#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
 

#374 Pease Pudding

Pease pudding is one of the oldest dishes, and most popular, in English history. The main ingredient in pease pudding is of course peas. The pea is one of our oldest cultivated crops mainly because it thrives in temperate climates and is quick to grow, and therefore, to select. Its easy-to-grow nature meant that it was good food for the poor where the poor were often forced to eat ground and dried peasemealformed into loaves and baked like bread.

The etymology of the words pease and peas is interesting: the word originates from the Greek word pison, which became pisum in Latin, crops up in Old English as pise and then changes its spelling to pease. Oddly, the word peasewas mistaken as a pleural and was therefore shortened to pea.

Pease pudding made up of dried, cooked and puréed peas enriched and flavoured with things like butter, eggs or onions. It used to be boiled in a well-floured pudding cloth, giving it the classic cannonball shape; and it wasn’t boiled simply in water alone, but with a piece of salt pork, ham or bacon, with which it would be served. It later would be boiled or steamed in a pudding basin, which is much more convenient, though I am sure the original way of cooking it in the ham stock would have produced a much more delicious meal. I love this pamphlet showing just how versatile pease pudding can be – pease pudding vol-au-vent anybody?
Before pease pudding there was pease pottage, which was essentially a thick soup made from pease and water, flavoured with scraps of meat and vegetables.

So, pease pudding was popular because it was cheap and plentiful. It was often made at the beginning of the week and eaten over the successive days, hence the old rhyme:

                                Pease pudding hot!
                                Pease pudding cold!
                                Pease pudding in the pot
Nine day’s old!

Jane suggests frying it up another day.

To make pease pudding, you first of all need to simmer a pound of dried green peas– whole or split, it doesn’t really matter – in enough water to just cover them until soft and tender. The times here can vary greatly – about 45 minutes to an hour for split peas, at least 2 hours for whole peas. It also worth mentioning that the age of the peas will affect the cooking time – old peas may need soaking overnight in water with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. If you do soak them overnight, drain away the liquid they were soaked in before cooking in fresh water.

When the peas are tender, drain away any liquid and then pass them through a mouli-legumesor sieve and stir 2 ounces of butterand one beaten egg into the resulting purée. Season well with saltand pepper and spoon the lot into a generously buttered 2 pint pudding basin. Pop the lid on, or make a lid from buttered foil or cloth tied with string. Steam for an hour, then turn it out if you like, and serve with boiled bacon or salt pork or, as I did, with #373 Faggots and Peas.

#374 Pease Pudding. This was a most successful dish – the pease were sweet and well-flavoured. Plus I managed to eat it over the space of several days just like the song! It was best when I fried slices of it in lard so that a good crust formed and ate it with some left-over faggots. I shall do this again. 7/10

#361 Poor Knight’s Pudding with Raspberries

This is the third and final dessert on the theme of the classic pud pain perdu(for all three click thislink). The others were recipes from 1420 and 1937, whereas this one is Jane Grigson’s adaptation of her grandmother’s way of using up left-over raspberry jam sandwiches. Here’s what she says on the subject:

Before the last war, when tea was an occasion for enjoyment and not for guilt, we often used to have home-made raspberry jam sandwiches at my grandmother’s house. There were always too many – raspberry jam being her favourite – and next day they would appear as a pudding, having been fried in butter. I always thought, and still do think, that their latter end was more glorious than their debut.

This is also the second and last of the recipes involving raspberries. I do wish Jane had written more as they are my favourite fruit and I had been looking forward to this one for quite a while: raspberries, cream and fried bread. What could there possibly be not to like about that?

This recipe serves four – but it can be increased or decreased as appropriate.

First of all you need to get your raspberries ready: place a pound of the delicious darlings in a bowl and sprinkle them with 4 ounces of icing sugar and ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Leave them to exude their juices; I left them overnight in the fridge.

Whip up 6 ounces of whipping cream (or half-and-hald single and double cream) and a tablespoon of caster sugar. Next, cut 8 slices of white bread and cut off the crusts if you like and fry them in clarified butter. To make this, Jane suggests melting 6 ounces of butterin a small saucepan before passing it through a sieve into your frying pan. Fry the bread to a golden brown.
 
On a plate, place a slice of fried bread, then some raspberries with their juice, then a second slice of bread and finally a nice, healthy blob of cream.
 
 

#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.

#349 Poor Knights of Windsor (1937)

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.

Edward III creates the Order of the Garter

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.

#345 English Apricot Pie

Flowers and Apricots by Joseph Bidlingmeyer, 1850

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.

Fontenelle

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.

Pile the fruit and butter and sugar, which should be toffee-like at this point, into a shallow pie dish.
Roll out some puff pastry. Cut strips around half and inch a glue them around the edge of the plate with beaten egg so that the strips ‘extend partway down the dish itself. This will create a good seal, preventing the apricots from escaping. Brush the strips with egg and cover.

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.’

Sorry about the terrible pic.
I’m normally drunk by dessert…

#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.

#329 John Evelyn’s Tart of Herbs


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!

During his later years, he planned to write an encyclopaedia of horticulture, but only got as far as the first chapter. This chapter was published as a book in its own right in 1699, titled Aceteria and it is from this book that this recipe comes:
An Herb-Tart is made thus: Boil fresh Cream or Milk, with a little grated Bread or Naples-Biscuit (which is better) to thicken it; a pretty Quantity of Chervile, Spinach, Beete (or what other Herb you please) being first par-boil’d and chop’d. Then add Macaron, or Almonds beaten to a Paste, a littlesweet Butter, the Yolk of five Eggs, three of the Whites rejected. To these some add Corinths plump’d in Milk, or boil’d therein, Sugar, Spice at Discretion, and stirring it all together over the Fire, bake it in the Tart-Pan.
These sorts of sweet vegetable-based tarts were commonly eaten as a pudding during wintertime when there was no fresh fruit to be had. I had heard of carrots being used in this way, but not spinach! So, with an air of dubiousness I followed the updated version that Jane Grigson provides which surprisingly only contains spinach…
Begin by cooking 2 pounds of spinach in a pan with a little water and salt. Cover the giant pile with a lid and simmer until it collapses – about 5 minutes.
From this…
…to this!
Let it cool before draining and squeezing out any liquid, and then chop it.
Mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with ½ pint of single cream in a pan and slowly bring it to the boil. Meanwhile soak 2 ounces of currants or raisins in some warm milk. Into the cream, stir the spinach along with 1 or 2 ounces of macaroon crumbs (for a recipe see here), 2 ounces of butter, 2 whole eggs and two egg yolks, 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar and the raisins and milk. Stir the green slurry over a low heat until everything is well-incorporated. Add more sugar or macaroon crumbs and grate in some nutmeg to taste.
Line a 9 to 10 inch tart tin with some puff pastry and pour in the spinach mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 220⁰C (425⁰F) until the pastry has begun the brown, and then turn the heat down to 180⁰C (350⁰F) bake until the filling is set, about 30 to 40 minutes.
This should be eaten hot or warm with some cream for pudding.
#329 John Evelyn’s Tart of Herbs. Well this was certainly a strange one and I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I liked it or not. There was no attempt at masking the flavor of the spinach, but it did marry surprisingly well with the fruit and other sweet things as well as the nutmeg. Even though everyone ate it quite happily we weren’t sure if it was a dessert, and after my fourth slice, I still wasn’t sure! I think it could be very successfully reproduced as an amuse-bouche or hors d’oeuvre though. An interesting winter-warmer, though maybe not for a pudding course. 7/10.

#318 Baked Almond Pudding I

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.

The almond tree drawn by Elizabeth Blackwell 1737

This recipe requires bitter almond essence – it is quite easy to find online these days – and it is quite important to add some. The essence really gives any almond-based dessert a hit of almond aroma that the subtly-flavoured domesticated almond cannot provide. The bitter flavour is provided by benzaldehyde and cyanide – in time past, any king eating anything that tasted of bitter almonds, would have had good reason to start panicking! The essence just contains the benzaldehyde, so don’t worry, you won’t cark-it from using it. It is very difficult to get hold of bitter almonds themselves, but a good substitute is the nut inside the kernel of an apricot.

To make Almond Pudding I, begin by mixing together 4 ounces of melted butter, 8 ounces of ground almonds, 5 bitter almonds or a few drops of bitter almond essence, 2 tablespoons of double cream, a tablespoon of brandy, 4 or 5 heaped tablespoons of sugar, 2 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs. The mixture can then be turned into a greased shallow pie dish. Grigger says – as does Mrs Rundell – that you can line the pie dish with some sweet shortcrust pastry to make it go further. I had some left-over pastry and seeing as this dessert was for the Thanksgiving meal, I took their advice. Bake the pudding for around 45 minutes at 190C (375F) until there is a nice golden crust on the pudding.

Serve with some more sugar, butter and brandy, she also says.

#318 Baked Almond Pudding I. Much more cakey than the previous almond pudding, and as nice. It seemed rather bland – there wasn’t enough sugar and it would have been improved greatly if the pastry hah had a thin layer of raspberry jam. That said, it did get more moist and flavourful as it got older. An okay pudding that could be made very good with some minor alterations. 5/10.