#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 have been eyeing this recipe for a good while, but fresh apricots are so pricey I have always put it off. However, Soulard Farmers’ market came to save me from my apricot fast by selling them for just over a dollar a pound! They were delicious too.
The reason apricots are so expensive is manifold: they flower very early and suffer poorly from bad weather – they will die even if there’s a light frost or a high wind; they don’t take to grafting well; they are very particular about the soil they grow in, to the point where the amount of fertiliser dug into the soil needs to be calculated; they also do not travel well. They are delicate things and much prefer Eastern climbes as they originated in China, coming to Europe via India and the Middle East. It is for all these reasons that you usually find apricots dried rather than fresh.
As an aside, the reason the apricot doesn’t take to grafting is because they were mis-classified as a member of the plum family, Prunus, and were grafted onto other Prunus species, cherry is usually the grafters’ favourite. It is actually part of the rose family. Everyday’s a school day.
So what are the benefits of eating this temperamental and pricey fruit, other than that they are quite delicious? Well there is quite a long list of benefits to eating apricots. The 18th century French writer Bernard le Bovier Fontenelle, who was a member of the Royal Society, lived to 100 years old and the secret to his longevity was apricots, a tip he got from his grandma. ‘A royal fruit, she called it, saying that the scatterbrained folk of our days ought to make more use of it.’ Quite.
As it happens, apricots are high in phosphorus and magnesium and can significantly increase mental ability. They are super-rich in beta-carotene (which gives the fruit its yellow colour); 4 ounces of apricots will give you 50% of your daily allowance. They are also good for the blood – they can even alleviate anaemia better than liver! They are also a significant source of fluoride. Amazing.
This pie was invented by the great chef Carême. He is very particular about the type of pie dish you should use; it must be very shallow, not much deeper than a plate.
Halve 1 ½ pounds of fresh apricots and take out the stones. Next, melt 2 ounces of unsalted butter in a frying pan and stir in 8 ounces of caster sugar; this might seem alot but they really do need it. Over a moderate heat stir the sugar into the butter. After a few minutes it should start to melt. Add the apricots and coat in the butter-sugar mixture. Stir for a minute or two – you don’t want to cook the fruit, just get the apricot halves well covered.
Use a fork to seal the pastry lid then make a central hole so that any steam generated during cooking can escape. Brush with more egg and sprinkle some more caster sugar. Start the pie off in a hot oven – 230°C (450°F) – for 15 to 20 minutes so that the pastry can turn golden brown, then continue cooking at a lower heat of 160-180°C (325-375°F) for 15 minutes. ‘Serve hot or warm with plenty of cream.’
#345 English Apricot Pie. What a delicious fruit pie! It occurred to me whilst I was eating it that I have never eaten apricots this way. Well it certainly won’t be the last time I do it; the sugar and butter became a deliciously sweet sauce and the cooked apricots softened and turned very tart. That Carême chap knew what he was talking about.
John Evelyn was a very influential diarist who left quite a legacy. He was from a well-to-do family in South-East London, but being the second son, had no rights to the estate (unless his brother died without having a son himself). So, to make up for this he decided to become a scholar and travelled France and Italy in search of knowledge during the tumultuous time of the English Civil War. He wrote several books, witnessed the Great Fire of London, and was friends with Christopher Wren and Samuel Pepys. He lived during the reigns of Charles II, James II and William III and Mary II. He was talented landscaper, designing the gardens at Sayes Court, London. He became quite chummy with Charles II and was a founding member of the Royal Society. One of his books, called Sylvia, or a discourse of Forest Trees declared the tragedy befalling the country’s trees that were being felled for fuel to the glass factories. The book was responsible for the planting of millions of trees – quite the modern conservationist!
I made this almond pudding because I found that I just happened to have all the ingredients for it, so I thought why not? I had bought a load of baking ingredients for the Thanksgiving desserts for which I was in charge, you see.
This is the second of two almond puddings (I did Baked Almond Pudding II a while back) that have absolutely no introduction from Griggers. It is strange that a recipe she obviously thought so good and so English that it had to have two recipes devoted to it should be basically unknown. However, a quick bit of research later, I found that these puddings were popular from the eighteenth century. The recipe closest to this one in English Food, appears in Mrs Rundell’s Domestic Cookery from 1859.