My version of Jane’s Poached Pears, that ended up in the Telegraph (pic: Greg Funnell)
I have come to a true milestone in the project because the behemoth that is the Puddingschapter is now done and dusted. It was a beast, weighing in at a stonking 66 recipes. It was a very diverse chapter with a vast array of desserts and techniques, many of them new to me. Unlike other large chapters (e.g. Teatime) it wasn’t really possible to sub-categorise and make Puddingseasier for me to, er, swallow. Jane tends to mix the recipes up, but such is the way of the English pudding. Jane says that they had a ‘great reputation’ since at least the seventeenth century. She found this great quote from the protestant exile François Maximilien Misson:
They bake them in an oven, they boil them with meat, they make them fifty-several ways: blessed be he that invented pudding, for it is manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people.
#173 Summer Pudding
Of course, back then the word pudding had a more specific meaning and meals were not split into separate courses; sweet and savoury dishes were served at once, often in the same dish, beef and plum pudding (similar to our Christmas Pudding, but less showy) being one example.
For those who are not British, the word ‘pudding’ causes some confusion because it has several meanings, in the context of this post, and therefore the book, it simply means dessert (aka afters or sweet, depending on where you from). Readers of the blog will know that many puddings are not sweet at all (e.g. #200 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pudding, #189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly, #181 Yorkshire Pudding), some desserts have pudding in their name, but others don’t. Usually the steamed puddings have ‘pudding’ in their name (e.g. #90 Sussex Pond Pudding), but not always. It’s very confusing! I thought to iron out some of this confusion I would give a very potted history of pudding:
In mediaeval times, and probably much earlier, puddings were animal intestines filled with a mixture – these are the true puddings – #34 Black Puddingis one of the few survivors, but sausages also belong to this group too, though rarely boiled in England these days, they are in other countries such as Germany. Surprisingly #27 Rice Pudding, bread and butter pudding and #181 Yorkshire Pudding all started life as these true puddings. It did mean, however, that puddings could only be made when there were fresh intestines around. Eventually, the pudding cloth was invented, the pudding could now be swaddled in material and boiled, producing a cannonball-shaped pudding, Dickensian Christmas Puddings are an example of this. Other favourites like Spotted Dickcould be cooked like this and #374 Pease Pudding got an upgrade from potage! Roly-poly puddings could be made by wrapping them in shirt sleeves, giving them the moniker ‘dead man’s arm’.
A page of Mrs Beeton’s cold desserts
Finally, the pudding basin was invented meaning that suet pastry and sponge cake mixtures could be used with great success. As time went on, puddings got lighter, more spiced and more sweet as ingredients became cheaper, and a switch from French to Russian service (single dishes and courses) meant they were served at the end of a meal. Hence, we call dessert the pudding course, explaining why all desserts have ended up being called pudding.
The British have great enthusiasm for their puddings, especially the old-fashioned ones many ate as children, often called ‘nursery puddings’, #27 Baked Rice Pudding, Spotted Dickand other steamed puddings fall into this category. Of course, a love of puddings means that one’s waistline is somewhat affected. We know that we are eating too much sugar, fat and flour and we need to reduce our intake, but how can we when they are so irresistible!? It’s the main reason why I go to the gym; I exercise five or six times a week, and try to watch what I eat, just so I can eat what ever I like on Saturday and Sunday (I’m revisiting #167 Brown Bread Ice Cream this weekend).
#321 Sweetmeat Cake
The best desserts says Jane are ‘simple and natural’, and stinginess should be frowned upon. It is this piece of advice that has really stuck with me. Just don’t cut corners, it’s simple really; if you do, it’s slippery slope to cheap margarines instead of butter and lard, or substituting egg yolks for cornflour (she hated Bird’s custard powder!). Jane also showed me how to improve things with little additions, suggesting adding a chopped quince to your (#96) Apple Pie, or a teaspoon of chopped mint to soft fruits such as the blaeberry.
The Puddingschapter is broad and Jane shows us both familiar and new recipes, as well favourites from her own childhood and historical recipes. I became so in love with the British pudding that I started up my own Pud Club – a seven-course dessert only meal. There are many top scoring recipes too – five score full marks and ten score 9 or 9.5/10. There are several recipes from the book that are now part of my own canon – the most notorious being the #309 Sticky Toffee Pudding, goodness knows how many of those I have made in my lifetime! Others to point out are #384 Foolproof Flaky Pastry, #300 Trifle and #90 Sussex Pond Pudding.
#361 Poor Knight’s Pudding with Raspberries
Jane’s #275 Pears in Syrup recipe is good – and easy to remember – that I used it in the second round of the Fabulous Foodie 2015 competition in the Telegraph, the judges were suitably impressed and off I went to the final!
There were recipes I did not enjoy too, of course, #153 Mocha Cake was a wan wartime tiramisu rip-off, and I managed to achieve my only food induced hangover from eating too much of the extremely very boozy #125 Whim-Wham, not a badge I wear with pride.
It is this chapter that has inspired me most to get into the kitchen, and I have managed to pass on my enthusiasm to my brother and his family who have bought a copy of English Food just for the recipes in this chapter!
An apple tart made with #384 Foolproof Flaky Pastry
It’s fair to say that the number British desserts is vast, and Jane couldn’t include all of them, but I think she left out some real classics – there is no recipe for custardfor example, nor is there a bread and butter pudding, jam roly-poly, spotted Dick, blancmange, treacle tartor Eton mess. She obviously didn’t like rhubarb, because it isn’t mentioned once. There are some very good historical puds too that were overlooked such as posset, cabinet pudding or flummery. Readers of the other blog will know that I am trying fill in these gaps myself.
Making #402 Blaeberry Pie
So, as mentioned, the chapter had 66 recipes, even though there were many excellent puddings, it actually came out with a very average mean score of 7.2 (it faired better non-parametrically with a median and mode of 7.5 and 8 respectively). Of course, you can judge for yourself because all the recipes as they appear in the book are listed below with links to the post and their scores. If you cook one – or have cooked one – please let me know!
#88 Richard Boston’s Guinness Christmas Pudding Part 1 & Part 2 – 3.5/10
#74 Vanilla Ice with Plum Sauce and Lace Biscuits 9/10