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

#428 Sweetheart Cake

St Valentine had nothing to do with romance, but he did die on 14 February in the 3rd Century. His association with love didn’t occur until the fourteenth century. In the mediaeval age, people thought that birds mated mid-February, a certain Geoffrey Chaucer spotted that St Valentine’s Day coincided with this event, and brought them together in one of his stories, Parlement of Foules, cementing the two forever more.


Unlike St Valentine, I have no idea why this dessert is linked with love: jam, almonds and meringue don’t seem particularly romantic to me, and all Jane says about the recipe is that it’s ‘for St Valentine’s Day, to eat at the end of a meal rather than at teatime.’
I suggest using a normal flan tin and baking it any day of the year.
I’ve been meaning to do this straight-forward recipe for a long time but kept forgetting to make it in time for Valentine’s Day. Well this year I remembered. I also remembered to buy the heart-shaped flan tin required; something else I kept forgetting to do.

Begin by lining a heart-shaped flan tin with puff pastry (I made my own, following the recipe for #384 Quick Foolproof Puff Pastry) making sure you stud the base well with fork marks. I popped it in the freezer whilst I got on with making the filling. I used a 9-inch heart-shaped tin.

Begin by melting two ounces of butter in a saucepan. As it cools, beat the yolks of four eggs (keep the whites, you’ll need them) along with four ounces of caster sugar, the zest and juice of a lemon, two ounces of ground almonds and the cooled, melted butter, then fold in 2 ounces of slivered almonds.


Take the lined tin and spread over the base two to three tablespoons of raspberry jam. For these sorts of puddings, it’s a good idea stop spreading half an inch from the edges of the tin, as it makes the next step much easier.


Take the filling and spoon it into your tin – don’t aim for the centre, place smallish blobs all around the outside edge first. Now spread the filling evenly, edges first then moving inwards. This ensures the jam doesn’t ride up the edges of the pudding.

Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and the filling set and golden brown.


Toward the end of the cooking time, prepare the meringue. Put your reserved egg whites, along with a pinch of salt, and beat with an electric whisk until you have whites that will form still peaks. Add a tablespoon of caster sugar and keep beating until you have a nice glossy meringue that holds its shape well.

Spread or pipe the meringue over the top going right to the pastry edges, sprinkle another tablespoon of caster sugar evenly over the top and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the meringue is an appetising golden brown.
Serve warm.
#428 Sweetheart Cake. Well it was certainly sweet, and it was definitely a heart, not I’m not sure if it was a cake. This pudding, a cross between a Bakewell tart and a lemon meringue pie, I enjoyed but the filling was extremely sweet. At least the meringue wasn’t too sugary, otherwise it would have been too sweet to eat, the lemon also helped take the edge off. I ate some the next day cold, and it tasted less sweet. Next time, I will half the sugar. 6/10

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts

The summer fruit season is pretty much done and dusted now, with just autumn raspberries and wild blackberries hanging around, but back in June at the very beginning of the season, I made these little gooseberry ‘tarts’. I’m using ‘inverted commas’ there because they are not tarts, they are pies.
In their simplest form, Oldbury fruit tarts are  hand-raised pies made from a hot-water pastry, filled with fruit and sugar and then baked. The pies, according to two of Jane’s correspondents, had links with Oldbury in Gloucestershire, and would be made by families as soon as soft fruits began to appear. In the latter half of the 19th century (and I’m sure much earlier than that too) the pies were ‘sold at fairs at a penny each’.
Below is the recipe and my review of the tarts, but it’s worth pointing out that sometimes these Oldbury pies would be made just like normal raised pies, but instead for being filled with jellied stock as you would  a pork pie, it is filled with fruit jelly preserve instead. This sounds so delicious and I may have a go at these more complex ones. I like the idea of a slice of fruit pie with jelly and some good cheese (Gloucester, of course) to round off a meal.
The hot water pastry for these pies is different to Jane’s recipe for her savoury (#282) Raised Pies in that there is both lard and butter here but no egg or icing sugar (which give crispness and an appetising brown colour to the cooked pastry). However, the method is essentially the same:
First cube 4 ounces each of butter and lard and pour over them 5 tablespoons of boiling water. Stir around until the fats have melted.  Put a pound of plain flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre and tip in the warm liquid mixture. Using a wooden spoon, and then your hands, form a dough.


At this point, I kneaded the dough until smooth – Jane says it should have ‘a waxy look’ – then popped it back in the bowl, covered it with cling film and left it to rest for a bit until it felt like it could be rolled and moulded successfully.

I found that the dough made six tarts using Jane’s method of thinly rolling out batches into circles and, then using a saucer as a template to cut out perfect shapes. I kept the trimmings for the lids.
Here’s the tricky bit: now mould the edges of each pastry circle to a height of about an inch so that they form cases – or in old English coffyns. This was a bit of a nightmare; you need a good cool stiff dough to do this, and if possible, three hands.


Now you can tumble in your topped and tailed gooseberries (about 8 ounces altogether) and a good amount of Demerara sugar (at least an ounce per tart, I’d say, but use your discretion). Roll out the lids, make a hole in the centre, and glue them in place with a brush and water, making sure you crimp the edges. Now leave the pastry to harden, this is a matter of a couple of hours in the fridge, but if leaving them in a cool larder, it’ll require an overnight wait.


Bake the ‘tarts’ for around 25-30 minutes at 200⁰C. Because of a lack of either egg , icing sugar or glaze, the pastry doesn’t turn a nice golden brown, but if the filling is happily bubbling away within, you can be pretty sure they are ready.


I served them warm with some pouring cream.

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts. Well these were not really worth the effort as the pastry was pretty disappointing in both taste and texture. Gooseberries in any form are good of course, so I did eat them. I’m looking forward to trying to make a larger pie filled with fruit jelly – that hasto be delicious. 4/10.

#402 Blaeberry or Blackcurrant Pie

Wild blaeberries (from berryworks.com)


The flitterin faces come doun the brae
And the baskets gowd and green;
And nane but a blindie wud speer the day
Whaur a’ the bairns hae been.
The lift is blue, and the hills are blue,
And the lochan in atween;
But nane sae blue as the blaeberry mou’
That needna tell whaur it’s been.


Blaeberry Mou,
William Soutar

Here’s recipe from English Food that I have found extremely difficult to cook; blaeberries and blackcurrants simply don’t crop up in greengrocers. Almost all of the blackcurrants grown in this country are snatched up and turned into Ribena, the leftovers being very expensive, assuming you can track them down. Blaeberries are not commercially grown and therefore you have to rely on happening upon bushes – many bushes; you’ll need between 1 ½ and pounds for this recipe!

But then I came across some huge punnets of them at a greengrocer called Elloits in Chorlton, Manchester. I couldn’t believe my luck so I bought a couple and skipped away clutching my precious bounty back home.

 So – and I know you are quite likely to be thinking this – what the heck are blaeberries!? They have many aliases: tayberries, bilberries, whortleberries, whimberries, wild blueberries….the list goes on. Blaeberries are very commonly found in the very north of England, Scotland and Ireland. They are quite popular in France – where they are called myrtles – and are generally used to make liqueurs.

 Jane Grigson tells us of a rather disturbing song she used to sing at school as a child where a young mother is left distraught when her baby is stolen by faeries whilst she picks blaeberries:

I went to gather blaeberries, blaeberries, blaeberries,
I went to gather blaeberries, and left my darling baby-O.
I found the track of the swan in the mist,
The swan in the mist, the swan in the mist,
I found the track of the swan in the mist,
But ne’er a trace of my baby-O.

So the blaeberry is steeped in the history of the northern climes of the British Isles, but people are trying to get this wild, rather niche, delicacy cultivated and into our shops. Susan McCallum of the Hutton Institute is asking for people to keep an eye out for blaeberry hotspots so that the most productive plants can be bred. This is because they match the American blueberry for their health benefits, and sales of blueberries are on the increase. Here’s the post all about the project.

In this recipe, Jane says we can use blaeberries or blackcurrants in this recipe; I assume because they are both found in Britain, but I think that you should use blueberries as alternative fruit because their flavour is so very close to that of the blaeberry. Jane also uses the Yorkshire trick of spiking the tart with some freshly chopped mint.


Pick over 1 ½ to 2 pounds of fresh blaeberries or blackcurrants, removing leaves and stalks. Weigh out 8 ounces of caster sugar and mix it with a heaped tablespoon of cornflour and a level tablespoon of chopped mint leaves. Layer the fruit and sugar mixture alternately in a pie dish, making sure the fruit is humps up in the centre and cover with some sweet shortcrust pastry. Brush the pie with water or egg whiteand sprinkle more sugar on top. Bake at 220⁰C for 15 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 20-30 minutes. Serve with cream.


It’s worth mentioning that it can be made as a double crust pie too.

 #402 Blaeberry or Blackcurrant Pie. I decided to make this pie for one of my Pud Clubs, and not only did it go down very well, but won – pitched against six other puds! It was so delicious; a deep jammy and tart filling that was so intensely flavoured it was almost a shock, and the aromatic mint took it to another level. This might be up for the award of best pud in English Food! 10/10

#384 Quick, Foolproof Puff or Flaky Pastry

Fool-proof? I’ll be the judge of that, Ms Grigson.

This is a recipe I have been putting off for ages; I have become pretty good at shortcrust pastries as well as hot-water pastry, but the rigmarole and potential disaster of a flaky pastry has always filled me with an inner dread. However, now that I am a half a fully-fledged patissier, and chock-full of confidence, I thought now is the time to give it a go.

I really should have looked at the recipe a little closer, because it is actually a rough-puff pastry as opposed to the true pâte feuilletée that can be made up of up to 1500 layers of pastry and fat. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the proper stuff, but then one shouldn’t run before one can walk, so perhaps a rough puff would be a happy stepping stone that will one day lead to the dizzying heights of the full puff.

This recipe was devised by, and then given to Jane Grigson, pastry chef Nicholas Malgieri who then worked ‘at Peter Frump’s famous New York cookery school’, and has now created an empire of his own. Like all rough puff pastes, it is best used for tarts, feuilletées or patisserie such as the good-old custard slice. To avoid bitter disappointment, don’t go trying to use them for something that requires a high rise, like a vol-au-vent (does anyone actually eat those anymore…?).

My good friend Charlotte came over to give me a hand, should I need it, though really I think she came to eat the dessert it would be used to make, which is fair enough. She did take some great photos for me though, so cheers Char.

It is important to buy good quality butter when making puff pastes, so don’t go using Tesco Value, instead go for a nice French or Danish one. Jane prefers French, I’d just say go for the best you can afford. This method satisfyingly uses a whole 250g block of butter, which is 8 ½ ounces in old money, which explains the seemingly strange weights used:

Start by cutting up 8 ½ ounces of unsalted butter into cubes, then sieve 8 ½ ounces of strong flour into a bowl. Rub in one ounce of the butter into flour. Tip in the rest of the butter and ‘work lightly’. I took this to mean to make sure each cube is separate and squashed flat, ready for easier rolling later.

In a measuring jug, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, then top up to 4 fluid ounces with ice-cold water. Tip it in and quickly bring it all together; ‘it will look appalling, a raggy mess’, says Jane, and so it did.

Flour your work surface and manhandle your pastry lump into an approximate 4-by-8 inch rectangle. Flour the top generously and roll out to a 9-by-18 inch rectangle, using more flour to prevent sticking. Now do the first folds: fold the short ends into the centre, then fold the whole thing in half so that it looks like a book. Turn the ‘spine’ one quarter turn to the left, roll out again, and make the very same folds. Turn, roll and fold one more time. If at any point the butter gets too warm and soft, pop it in the fridge to firm up.

Chill for an hour (or freeze it) and it is ready to use. I used mine to make a couple of things. First was a nice crisp apple tart, glazed with brown sugar and apricot jam, and second was a nice pile of Eccles cakes. Lovely.
#384 Quick, Foolproof Puff or Flaky Pastry. Well, I have to say it was quick, and it wasfool-proof. In fact, aside for the rolling out that required some degree of precision, I would say it is easier than a shortcrust for a beginner: rubbing in is minimal, it won’t be too dry and it won’t be over-worked. Why did I put this off for so long? It has already become part of my regular repertoire and I shall be using it in the amuse bouchefor my next pop up restaurant in November. Great stuff, delicious, crisp and rich 9.5/10.

 

#381 Baked Gooseberry Pudding

I don’t know; you wait four years for a gooseberry recipe and then two come along at once. This year’s season for all soft fruits seems to be never ending, so there might be a third one yet…

The gooseberry is a strange fruit, isn’t it? It’s as lovely and tart as rhubarb, and yet very few people eat it, and it is seldom ever seen at all in countries like the USA or France. It is certainly a very British fruit. Jane Grigson points out in her Fruit Book, that the French don’t even have a name for it, or rather, a name that distinguishes it from a redcurrant. What is really interesting is that neither do we! You see, the goose-part of gooseberry has nothing to do with geese, because it comes from the French groseille, which means red currant, and that ultimately comes from the Frankish word krûsil, meaning crisp berry. Don’t say I don’t never teach you nuffink.

This is a straight-forward pudding indeed. It is a ‘good homely pudding to make when gooseberries first come in’, says Jane.

Start off by melting together 2 ounces of butter and 4 tablespoons of soft dark brown sugar in the bottom of a flameproof soufflé dish – if you don’t have one (as I don’t), melt them in a pan and then tip the resulting mixture into the dish.
Arrange enough topped-and-tailed gooseberries in the dish then spread over one batch of pound cake mixture (for the recipe, see the post #47 Pound Cake from all the way back in 2008!). Of course, you can use other fruits: I would imagine that halved apricots or sliced Cox’s orange pippins would work very well.
Bake at 180⁰C (350⁰F) for an hour.  A little before the hour is up, sprinkle over some granulated sugar and return the pudding to the oven.
‘Serve with plenty of cream, and put a bowl of sugar on the table in case the gooseberries were especially tart.’

#381 Baked Gooseberry Pudding. This was a great pudding! The layer of tart gooseberries was balanced well by the sweet cake topping that had developed a lovely dark, caramelised crust. A million times better than Eve’s pudding! 9/10