#381 Poor Knight’s Pudding with Raspberries. This was absolute heaven! The sweet-tart raspberries where made so delicious with their seasoning of cinnamon. Obviously with all that butter and cream it is not for dieters, but a portion does count as one of your five fruit and veg, so it’s not all bad. A perfect pud: 10/10.
The Poor Knights of Windsor was a charity set up centuries ago by Edward III soon after he created the Order of the Garter in the mid-14th century to give alms to old and retired soldiers that had lived to protect the country. Quite ahead of his time, I think. How this dessert came to be called Poor Knights of Windsor I do not know. The earliest mention of this dessert I can find crops up in Elizabeth Cleland’s 1755 book A new and easy method of cookery.
Almost 2 years ago I made the 1420 version of this dessert, also called pain perdu. This medieval recipe gave reasonably precise instructions to make it (see here for that post). Perhaps surprisingly, this more recent recipe from Ambrose Heath’s 1937 book Good Sweets, is rather scant on instruction:
Cut a French roll in slices and soak them in sherry. Then dip them in beaten yolks of eggs and fry them. Make a sauce of butter, sherry and sugar to serve with them.
Brevity is obviously his middle name. Here’s what I did…
First I took some of Jane’s advice and that was to use not just any old French roll, but a nice, rich brioche (like it wouldn’t be rich enough without!?). Although brioche wasn’t around much in the 1970s it is widely available these days.
I beat a couple of egg yolks with a little water just to make them easier to work with. I took a slice of brioche and sprinkled it liberally with dry sherry, then dipped it in the egg yolks and fried them on a moderate heat in a frying pan with butter. I kept the poor knights warm in a low oven whilst I got on with making the sherry sauce.
I melted 2 ounces of butter slowly in a small saucepan, then I turned up the heat and stirred in a tablespoon of sugar. When it had dissolved and was bubbling away, I added 2 tablespoons of dry sherry and that was it! Very simple indeed.
I served up the poor knights with a little of the buttery sauce drizzled over them.
#349 Poor Knights of Windsor (1937). It’s not very often that I make a recipe from the book just for myself, but this one I did. I thought it would be awful – I don’t usually like alcohol in desserts, but I was so, so wrong! It wasn’t as rich or as heady as I expected, the secret was to make the sauce very sweet and to liberally sprinkle the brioche with the sherry, rather than soak it. Very good 7/10.
I haven’t done a historical recipe for a while, so I thought that my first recipe in this new country should be an old English one. It comes from the French pain perdu, which means lost bread, in other words smothered bread. It’s a French recipe but it obviously goes very far back in English history as this recipe proves. It’s from 1420 and is transcribed straight from the source, although Griggers doesn’t say what the source is! To put this into historical context, Henry V is the King of England and so he will have indulged himself on these in banquets; indeed, the inclusion of sugar in the recipe made it very regal. In the fifteenth century, honey would have been used as a sweetener. Eventually this dessert morphed into Poor Knight’s of Windsor – of which there are two recipes in English Food and I will try and do them soon so we can compare and contrast. Anyways, here is the recipe:
‘Take fair yolks of eggs, and separate them from the white, and drawn them through a strainer, and take salt [a pinch] and cast thereto; then take fair bread, and cut in round slices; then take fair butter that is clarified, or else fresh grease, and put in a pot, and make hot; then take and wet well the slices in the yolks, and put them in a pan, and so fry them up; but be ware of them cleaving to the pan; and when it is fried, lay them on a dish, and lay plenty of sugar thereon, and then serve forth.’
I used clarified butter – not sure what is meant by grease, I suppose the author meant lard or dripping. It is important to clarify the butter, otherwise it and the bread will burn. The word fair in the recipe means fresh; so the quality of ingredients was important in medieval times just as nowadays. Griggers suggests using brioche should you have it. I didn’t.
FYI: Payn per-dew is also called French toast sometimes, but in the north of England I know it as ‘eggy bread’ and it is not just the yolks but the whole egg plus some milk is used. Slices are fried in a little oil and eaten with a scraping of tomato sauce or brown sauce and is certainly not a pudding!
#253 Payn Pur-Dew (1420). A simple and historical recipe that is a wee bit bland by our modern tastes. I think that in the 1420s it would have been an exciting dish, but I prefer it made with the whole egg and some milk to make it less rich and serve as a savoury rather than a sweet. It might have been better with syrup or honey on it instead; something with a bit of heady flavour. So, all-in-all it was okay, but not amazing. 4/10.