp. sugar

3 tbsp. soured cream

a pinch of salt

3 eggs

½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda

1 rounded tbsp. cream of tartar

4 tbsp. water

¼ pint buttermilk or milk

fat or oil

butter

golden syrup

Beat together the flour, sugar, cream, salt and eggs. Next, mix together the bicarbonate and cream of tartar with the water and as it froths, tip it into the batter and stir it in. Add the milk or buttermilk to produce the desired consistency. Less for thick and fluffy, more for thin and lacy.

Heat the fat or oil on a suitable frying pan, swirl it around so the pan is coated and pour out any excess. Add a ladelful of batter and fry until golden brown, then carefully, quickly and confidently flip the pancake and cook the other side.

Stack the pancakes on top of one another and keep them warm in the oven, adding a pat or two of butter to each one.

Cut the stack into quarters and eat with golden syrup and more butter if you like.

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Custard

I love custard. There is very little that can beat it in my opinion, especially during the winter months. By custard I mean the pouring kind also known as crème anglaise by the French and by people who want to sound posh. I call it proper custard.

Custard is essentially eggs mixed with liquids, usually milk or cream, and then thickened using a low heat. The difficulty with custard is that they can be overcooked, you want the egg to thicken, but if you go too far the eggs either curdle or go rubbery. Custard should never be allowed to boil, the perfect temperature is around 80⁰C (180⁰F). If you want thicker custard, you need more eggs, not more heat.

I started looking into custard and quite quickly realised that the term custard is actually quite diverse, falling into two broad churches, so thought I’d give a quick overview before I add recipes.

First up are the cream custards, i.e. sauces that are made in a pan and stirred like the aforementioned crème anglaise that is poured on pies, crumbles and steam puddings and the like and is used cold in trifles. Egg yolks and cream or milk are used here, usually flavoured with vanilla and sometimes scented with orange flower water or rose water. Many people think that proper custard is made using custard powder, but they would be incorrect. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bowl of Bird’s, but it is not proper custard. In fact, it isn’t technically custard at all as it doesn’t contain any eggs.

Bird’s advertisement, 1896

There is also confectioner’s custard, crème pâtissière, or pastry cream, thick and sweet and used to make delicious vanilla slices or profiteroles. This custard is unusual because it is heated until it boils, stabilised with cornflour. Also in this category are the fruit curds that are used in tarts, puddings or just in sandwiches. Here, the liquid is provided by fruit juice, typically lemon, but orange, lime and passion fruit curds are made too.

Much more common are the set custards which are baked and usually protected from the dry heat of the oven with a water bath. Whole eggs are used, because the whites form a matrix of albumen creating a gel, setting the custard. The more egg white included, the firmer the custard; useful if you want to turn it out onto a dish. Set custards are a diverse group. There is the classic baked custard, possibly my favourite ever dessert, but also lemon or orange tarts which are similar to fruit curds. All of these can actually be served with or without a pastry crust. Custards cooked in this way were also called douchets. Those without crusts include such classics as bread and butter pudding, burnt cream (or, if you like, crème brûlée) and crème caramel.

Then there are the custards that you don’t think of as custards, like baked cheesecakes or savoury quiches. There are set savoury custards made with meat stock that were once a popular starter, served warm with crisp Melba toast. I have also found recipes for cheese custard and potato custard.

I expected the set custards to be the kind that appeared first, but the earliest recipe going under the name custard I could find is from 1596 and is certainly a cream custard:

To Make a Custard

Break your eggs into a bowl, and put your cream into another bowl. Strain your eggs into the cream. Put in saffron, cloves and mace, and a little cinnamon and ginger, and, if you will, some sugar and butter. Season it with salt. Melt your butter and stir it with a ladle a good while. Dub your custard with dates or currants.

I have to say, it sounds delicious. I shall cook it someday.


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By the seventeenth century onwards, set custards had become popular. This is because they were actually more difficult to make than the saucy ones. This is because it was rather problematic to effectively use water baths, plus it was difficult to check the ‘doneness’ of the custards with the old open fires. As ovens became more refined, this sort of delicate baking was easier to attain so up popped puddings like burnt cream (crème brûlée), though the country of origin is somewhat disputed, though the earliest I have come across is from 1692 and is French.

 In the seventeenth century better ovens created more delicate desserts

Elizabeth Raffald was the Queen of Custard, her 1769 book The Experienced English Housekeeper contained no less than 13 custard recipes both creamy and set, sweet and savoury. I am definitely going to try some of hers, but here’s one that I can’t see getting round to doing as it uses beest, which is an old term for a cow’s first milk produced after calving.

Take a pint of beest, set it over the fire with a little cinnamon or three bay leaves, let it be boiling hot. Then take it off and have ready mixed one spoonful of flour and a spoonful of thick cream, pour your hot beest upon it by degrees. Mix it exceedingly well together and sweeten it to your taste. You may either put it in crusts or cups or bake it.

What is interesting is that it bay leaves are used; it’s half way between a custard and a white sauce. I wonder of the beest tastes extra sweet as well as extra rich.

Custard recipes on the blog:

Proper custard

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“Out of the strong came forth sweetness…”

Can there be anything else that sums up British baking as much as Lyle’s Golden Syrup? If you are not British then you might not have heard of it and it is rather difficult to compare it to anything else. It looks like honey, but is viscous like a syrup such as corn syrup and yet it tastes like neither. The taste is more like butterscotch or caramel. It is also commonly called treacle. I absolutely love the stuff and manage to get hold of it here in Missouri to go on my porridge or pancakes of a morning. Oddly, it was never intended to be a commercial product, but thank goodness it became one. I remember as a child, my Dad always used to make us a treacle sandwich after our Sunday baths whilst we dried in front of the fire, soggy towels wrapped around us.

The story of golden syrup starts in 1881when the Scottish businessman Abram Lyle set up a sugar-refinery in London on the Thames with his five sons, processing sugar cane into sugar loaves. In those days, sugar was bought in large tapering mounds that had to be pounded or grated by hand at home. One byproduct of the process was a thick, gloopy syrup that with a little more refining through charcoal was very delicious. So he sold it to his workers from large barrels (Lyle was originally a cooper) and the syrup quickly was anointed with the nickname “Goldy”. Soon, Goldy became popular outside of his workforce and everyone wanted some. Just two years later, in 1883, Lyle’s Golden Syrup was born.

It is the tin the golden syrup that comes in that is the icon of both British cookery and Victorian entrepreneurship. Famously, on the front is a drawing of a dead lion peppered with swarming bees. Abram Lyle was a very pious man, and used the story of Samson in the book of Judges in Old Testament as the inspiration for the design. Quite a while before his fateful haircut, Samson got attacked by a lion which, through His power, Samson was able to rip open, killing it. Later he sees that bees have built a hive within its carcass and he takes some honey to his family and friends and they have a feast. He didn’t tell them about the lion and had them guess how he came about all the honey, presenting them with the poser:

And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

Judges 14:14


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Tins were first produced in 1884 and unbelievably have not changed at all in their design since. In fact, the recipe for the syrup has never changed either – making Lyle’s Golden Syrup the oldest brand in the world. “You’d be mad to mess with Goldie.” The only slight change is to the weights written on the tin: gone are the “1 lb” and “2 lb” marks, their replacement being the “454 g” and “907 g” marks, to keep in line with EU rulings. Another change occurred during the Second World War when, because of tin shortages, Lyle had to make the ‘tins’ from cardboard instead.

For over 125 years, it has been indispensable – it was even taken on Captain Scott’s fateful trek to the Antarctic. He wrote a letter to the Lyle family:

“Your Golden Syrup has been in daily use in this hut throughout the winter, and has been much appreciated by all members of the expedition.”

In 1950, the Lyle Company brought out a second iconic product: Lyle’s Black Treacle. It is very similar to molasses, though it is considerably thicker and stronger tasting. For any recipes that ask for black treacle, you can substitute molasses instead with no problems.

In the American classic The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, there is a recipe for Cornish Treacle Tart (which is actually made from Golden Syrup). In that recipe it asks for three-quarters of a cup of dark corn syrup. Do not on no account ever, ever, substitute golden syrup for corn syrup. The two are incomparable. So, I urge the American public: if you use a recipe that asks for Golden Syrup and you cannot get hold of any, don’t bother making it. Do you hear me? Good, then we understand each other. Amazon’s grocery section stocks it, so you can always get it online.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Black Treacle are part of so many wonderful recipes, I would be crazy listing them all, but here are what I reckon are the important or interesting ones. As I add recipes, I’ll add links. If you know of any that I have missed off, please let me know. Here goes:

Treacle tart

Flapjacks

Pancakes

Treacle sponge pudding

Mrs Beeton’s rolled treacle pudding

Golden syrup cake

Aunt Nelly’s pudding

Malt loaf

Jamaican ginger cake

Parkin

Ma Buttery’s crunch

Bonfire toffee

Christmas cake

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Filed under General, history, Nineteenth Century, Puddings, The Victorians

To make mince pies…

A few posts ago I gave the recipe for Mrs Beeton’s mincemeat, so I thought it only right to give a little instruction in making mince pies. I have to tell you that it is really worth the trouble of making your own mincemeat and mince pies – any bought ones are incomparable and always too sweet. The secret to an excellent mince pie is two-fold: you need homemade mincemeat and you need shortcrust pastry that is made with half butter and half lard. many people recoil in horror these days at thought of using lard, but it isn’t that bad really, at least not in small doses.

A recipe by Roger Twysden from the times of Charles I (c. 1640) says that larger Christmas pies were also made using a mixture made of meat, sugar, dried fruit and spices. He then says: “put them in coffins or pyes, and bake them”. The word coffin was used to describe the pastry-shell of pies. The reason they were called coffins is because, in earlier times, the pastry simply served as a casing intowhich the meat could be cooked; the pastry itself actually being inedible. They weren’t actually coffin-shaped, except for the Christmas Pie as Charles Dickens, writing in 1877, tells us: ‘ The coffin shape…is not now familiar to us. There is good reason to believe that, in old times, the form was symbolic of the manger at Bethlehem; and that Christmas Pie, whether mince or not, had religious as well as a gastronomic association with this particular season.’

For more typical mince pies, they are based upon Jane Grigson’s instructions from English Food, and they are excellent.

Roll out your pastry and use cutters to line…tart tins [I actually use muffin tins, cutting a large circle for the base, and a smaller one for the top]. Add…[a dessertspoon] of the mincemeat – not too much though the suet and sugar expands quite alot. Use some beaten egg to glue on lids of pastry, pinching as you go. Lastly brush the top with more egg, make a little cross in the top of the pie so steam can escape and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake at 220⁰C (425⁰F) for 15 to 20 minutes. Eat warm or cold. If you are feeling extra-Christmassy and if your stomach can take it, add a blob of brand or rum butter. Personally I go for a blob of lightly whipped cream or even some custard if any is to hand [and I concur!].


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Filed under Christmas, food, history, Nineteenth Century, Puddings, Recipes, Teatime, The Victorians

Christmas Cake

Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies – if you don’t like dried fruit you are in trouble at Christmastime!

The Christmas cake as we know it comes from two Christian feast days: Twelfth Night and Easter.

When families in the sixteenth century made their Christmas puddings for the big day, they would often use some of the mixture, with the addition of flour and eggs, to bake and eat for Eastertime. These were obviously rather rich families. It was liked so much that the rich fruitcake was made for Christmas too. We also dropped it from the Easter menu for some reason.

The addition of the marzipan and royal icing (see here for recipes) came much later when a cake was banned from Christmas. The last day of Christmas is Twelfth Night (the 5th of January) and it used to be traditional to make a Twelfth Night cake that contained almonds and was covered in marzipan. Oliver Crowell, the Lord Protector of England, and the other Puritans banned the feasting on that special day in the 1640s (he also banned mince pies as well) complaining that there was too much excess. Christmas Day remained a public holiday and some feasting was allowed, so people simply made their Christmas cake and covered that in marzipan instead, and so the Christmas cake was born.

Britain’s biggest ever party-pooper: Oliver Cromwell

You don’t have to cover it with the marzipan and royal icing though, in Yorkshire (my home county) it is popular to eat the Christmas cake with some nice cheese such as Wensleydale or Cheddar instead.

I love Christmas cake, so I thought I would give you the recipe I always use – it is adapted from Jane Grigson’s English Food (click here to see my other pet project) – and it has never failed on me. As I said a couple of posts ago, if you want to eat top-quality food at Christmas, you need to make your own, or spend a fortune at Harrod’s. Plus the cake is made well in advance – I usually make mine 6 weeks before Christmas so it can mature. Once you’ve cooked it, you only have to feed it with a little brandy to make it nice and moist.

This recipe is of course for an English-style Christmas cake; the Scottish, Welsh and Irish have their own versions, all in a similar vein, but with a few differences. I’ll blog about them at some point.

It makes one hefty 8 inch/20 cm cake, for a smaller cake, half the amounts and bake in a 6 inch / 15 cm tin for 2 1/2 hours.

Ingredients:

900 g mixed dried fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas)

125 g of whole roasted almonds (or hazelnuts or walnuts, or a mixture)

125 g chopped candied citrus peel

125 g rinsed glacé cherries quartered or left whole

300 g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp mixed spice

the grated rind of a lemon

250 g salted butter, softened

250 g soft dark brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs black treacle (or molasses)

4 eggs

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbs warmed milk

brandy

Preheat your oven to 140⁰C (275⁰F).

Begin by mixing all the dried fruit, almonds, candied peel and cherries in a large bowl. Next, sift in the flour, turning in and coating the fruit, then mix in the spices and fresh lemon rind.

Now cream the butter sugar in a separate bowl, then mix in the vanilla and black treacle. Beat in four eggs one by one until incorporated, and the mix in the fruit and the flour. For the final stage, dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the warmed milk, stir it in, and then add enough brandy to slacken the mixture slightly, so that it achieves a dropping consistency – you don’t want a dry cake, now do you?

Line an eight inch cake tin with greaseproof paper and pour the mixture in, hollowing the top a little to compensate for it rising in the oven.

Cover with a layer of brown paper to prevent scorching and bake for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Test it after 3 hours with a skewer. When done, leave to cool in its tin overnight. Wrap in greaseproof paper or foil and keep in an airtight container.

Ideally, the cake should sit for at least a month to mature, but 2 or 3 weeks is also fine. Whilst it sits, you need to feed it with a sprinkle of 2 or 3 tablespoons of brandy, turning the cake each time it is fed.

The cake is ready to eat when sufficiently fed and matured, however, you might want to add a layer of marzipan and royal icing.


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Filed under baking, cake, Christmas, food, history, Puddings, Recipes, Seventeenth Century, Teatime, Uncategorized

Jam Roly-Poly

That lady I fancied I was looking at her, though, as far as I could see, she had the figure and complexion of a roly-poly pudding – William Makepeace Thackeray, Notes of a journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, 1846

A great piece of modern-day vintage art by Martin Wiscombe 

If you ask most British people what their most favourite childhood dessert is, the jam roly-poly pudding would be one of the top rankers; it certainly is one of mine. A roly-poly is a pudding made from suet dough that is spread with jam and then rolled up. Originally, it was boiled in some muslin, but is these days steamed or baked. Other fillings can be done such as golden syrup, apples or prunes. I have never tried a sweet roly-poly with anything other than jam, and even then I will only use raspberry or blackcurant jam. There are also savoury roly-poly puddings. It was common to boil the roly-poly in a shirt sleeve, giving it the nick-name ‘dead man’s arm’. I’ve never actually made any kind of pudding by boiling it in muslin, never mind a shirt sleeve. Next time I do a pudding I will do it the old-fashioned way. After all this is a history blog, isn’t it? What makes a pudding a pudding? Click here.

This pud seems to have been invented during the first half of the nineteenth century, no mention of it occurs before 1800 as far as I see, apart from writings about a game called Roly-Poly.

ROLY-POLY. (1) A pudding made in round layers, with preserves or treacle between…

(2) A low, vulgar person.

(3) A game played with a certain number of pins and a ball…

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips, A dictionary of archaic and provincial words Vol II, 1847

Here is my recipe for jam roly-roly poly, the suet pastry shouldn’t be sweet; the sweetness should come from the jam and custard (with which it is always served). You can swap any preserve for the jam if you like, I imagine lemon curd would be good. It feeds at least six people and is pretty good value for money – these sorts of wintertime desserts are supposed to warm and fill you. At some point I’ll give the apple and prune one a try and put the recipes for them on here too.


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Ingredients:

400 g self-raising flour

good pinch of salt

200 g suet

160 – 180 ml milk or water

your favourite jam

custard, to serve

First, make the suet pastry. If you haven’t made pastry before, don’t worry, suet pastry is the easiest of all the pastries to make. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and suet together. Using a butter knife, mix in a little liquid. When incorporated, add a little more. Keep adding and incorporating until a dough begins to form, then start using your hands to form a soft, but not sticky dough.

If you add too much liquid add a bit more flour. Now roll out the dough into an oblong as long as your steaming receptacle (I use a large roasting tin with trivet) and spread it with jam.

Make sure you leave a space of a centimetre at each side and a space of 2 cm along the top length of the rolled out pastry.

Moisten the edges all the way round with a little water and fold over the first part of the dough.

Carefully roll it up, making sure that the jam doesn’t get pushed to the edge, spilling out. Fold the ends under to prevent the jam from escaping.

Sit the rolled pudding on some greaseproof paper and fold the edge up in a pleat, tucking the edges under, making sure there is room for the pudding to expand.

Next, sit that on some foil, and again secure by folding a pleat and scrunching the edges.

Place the pudding on a trivet in a roasting tin. Cover the whole thing with foil, making it nice and tight around the edges – you don’t want steam (and therefore heat) to escape. Leave one corner unsecured so you can pour a kettle of hot water inside, then secure the final edge. Place over one or two hobs and get the water up to a good boil. After around 20 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low and leave the pudding to steam for 90 minutes.

When the time is up CAREFULLY remove the foil – don’t get yourself a steam burn at this point! Remove the pudding and let it stand for 5 or 10 minutes before you unwrap, slice and serve it.

If you like, especially if the pudding hasn’t browned very much in the steaming process, just before the end of the cooking time, preheat the oven to 200⁰C (400⁰F). Take the roly poly out of its little tin prison, place on a baking tray and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up.

Serve hot with custard poured over it.

Hey Presto!

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What is a pudding?

If you are British and trying to explain the word to a non-Brit the answer is surprisingly difficult. In America, it is a simple answer: a dessert. We all use pudding to mean dessert or afters, but then there are types of dessert that are true puddings. The true puddings are those that are boiled or steamed. Christmas puddings, suet puddings and sponge puddings fit into this category. In fact, anything boiled or steamed in a basin, cloth or handy piece of intestinal tract is a pudding: black pudding, white pudding, steak & kidney pudding, pease pudding and haggis are the ones that immediately spring to mind. So far, so good. However, there is the odd miscellaneous pudding: Yorkshire puddings aren’t boiled, they are baked beneath the roast beef in the oven.

‘Mixing the Pudding’

So, a pudding is any dessert, or the name for the dessert course. Aside from the proper puddings mentioned above, there are some that go under a false name: bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee pudding and Eve’s pudding are examples of this. Why are these puddings and, say, an apple pie not called an apple pie pudding?

I only realised just how complicated a question ‘What is a pudding?’ is when talking about food with my American friends. All these diverse puddings (whether by my own classification true ones or not) must have some common ancestor. What was the first pudding? To answer this question I needed to hit the historical cookbooks.

I had mentioned in a previous post on the subject of dumplings a little while back that the pudding is a descendant of the dumpling. This was the claim made in 1726 by Thomas Gordon and Henry Carey. They said that dumplings became larger and larger that they had to tied up in a cloth, thus creating the pudding. However, I am not too sure about this claim. Elizabeth Raffald gives plenty of recipes for dumplings in her book from 1769 that are large and therefore require a cloth, but she calls them dumplings (a recipe for sparrow dumplings is in this post). Was the word pudding around a long time before this?

Mr Samuel Whiskers  and Anna-Marie stitch Tom Kitten up a treat in

The Roly-Poly by Beatrix Potter


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Going back almost 200 years I have found recipes for puddings that take two distinct forms. In The Good Housewife’s Jewel from 1596, Thomas Dalton gives recipes for familiar puddings like black pudding and haggis, but he also gives recipes for puddings that are baked, such as the ‘pudding of a calves chaldron’ or the ‘pudding in a pot’. He also makes reference to making puddings in the bellies of animals such as coney and carp. It is interesting that none of the puddings are desserts, though they do contain many spices such as cloves, mace and ginger as well as dried fruits such as currants, plus sugar. They must have been very expensive to make in the late sixteenth century – to give some perspective in 1596 Elizabeth I was on the throne and the first production of The Merchant of Venice was put on at The Globe theatre. Back in the day there was no such thing as a first course, a second course and so on, at least how we know them; everything was just sent out together. So having sweetly spiced meat puddings would not have seemed strange. We don’t eat food like that anymore, except for the single survivor of this branch of the puddings – the Christmas Pudding.

[See this future post, however, for a correction]

The earliest description of the word pudding I could find is in the Bibliotheca scholastica from 1589. There is no real definition here, but examples of puddings and things associated with them. They all seem to be the kind made by stuffing intestines with various fillings. There are some interesting terms though: there was a pudding only eaten at funerals called a murtatum that was flavoured with myrtle berries, and a pudding-maker was called a silicernium.

In fact the earliest puddings do seem to be essentially sausages, so it seems our friends Messrs Gordon and Carey were probably incorrect. Though they were right about one thing: the pudding is certainly a British invention that was developed from the sausages the Romans brought into the country in the first century BC. The word pudding comes from the Latin word botellus, which means literally sausage; the French word boudin has the same root.

So there you go, a pudding was originally a boiled sausage, but selection throughout time has evolved them radially into a huge range of foods, both sweet and savoury and as far as I know, there isn’t a single one I don’t like. Usually I try to give an exhaustive list of dishes, but the list would probably go on for ever if I use the word pudding in its broad sense; therefore I’m just going to list the kind that I consider the true puddings, i.e. the boiled or steamed ones. Hopefully I’ll provide the histories and recipes for them. Of course, if I have missed any puddings out please let me know. I’m sure there are some glaringly obvious ones that I have forgotten. Okay, here we go:

Those boiled in intestines:

Black pudding

White pudding

Haggis

Those that are steamed in a basin and are savoury:

Steak, kidney and oyster pudding

Minted lamb pudding

Pork and apple pudding

Leek and onion pudding

Mutton, apple and raisin roly-poly

Mussel and leek roly-poly

Pease pudding

Those that are steamed in a basin and are for afters:

Christmas pudding

Jam roly-poly

Spotted Dick

Sussex pond pudding

Steamed sponge pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

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Eton Mess

I did a bit of a dinner party recently for my work chums and for dessert I made an Eton Mess.

I always thought that the Eton Mess was ‘invented’ around the 1920s when, during the annual cricket match at Eton College, a rather giddy labrador sat upon the picnic basket containing the strawberry pavlova, squashing it. The plum-mouthed boys didn’t care a single jot that their dessert had been essentially ruined (and probably covered in dog hair) and ate the thing anyway, preferring it to the pavlova. And so the Eton Mess was born and served up as a summertime pudding ever after.

It turns out this story is total nonsense, and was just invented by the cook during the 1930s. I didn’t even have the decade right.

Eton College school yard and chapel

Although  I know the Mess as a delicious mixture of strawberries, broken meringue and cream, it was also made with bananas too.

Here’s my recipe for Eton Mess, hopefully the Eton Old Boy and chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would approve of this recipe. Although he says that they didn’t serve it during his time at the college. Ah well, you can’t have everything.


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This pudding was for 10 people, so you can adjust the quantities accordingly if you want to make it for fewer folk. Or just make loads and eat it all to yourself like the fat little piggy you are!

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

10 oz of caster sugar

pinch of salt

2 lbs of strawberries, hulled and chopped

1 tbs of vanilla sugar

2 pints of double (heavy) cream

strawberry jam

First off all you need to make your meringues – you can of course buy some, but they are quite easy to make. Start by whisking the egg whites with the salt until frothy, then add the sugar bit-by-bit with you electric mixer on a medium setting. The mixture will become very thick and glossy-looking.

Preheat the oven to 100°C (200°F). Line some baking trays with some lightly-oiled wax paper and spoon the mixture onto it to make nests. Use a serving spoon so that each nest is the same size and use the back of the spoon to make the nest shape.

I like to do them this way, as they look nice and home-made. However, if you are handy with a piping bag, then pipe out the mixture. Place trays in the oven and keep the door slightly ajar using the handle of a wooden spoon. The nests need to stay in the oven for around 3 1/2 hours so that they harden. Don’t worry if you leave them in longer, as they can’t really burn at this low temperature.

Next, place the strawberries in a bowl with the vanilla sugar (see here and here for two recipes if you want to make your own) and allow them to macerate together at room temperature for at least twenty minutes. Now whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Now all that needs to be done is create the mess. Crush the meringue nests and stir them into the cream. Fold in the strawberries and their juice.

Lastly, stir through some strawberry jam or a further sweet strawberry hit. Pile into bowls and serve straight away before the meringue gets the chance to go soggy.

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Filed under food, history, Puddings, Recipes, Twentieth Century