#439 Bavarois of Smoked Salmon

‘Why’, you may think ‘has this relatively straight-forward recipe taken me so long to get around to?’ The answer is very simple and is two-fold: it doesn’t sound that nice and it’s quite expensive to make. However, in this time of lockdown, I realised that I could buy all the ingredients for it quite easily from a local fishmonger whilst out doing my appropriately socially-distanced weekly shop, and so as a bit of procrastination I made it. The recipe is essentially smoked salmon with crème fraiche and salmon roe. It sounds very 1970s, though it may not be as old as that.

The Walnut Tree Inn (thewalnuttreeinn.com)

The recipe comes from Franco Taruschino who, at the time English Food was published, was chef at the Walnut Tree Inn at Llandewi Skirrid near Abergavenny. The place is described by Jane as “one of the nicest places to visit in the British Isles.” Today the kitchen’s head chef is the Michelin-starred Shaun Hill, another favourite of Jane’s who appears several times in English Food as well as her other tomes. In fact, he was one of the guests on the episode of the BBC’s Food Programme about Jane Grigson that Yours Truly also appeared in. Link to part 1 here and part 2 here.

This recipe serves ten, but it can be easily adapted to serve more or fewer people, which is lucky for me in these days of lockdown, as there was obviously no way I was going to be serving that many. The recipe below uses 1 ½ pounds of smoked salmon for 10 servings. I could only get hold of small packs and managed to get a third of what was required, enough to line 4 small ramekins. Anyway, multiply up or divide down as appropriate for you:

Swirl out your ramekins with water and line them with strips of salmon, making sure there is a little overhanging. Take any trimmings and place in a blender with 8 fluid ounces of crème fraiche (or half and half double and soured cream). Season with ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and the juice of half a lemon. This stage was a disaster for me – because shelves were pretty bare, I could only get low fat crème fraiche (a very First World problem, I do realise) and so the whole thing was reduce to a thin liquid; blending had done away with the artificial structure given to it in the form of pectin or whatever. I attempted to remedy this by adding a couple of leaves of gelatine dissolved in a little boiling water to it, which I just got away with.

Fold through this mixture, 8 teaspoons of salted red salmon roe (or indeed any roe). Spoon into the lined ramekins, lay over the overhanging salmon, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to set (in my case overnight because of the gelatine).

Meanwhile, get on with the tomato sauce. Finely chop enough shallot to yield 2 tablespoons and fry it until golden in a little olive oil, then add 2 pounds of tomatoes that have been skinned, seeded and chopped*. Fry until the tomatoes turn pulpy, then season with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Pass through a sieve to make a smooth sauce – you can use a hand blender first if your tomatoes do not seem pulpy enough to pass through one. Check for seasoning, remembering it will need to be slightly over-seasoned as it is served chilled. Place this in the fridge to cool down.

When ready to serve, place a couple of tablespoons of the sauce in centre of ten serving plates and gingerly release each bavarois from its ramekin onto your hand. A small palette knife came in very handy here, and it wasn’t too tricky: just don’t get hasty and shake the ramekin unless you want disaster to strike; the best things (and sometimes the worst, it seems) come to those who wait.

Place a bavarois in the centre of each circle, and scatter over some finely chopped chives to garnish.

#439 Bavarois of Smoked Salmon. This recipe seems so outdated now. I suppose it is no surprise that it is the contemporary recipes that have aged more quickly that the traditional or historical ones. Anyway, this was less horrible as expected and it all got eaten, but for the poor return it was a lot of faff and expense. Give me some good cold-smoked fish, some butter, brown bread and a wedge of lemon or blob of horseradish sauce any day of the week. Not one of her worst, but not good enough to even be average either: 3/10

*to do this, cut a cross on the underside of each tomato, place in a jug or bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave for 2 minutes, then fish out with a slotted spoon. The skin will come away from the flesh relatively easy if you use a good paring knife to aid you. Once removed, they can be halved and the watery centres and seeds scooped out and discarded (or popped into the vegetable trimmings stock bag in the freezer).

#438 Plain Roast Primitive Lamb with Gravy

This is a recipe I have been waiting over a decade to make, but patience is a virtue and I have finally been able to cook it; after years of searching farmers’ markets and emailing farmers’ websites, I finally found someone who farms primitive sheep breeds. Here’s what happened.

If you don’t follow the other blog, you might not realise that I have been making a podcast about Lent and for the final episode, I wanted to cook some lamb as it would be in keeping with the Lenten theme. So, I got it into my head that it had to be from a primitive breed of sheep. After a surprisingly short internet search and some inquiring emails, I found Helen Arthan, a farmer of rare breed sheep and cattle, and she kindly agreed to take part in the podcast, so off I went to her beautiful farm in the Cheshire countryside.

There are several primitive breeds of sheep still being farmed, and Helen kept one of the oldest – Hebridean sheep – which descend from Viking stocks. Rather than tell you about these beautiful and characterful animals here, I am going to send you in the direction of the podcast episode to hear about it yourself instead; so here it is:

There are two recipes that use primitive lamb in English Food, there’s this one where it is roasted and served with a simple gravy and the other is the same but served with a blueberry sauce. I had my heart set on the latter, but then thought I should cook it plain and simple the first time, so I could really appreciate the flavour of the meat. Luckily for me, Helen gave me two legs, so I shall be posting the other recipe soon. It’s just like buses isn’t it? You wait ten years for primitive lamb legs and then two come along at once.

I cooked up the hogget for my friends Kate and Pete who both helped me out in the first two episodes of the podcast and are long-time Grigson blog supporters. It seemed only right I should make it for them.

In Jane’s recipe, she roasts two lamb legs together because they are rather small. However, Helen gave me hogget – a slightly older and therefore larger animal – which is similar in weight to a regular lamb leg. In fact, one stocky hogget leg weighed more than Jane said two lamb legs would weigh.

I’m going to give two methods for cooking the meat: the lamb version that Jane gives for roasting two small lamb gigots (legs) weighing a total of 6 or 7 pounds, and another that I use for one large leg that is more typical in size, like you would get from a regular butcher.

Before you start, set the oven to 230°C and prepare the leg or legs – this stage is the same for either method.  Take a clove of garlic for each leg, peel and slice as thinly as possible. Then, using a small pointed knife, stab the legs, placing a slice of garlic in each one. If garlic isn’t your thing, you could just sit a sprig of rosemary on it. There’s nothing stopping you doing both of course.

Rub in plenty of coarse sea salt and black pepper, sit the leg or legs on a trivet sat inside a roasting pan. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before roasting.

If cooking two small legs: place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C and cook for 20 minutes more. Remove the lamb legs and check they are done by inserting a skewer or a temperature probe. The temperature should feel warm, around 55°C. Allow the meat to rest.

If cooking one larger hogget (or regular lamb) leg: weigh it before placing in the oven and calculate the cooking time. 12 minutes per pound/450 grams is what you want if you want rare meat, and 14 minutes per pound/450 grams if you want just pink, medium meat. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160°C for the remainder of the cooking time. Remove the meat and allow to rest.

To make the gravy: skim off the fat from the pan juices; you don’t have to be too fastidious. Put the pan over a hob and scatter two teaspoons of plain flour or cornflour and stir in using a wooden spoon or small whisk, making sure you get the crusty bits from the bottom. You don’t have to add the flour if you prefer a thin gravy. Pour in a glass of wine – either red or white wine go well with lamb. If using red add half a pint of lamb (or beef) stock, if using white add the same amount of chicken stock. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes before straining into a gravy jug.

Serve the lamb with #306 Mint Sauce or #422 Peppered Redcurrant Jelly, says Jane. I decided on the former (because her recipe is excellent) as well as some roast potatoes, roast parsnips and some purple sprouting broccoli. For more guidance as to what is traditionally served with roast lamb, follow this link.

#438 Plain Roast Primitive Lamb with Gravy. This was sublime…the meat was so tender and well-flavoured, though not strong in lamby flavour as one might expect. The meat was so tender and was delicately flavoured from the garlic. I’m very glad I decided to cook it with just a gravy made from its own juices and some stock – I really got to appreciate the hogget without any blueberry distraction. As per usual when a dish is this good and I’m with friends, I completely forget to take decent photographs! I will make sure I do when I make the blueberry version. I cannot recommend highly enough, if you ever see some, buy it. 10/10.

4.3: Shellfish – Completed!

I have now completed the Shellfish section of the Fish chapter of English Food. I should have completed it ages ago but I really dragged out the last two recipes: I was too lazy to make the choux pastry and hollandaise sauce required, both being kitchen nemeses of mine. As it turned out, they were both pretty straight-forward and there were no real disasters.

#437 Michael Ryan’s Warm Scallop Salad

The section contained thirteen recipes and contained recipes for oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters, prawns, brown shrimp and scallops, there was also a recipe that explained how to boil live shellfish. This may not seem very comprehensive, but there are many other recipes in the book that use shellfish, #200 Steak, Kidney & Oyster Pudding and #235 Lisanne’s Chicken with Mussels being just two examples. That said, I do notice some very English shellfish have been overlooked altogether: not a single recipe using cockles, whelks, winkles or razor shells (“spoots”). I suspect she didn’t like them.

A freshly-boiled lobster

The potential issue for me was getting hold of oysters in abundance as they crop up a lot in the book. They are expensive so they really hit you in the wallet, plus they always come in the shell so they are also a potential hit to your fingers and hands when trying to shuck them. Luckily for me, I lived in the USA for a couple of years (2010-2012) where it was fairly standard to be able to buy tubs of pre-shucked oysters at a fraction of the UK price. Where you found oysters, you usually found live lobsters too, meaning I could try my hand at boiling them live – a stressful experience.

#392 Stewed Scallops with Orange Sauce

I also learned a few new skills: shucking and boiling I’ve already mentioned, but I also had to extract the brown and white meat from crabs, something that takes a little practise, but I reckon I’m pretty good at it now.

Jane loved fish and wrote a very big book of fish recipes and it seems she is a fan of almost everything fishy. She describes mussels as ‘a luxurious bargain’ and particularly liked scallops (four of the thirteen recipes are scallop based), complaining about how many of them went straight to Spain. In fact, she was depressed with the apathy we hold as a country towards shellfish in general. Remember though, that English Food came out in the 1970s, with revisions in the 1980s and 1990s, and I believe a lot had changed since then. There are some great fishmongers near to me, and whilst they may not have big tanks of live lobster, they certainly have a great selection. That said, they are unfortunately not the norm on every high street.

The chapter scored well with a mean score of 7.54/10 making it the third most popular so far. There was only one recipe that scored top marks – #378 Elizabeth David’s Potted Crab, which ended up as the fish course in my first pop-up restaurant back in the day. The sublime #281 Scallops with White Wine & Jerusalem Artichokes narrowly missed out, scoring 9.5/10.

A demolished #378 Elizabeth David’s Potted Crab

The good average was helped by the fact that there were no bad recipes, just a couple of mediocre ones: there was the bizarre #189 Mussel & Leek Rolypoly (one I should revisit as I don’t think I had the skills or the palate to appreciate it properly at the time) and #392 Stewed Scallops with Orange Sauce, an odd dish I don’t think I interpreted very well.

As usual when I sum up  a section scroll down to find links to all of the recipes in the Shellfish section of the book with their scores. As mentioned, there were thirteen recipes and the section scored a mean of 7.54/10. For those who like their data, the median and mode were 7.5/10. If you cooked one of the recipes in the past, or have cooked one in the past, please let me know in the comments section below.

#271 How to Boil Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns and Shrimps 8.5/10

#268 Potted Shrimps 7.5/10

#378 Elizabeth David’s Potted Crab 10/10

#140 Crab Tart 7/10

#192 Elizabeth David’s Prawn Paste 7.5/10

#91 Spicy Prawns 7/10

#435 Shellfish Puffs 8.5/10

#189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly 4.5/10

#132 Oyster Loaves 7.5/10

#437 Michael Ryan’s Warm Scallop Salad 7.5/10

#392 Stewed Scallops with Orange Sauce 4.5/10

#281 Scallops with White Wine and Jerusalem Artichokes 9.5/10

#421 Scallops with Cheese Sauce 8/10

#437 Michael Ryan’s Warm Scallop Salad

Hello folks, sorry for being away for so long; I really did not mean to be absent all this time. I shall be posting a little more regularly over the next few months – I promise!

This is the last of five scallop dishes and the final recipe in the Shellfish section of the book. The recipe comes from Irish chef Michael Ryan, who at the time of writing the book in the 1970s, was head chef at Arbetus Lodge, Cork, Ireland. Ryan was head chef there right up to the 1990s. He is still going strong as head chef at renowned restaurant The Provenance in Victoria, Australia.

Chef Michael Ryan (traveller.com)

I don’t know why I’ve left this recipe so long because it’s very quick and simple to make: just grilled scallops and a simple sauce. It puts excellent use to the delicious corals of the scallops too – a part so often discarded – by flavouring the hollandaise sauce with them.

For four people, you will need eight scallops. Remove their corals and cut away any sinewy parts, then slice the scallops as thinly as you can so that you end up with lots of discs.

Mix two tablespoons of olive oil with a teaspoon each of white wine and white wine vinegar. Season very well with salt and pepper and brush over four scallop shells; try to get the flat side of the shells, but don’t worry if you can only get hold of the curved side. If you can’t find any shells, you can brush a circle of the oil mixture over a small heatproof plate.

Arrange the discs in overlapping circles, not unlike the potato slices on the top of a Lancashire Hotpot. I had some of the oil mixture left so I brushed the top of the scallops with it. Set aside (or pop in the fridge for later). Turn your grill to its maximum setting and when very hot, slip the scallops underneath and cook for just two or three minutes – just time for them to go a little opaque.

As you wait for the grill to heat, make the sauce: have ready a quarter of a pint of hollandaise sauce (Jane’s method for making it can be found on this post here) and push the corals through a sieve into it. If making a hollandaise sauce seems a little daunting, you can buy it in jars these days. Stir the corals through and that is it! Very simple.

Arrange some salad leaves – I used rocket – on four serving dishes, place the scallops on top, and spoon the sauce into little ramekins. Eat immediately.

#437 Michael Ryan’s Warm Scallop Salad. In enjoyed this very much. Very simple to make and very few ingredients, ensuring the sweetness of the shellfish comes through first and foremost. Including the usually maligned corals in the hollandaise sauce is a genius idea – it looks so appetising and tastes surprisingly fresh and sweet for a butter sauce. The only changes I would make would be with the presentation: I would partially cover the scallops with the hollandaise and grill it again briefly. A very good dish though. 8/10

The Premise

A final post about the blog before I attempt to cook the remainder of the recipes in English Food

I started writing the blog for two reasons:

  1. to practise writing – I had just started a PhD so I knew I’d have a lot of writing to do so I needed some practise;
  2. to have fun and give a bit of focus to my hobby of cooking with a “little” project looking at a country’s cuisine I didn’t know that much about – my own!

And so the project of Neil Cooks Grigson began.

…and I’m glad that I did it because being the stubborn man I am, I’m still going, though the posts are rather less frequent than they used to be, though I still post more often on my other blog British Food: A History. I’ll tell you what though, thank goodness I am stubborn because cooking and writing about British food is what I do for a living, and even had a restaurant for a couple of years. One of the best things about the blog is that I get to appear on television and radio now and again. I wonder if Jane would have approved?

If I was going to cook all 450 recipes (I didn’t realise there was that many when I started the project), I had to be authentic and stick to the ingredients used and methods laid out by Jane, but I didn’t want to over- or under-cook anything or knowingly waste food. In some cases, I was totally in her hands – I’d never cooked or eaten things like freshwater eel, calves’ brains or roast woodcock.

I came up with five simple rules:

  1. I must cook each of the 450 recipes (by my count) contained within English Food (see my previous post on the layout of the book). This has forced me to eat things I never would have tried – recipes for #409 Calves’ Brains in Black Butter, Sweetbread Kebabs (#317 ‘Skuets’) and #418 Roast Snipe might get a cursory glance as you flick through a classic cookbook, but one never thinks of actually making them! I had to get over my squeamishness and give them a go. Now, these ingredients are now some of my favourites to both cook and eat, in fact it seems that there is no ingredient I dislike. I have Jane to thank for this gung-ho approach to food I have acquired.
  2. I must cook/prepare the recipe as described within reason – if something is obviously ready well within the cooking time, or so underdone that it’s a health hazard, I’m allowed to veer from Grigson’s methods. I didn’t want to waste food, and there’s also the fact that some ingredients, items of equipment and tastes have changed since the book was first published. Cooking times have intrinsically changed; there were no fan-assisted oven in the 1970s, so baking times and temperatures both needed to be changed.
  3. Every ingredient listed must be used. The only exception to this being ‘optional’ ingredients. This is an issue for recipes for things like roast ptarmigan and baked roach – there’s no way round it, I have to find the ingredients, even if I have to travel to another country where it would be more sustainably responsible; ptarmigan are fairly common in Canada and Iceland for example. One example of this is #432 White Devil Sauce which asked for one ingredient that was impossible to find: Harvey’s Sauce. It had gone out of production years ago, so I thought I was going to have to make my own, which after looking in my Victorian cookbooks, I found out takes 2 years to make and mature! Naturally I put it off for years, it would be a huge effort to produce the single teaspoon required in the recipe. I decided to do it, so thought I’d research it a bit more, only to find that it was still in production! Due to the company changing hands over the years, and went under a different name, and was now sold as Maggi Traditional Worcestershire Sauce and is very popular in the Caribbean.
  4. Every recipe will be marked out of ten. There have been some sublime recipes made for the blog, and some real shockers. Whenever I complete a chapter, I write up a little review of it with all the scores given and see how it compares to the other ones. There have been several tens: #213 Boned Roast Sirloin, #300 Trifle and #415 Cumberland Sausage all received top marks, whilst the disappointing, terribly bland or disgusting ones get ones and twos: I shudder when I think of #313 Jellied Eel Mousse, #170 English Salad Sauce and – worst of all – the unassumingly named – #183 Scotch Rarebit. Take a look at my chapter reviews for more detailed high and lowlights and details of every score, my previous post is probably the best way to access them.
  5. Have fun and spent time with my friends more, even if they did roll their eyes every time I suggest another Grigson dinner.

The Layout of the Book

For those of you unfamiliar with the book English Food by Jane Grigson, I thought I’d put up a little post about the layout of the book.

My copy is a third edition published in 1992. Jane passed away during the edit of this final version, leaving her daughter Sophie – an acclaimed food writer in her own right – to complete it. The first edition was published in 1974.

The book has a total of 450 recipes and as I write this, the last recipe to be cooked was #436 Worcestershire Pear Soufflé, which means that I have only 14 recipes to go. Scroll down and you’ll find a breakdown of the book.

The 450 recipes are split into eight chapters and some of those are split further into sub-chapters, sometimes by me, sometimes by Jane. As you’llsee, most of the chapters have been completed now. Click on the hyperlinks to see all the recipes and chapter reviews for different sections of the book. There is a phenomenal amount of ground covered, so please have a good nosey. You’ll notice how my writing gets worse as you scroll down the lists and travel backwards in time!

Jane and Sophie Grigson (photo Martyn Goddard/REX)

There are very few low-hanging fruits left with most of the remaining recipes either too expensive or morally dubious to cook. There are recipes for endangered elvers and at-risk ptarmigan for example, as well as a massive pie filled with a mortgage’s worth of game meat. Some have ingredients are simply too hard to get hold of because no one eats them anymore such as cold-smoked chickens and freshwater roach.

If you don’t own the book, I have written versions of the recipes along with little introductions about the history of the dishes, or the ingredients. What I haven’t done is simply copy out sections of the book, I have written most things in my own words, so if you don’t know about Jane and her beautiful writing, please purchase a copy – it is still in print and published by Penguin Books.

Hopefully the blog will inspire you to cook some of the classic and often unusual recipes contained within, but most of all I hope it will inspire you to find out more about Jane.

Chapter 1: Soups – 24 recipes – completed!

Chapter 2: Egg & Cheese Dishes – 24 recipes – completed!

Chapter 3: Vegetables – 39 recipes – completed!

Chapter 4: Fish – 61 recipes
4.1: Saltwater Fish – 16 recipes
4.2: Freshwater Fish – 13 recipes
4.3: Shellfish – 13 recipes
4.4: Cured Fish – 19 recipes

Chapter 5: Meat, Poultry & Game – 119 recipes
5.1: Beef & Veal – 16 recipes – completed!
5.2: Lamb & Mutton – 16 recipes
5.3: Pork – 8 recipes – completed!
5.4: Cured Meat – 17 recipes
5.5: Poultry – 18 recipes
5.6: Game – 23 recipes
5.7: Meat Pies & Puddings – 21 recipes

Chapter 6: Puddings – 66 recipes – completed!

Chapter 7: Teatime – 72 recipes – completed!
7.1: Bread – 15 recipes – completed!
7.2: Cakes & Tarts – 35 recipe s– completed!
7.3: Griddle Cakes & Pancakes – 13 recipes – completed!
7.4: Biscuits – 9 recipes – completed!

Chapter 8: Stuffings, Sauces and Preserves – 45 recipes – completed!
8.1 Stuffings – 5 recipes – completed!
8.2 Sauces – 19 recipes – completed!
8.3 Preserves & Random Things – 21 recipes – completed!

A WordPress Welcome!

My dog-eared copy of English Food

Hello all. I have moved my long-running Neil Cooks Grigson blog from Blogger to WordPress. I have been meaning to do it for ages and I finally got round to it.

Neil Cooks Grigson is the story of how I cooked all 450 recipes in food writer Jane Grigson’s comprhensive tome English Food. I say all, but in fact as you’ll see if you scroll down, I actually have a few recipes to go.

I have written background, history and personal stories to each of the recipes cooked so far, and it spawned another blog British Food: A History which has been running quite a few years too. Hopefully the two blogs complement each other – I think they do, hence why I’ve moved them to a single format. I’ll write a post covering the basic rules of the project as well as the layout of the book very soon.

Have a browse. Have a read. Find a classic or unusual ingredient and see if I think it’s worth cooking; everything gets a score out of ten and when I complete a chapter I give it a review. There are some excellent recipes in here and many surprisingly delicious things; who knew brains, sweetbreads, snipe and savoury custards could be so wonderful!?

There’s a warning though: some of the early posts are not very good, but I said I’d never change them. Indeed, I started the blog to become better at writing, so hopefully one can see some kind of progression!

Chapter 6: Puddings – Completed!

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 are lots of recipes from history; a mediaeval custard tart #264 A Coronation Doucet’, #329 John Evelyn’s Tart of Herbs made from spinach, #326 John Farley’s Fine Cheesecake laced with rose water and wobbly #131 Devonshire Junket, the list goes on…

#435 Worcestershire Pear Souffle
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

#436 Worcestershire Pear Soufflé

I like to eat as seasonally and as locally as possible, especially when it comes to fresh fruit. However, this is impossible in the middle of winter when all there is to eat are the ubiquitous apples and pears, so I cast my net a little further this time of year.

However, it is easy to forget what a delicious and versatile fruit the pear can be; especially when aromatic and very ripe, its optimum state according to the late, great broadcaster Terry Woganwho said it had to be so ripe and messy that the only way to eat one was hovering over the sink completely naked.
A ripe pear is a gastronomic delight. And one rarely experienced by those who buy their fruit in packets at the supermarket, following the ‘best before’ dates to the letter. If you have a large, ripe pear, leave it in the fruit bowl as long as you dare, you won’t be disappointed. If you need to feed several people, use it to make a soufflé like this one.
The peariness can be enhanced – should you like – with some pear brandy. This can come in the form of a calvados that uses perry (pear cider) in its manufacture, or the liqueur Poire William. These can be tricky to get hold of, so you could go with the cherry liqueur, Kirsch.
By the way, this is the last of two sweet soufflés from the book (the other being #293 Mrs Beeton’s Chocolate Soufflé), and the last of the entire book (there are several soufflérecipes in the book). Not only that, it the last of the recipes in the behemoth that is the Puddingschapter of the book!
First of all, preheat your oven to 200°C, and prepare your soufflé dish: Take two macarons and crush them. A good macaron should be squidgy in the middle, so I found this task much easier by freezing them and blitzing them in my food processor. Next, butter the dish well – you’ll need one around 2 ½ pints (1.5 litres) capacity for this recipe. Sprinkle the macaron dust all around the inside of the buttered dish, saving the remaining crumbs for later (see below).

Take a large, ripe pearand peel, core and quarter it. Take a fork and give it a mashing, or if feeling lazy, use a food processor or hand blender. My pear was so ripe that it started to brown almost immediately, stymie this by quickly adding the juice of half a lemon along with a tablespoon of the pear brandy (or Poire William, or Kirsch).
Place 4 ounces of butterin a mixing bowl and let it melt slowly over a pan of just simmering water. As you wait, measure out 4 ounces of vanilla sugar (posts #36 Vanilla Sugar and #266 Concentrated Vanilla Sugarshow you how) and 1 ounce of cornflour. When the butter has melted, sift these into it and beat in well with a whisk.
Separate four eggs, take the bowl off the heat and beat the yolks in one-by-one, then add the pear mixture. Whisk the whites to the stiff peak stage (when you can turn the bowl upside down and the whites stay firmly put). Add a large tablespoon of the whites to the mixture and mix in well, don’t worry about losing any air at this stage, adding a little egg white now means that the rest will be ‘accepted’ by the mixture more readily.

Tip in the rest of the egg white, fold it into the pear mixture with a metal spoon. I found that the mixture was too runny to mix the whole lot together well – I presume I didn’t let the cornflour thicken enough. Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish, sprinkle with the remaining macron crumbs and put in the oven. 


After 3 minutes, turn down the heat to 190°C and cook for another 27 minutes (i.e. half an hour in all).

Serve immediately!


#436 Worcestershire Pear Soufflé. I’m not sure what to make of this recipe – it tasted delicious, the overripe pear, alcohol and hint of vanilla made for quite a heady aromatic hit, but the texture was a little wrong; the mixture essentially sank to the bottom, not getting incorporated properly, and remained very liquid. I know that a good souffléshould be light at the top and saucy in the centre, but here the contrast was a bit too much. I think that Jane’s instructions were not clear enough regarding the base mixture – perhaps the butter-sugar-cornflour mixture should have been cooked until very thick before adding the rest of the ingredients. I think that this is worth trying again to get right as it should have been an excellent pud. In conclusion, flavour excellent, but recipe perhaps too vague: 7/10

#435 Shellfish Puffs

Here’s quite an involved recipe from the book that requires several techniques, one of which is the making of choux pastry – the one pastry I can’t seem to get right. However, I was asked to cater for a recent dinner party, and I thought this one could work very well because the theme was ‘An Alternative Christmas Dinner’. Prawn cocktail is often served as a starter at Christmas and I thought this hot shellfish starter would be a good alternative. It was more 1970s than prawn cocktail, sounding like a dish you would see crop up in Fanny Cradock book, not in a Jane Grigson tome!

It’s not for the faint-hearted though, aside from the pastry there’s a complex sauce made from the shells, so that means you need to shell your fish yourself to make this one. If you have never done this before, I recommend choosing prawns. Here goes:
First of all, make your choux pastry. Bring to a boil in a pan ¼ pint of hot water, a shy teaspoon of sugar and 2 ½ ounces of butter. Meanwhile, sieve 4 ounces of plain or strong white flour into a bowl; I went for the latter as you get better expansion, though this is not necessarily a good thing, see below.
When everything is boiling, take the pan off the heat, pop in all the flour in one go and make a dough by mixing the whole lot together using a wooden spoon. Put the pan back on the heat again and beat the dough well with your spoon. The dough will soon become waxy and will come away from the bowl. This can take a few minutes, especially if you’re out of practise when it comes to beating thick doughs, as I was.


Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes and beat in 4 eggs one by one, waiting for the previous one to become fully incorporated before adding the next one. Use an electric stand mixer for this if you can, otherwise and electric hand whisk. The dough can be used straight away or covered and cooled and used later.

Prepare some baking trays by lining them with greaseproof paper. Now it’s time to pipe the pastry – Jane gives no indication as to how many we need or what size they should be. I scooped the paste into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle and made mounds around 1 inch in diameter. It’s important to raise the piping bag as you dispense the dough so your paste is very domed – you get a better and larger puff that way.
If your piped pastry has little spikes, press them down with a wet finger so they don’t burn and carefully drip on the tray (don’t sprinkle water on the pastry itself though).


Jane now says to bake them for 35 minutes at 230°C which is far too long and too hot as I quickly discovered! I found they baked best at 200°C, becoming golden brown at the 20-minute mark.
Once they are good brown colour, remove them from the oven and cut a slit or make a hole in their bottom with a skewer. Tip them on their side, return them to the oven and turn the heat down to 120°C so that the steam that puffed them up can escape to create a nice crisp interior. Cool on a rack.


As always, whenever I make choux buns, they turned out all different sizes, all looking like clouds rather than perfectly domed profiteroles. However, they were hollow so good enough for me.

Choux buns can be stored in an airtight tub for a week, so you can get all of this done way before the time you want to serve the course.
For the filling, you need a pound of prawns in their shell, or a 1 ½ pound lobster, or a 1 ½ to 2 pound crab(or crabs). I went for prawns as I couldn’t get hold of crab or lobster at either of my favourite fishmongers! In retrospect it was a good thing, as prawns are much easier to shell than lobsters and crabs. My prawns were raw, so I steamed them in a saucepan containing just a few tablespoons of water. This method yielded a delicious, sweet tasting bright-pink liquid. I kept it and added it to the sauce later.

The delicious pink prawn stock


Remove the meat from whatever shellfish you are using and refrigerate it. If using large prawns, as I did, don’t forget to de-vein the blighters. If using crab or lobster don’t forget the precious brown meat and roe (if any).

Now make a sauce with the shells by adding them to around ¾ pint of thin béchamel sauce – Jane doesn’t tell us how to make one, but I heated ¾ pint of milk containing a couple of bay leaves, a blade of mace, some old ends of nutmegs and some crushed black peppercorns. I then made a roux with ½ ounce each of butter and plain flour.

Add the shells to the sauce and allow the sauce to simmer away for 15 minutes. Loads of flavour comes out of the shells, and the sauce turns a beautiful salmon pink colour. Sieve ‘energetically’, says Jane, so I strained the whole thing through a conical sieve, pushing down hard with the underside of a sturdy ladle.

As the sauce simmers, fry 4 ounces of chopped mushrooms with a chopped clove of garlic in 3 ounces of butter.

Add to the sauce: the shellfish meat, the cooked mushrooms, 2 heaped tablespoons each of grated Lancashire cheese and double cream and two egg yolks. Heat the sauce, but don’t let it boil. Season to taste with saltand pepper.
Cut the choux buns in half crosswise and spoon some of the mixture into the bottom half. Deftly replace the lids and serve straight away.
#435 Shellfish Puffs. There were quite a few techniques required in this recipe, but I must say that it was absolutely delicious! The sauce was creamy, sweet and packed-full of umami flavours. Not too sure about the choux buns though, but the kitsch 1970s brief was definitely filled. Jane also suggests filling vol-au-vents with the mixture – I think this would work better than choux pastry, being more sturdy, but equally as old-fashioned. Nevertheless, that filling was great, whatever it was served in, so it gets a 8.5/10 from me.