Hot puddings

I wish I liked puddings and desserts, but really I don’t. I wish I liked them because I like traditional cooking – and what I mean by that is looking back to food which was cooked from fresh ingredients, often home-grown, from recipes handed down from previous generations and much-loved because of that.

Hot puddings, I believe, are going to fall away altogether as an everyday part of the main meal; when I was at home as a child, when I was at school with school dinners, there was always pudding… and generally it was hot, usually served with custard or a sweet sauce. There were fruit pies and tarts and turnovers, and custard filled pastries and crumbles and flans, boiled puddings, roly-poly puddings, rag puddings, but I guess the most British is ‘the pudding’ usually a baked sponge. Pudding… aka pud, dessert, afters, sweet…

I was just looking through one of my old cookery books, ‘Modern Practical Cookery’, published in 1934, and there are fifty-two pages of ‘hot puddings’, followed by another thirty-eight pages of pastry (although this does include cheese pastries, egg pie, lobster patties, picnic pies and sausage rolls)

  • 3 almond puddings
  • 24 apple puddings
  • 2 apricot puddings
  • arrowroot pudding
  • 4 banana puddings
  • currant pudding
  • 2 blackcurrant puddings
  • Brazil nut pudding
  • 4 bread/bread and butter puddings
  • 2 caramel puddings
  • carrot pudding
  • cherry pudding
  • chestnut pudding
  • 9  chocolate puddings
  • 3 Christmas puddings
  • 2 cinnamon puddings
  • 5 coconut pudings
  • 3 custard puddings
  • 2 damson puddings
  • 3 date puddings
  • 2 fig puddings
  • 6 ginger puddings
  • 4 golden syrup/treacle puddings
  • 2 gooseberry puddings
  • honey pudding
  • 2 jam puddings
  • 6 lemon puddings
  • loganberry pudding
  • 7 marmalade puddings
  • milk pudding
  • 3 omelettes
  • 4 orange puddings
  • peach pudding
  • pear pudding
  • 3 pineapple puddings
  • plum pudding
  • prune pudding
  • 2 raisin puddings
  • 2 raspberry puddings
  • 2 rhubarb puddings
  • 7 rice puddings
  • 2 sago puddings
  • semolina pudding
  • soda pudding
  • 4 soufflés
  • spaghetti pudding
  • sponge pudding
  • 2 strawberry puddings
  • suet pudding
  • syllabub
  • tapioca pudding
  • 2 vanilla puddings
  • 14 sauces for puddings

As well as all of these – about a hundred and fifty I reckon, there were a whole lot of named puddings… but that surely is for another time!

This is just an ordinary household cookery book, from over eighty years ago, and it’s offering ordinary people hundreds of recipes just for desserts!!

Baked beans and boilersmiths

I love beans, fresh and dried, and I love pulses, and most things made with them, but I am not that fond of commercially made baked beans. If I had to eat them I would, but I would never choose them, they are usually just to sweet and the sauce always seems slimy.

I came across a recipe for boilermaker baked beans which sounded interesting. I came across it among some American recipes and because I didn’t know, I thought it must be a recipe made for people working as boiler makers which I guess is very hard physical labour and anyone making boilers would be very pleased to have a hearty, tasty meal of beans…

According to Wikipedia:

A boilermaker is a trained craftsman who produces steel fabrications from plates and tubes. The name originated from craftsmen who would fabricate boilers, but they may work on projects as diverse as bridges to blast furnaces to the construction of mining equipment.[1] The trade of Boilermaker evolved from the industrial blacksmith and was known in the early 19th century as a “boilersmith”

However, when I came to investigate the recipe, looking for its origins, I discovered that a boilermaker is also – beer with a whisky chaser, or beer with a whisky in it, sometimes dropped in actually in a shot glass (which always seems silly to me even though I know it’s popular at the moment – I was once given a Jägerbomb… but that’s another story…) The shot glass of whisky dropped into a beer is called a Depth Charge, apparently. Boilermakers as a named drink dates back to the 1890’s in America (I wonder if it has a differ name and a different history in the UK? – another investigation!) miners finishing their shifts in the coal mines of Butte Montana knocked back boilermakers… which they called Sean O’Farrell’s… I am very confused by all this now…

Back to baked beans… boilermaker baked beans are made with whisky and beer – hence the name!

In the recipe I came across the instructions were the ‘throw everything in a pot and cook till done’ sort of method, the ingredients being as much of the following as you had, liked, thought you needed…

  • cooked beans
  • chopped onion
  • crispy cooked bacon broken into bits
  • chilli sauce (the recipe recommended a bottle – guess it depends on the sauce – a bottle of the one I have in my cupboard would blow the lid of the pan!)
  • dark beer
  • tomato salsa/sauce
  • whisky
  • molasses
  • made mustard
  • dark brown sugar
  • hot pepper sauce (as well as the chilli sauce? Really?)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • salt – I would definitely leave salt out – with all those sauces, bacon and mustard I think it will be more than salty enough!

It sounds very sweet to me – I think if I do make it (and i really do fancy giving it a go!) I would leave out the brown sugar and use actual chillies rather than both the chilli and hot pepper sauces. I would also just use chopped tomatoes, not salsa – but add garlic and red/green peppers for flavour…

I might make this tomorrow! I feel inspired! … if I had a Nottingham jar I could make it in that!



It was all going so well…

It started earlier in the week, when for various reasons, I had to use up a lot of eggs and so made a big cake; it was a sort of marbled chocolate and vanilla cake and came out very well but even bigger than I had expected. We had the fortnightly art group, and served them cake with their  tea; they enjoyed it very much and were most complimentary. A friend invited us round for a curry and I said as I had cake I would make a trifle and bring to finish the meal; splendid, she said.

This was where I had a bit of a brainstorm. English trifle is so easy, sponge, fruit, custard, cream (sometimes jelly) For a completely unknown and now complexly ridiculous reason, instead of cutting a few fingers of cake I proceeded to line the bowl with cake – yes, ludicrous – and to make it worse I had the uniform coloured top on the outside so it showed through the glass bowl as just brown… plain brown… dull brown… instead of the nice marbled effect from the inside.

I won’t go into further detail except there was fruit and there was custard (no jelly) and there was more cake (why, oh why, oh why??) I came to finish off with more fruit and cream and suddenly saw it as it actually was… it looked like the sort of thing a nine-year-old might make…
I decided it needed rescuing… I would get individual dishes and make pretty portions with fresh fruit attractively arranged…

Last year was the year of getting rid of things, and I was very proud of myself, almost smug with the amount of stuff we got rid of. Except now we have no pretty dishes to serve individual trifles in… never mind! our friends like whisky, let’s serve it in whisky tumblers of which we have six matching ones… except no we don’t… somehow three of the have vanished…

I have made six desserts… they may taste OK, cake, custard, fresh summer fruits, cream… but they look like the sort of thing an embarrassed Masterchef contestant says works perfectly every time at home as s/he surveys the bowl of slop s/he has presented to the judges… ‘I don’t know what went wrong…’

Waste not… and a very small amount of left-over chicken

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking, first published int he early 1930’s promoted the use of locally sourced products, very much as we try to these days; the reasons then were slightly different in some ways – saving money, having wholesome fresh produce, not wasting – but in other ways different. We have such a ridiculous choice of everything these days, there is no such thing as seasonal, everything is available all the year round.

There’s a programme on TV at the moment ‘Eat Well For Less’ … I’m sure they would approve of this way of using up left overs in a tasty way, and making a little go a long way. Here is what is The National Mark Calendar of Cooking suggests for a very small amount of left-over chicken:

Chicken croquettes

  • chicken
  • mushrooms, finely chopped
  • onion, finely chopped
  • white sauce (butter, plain flour, milk or chicken stock, salt and pepper)
  • egg, beaten
  • butter
  • breadcrumbs (or crushed vermicelli)
  • parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • nutmeg
  1. fry the chicken, onion and mushrooms lightly in the butter
  2. make a white sauce and add the chicken/onion/mushroom mixture, drained of excess butter, making sure it is thick,
  3. add the parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg and spread on a plate and leave to get cold
  4. when cold, cut in pieces and shape with floured hands into cork shapes
  5. roll in the beaten egg then coat with breadcrumbs and fry in deep fat
  6. as an alternative, wrap the mixture in thin pastry, coat in egg and breadcrumbs and fry in deep fat

Excellent barley water… according to Eliza!

Eliza Acton was an amazing woman, producing the cookery book from which Mrs Beeton later took many of her recipes. Eliza was born in 1799 and died in 1859, but her book, Modern Cookery, is very readable, very interesting, and very useful! She was a forerunner of listing ingredients and giving cooking times for her recipes.

Here she describes what we might think of as a summer drink, but she suggests for invalids (nineteenth century cookery writers were great at producing food and drinks for invalids!) We are so used to opening a packet of stuff and it being clean and ready to use, in earlier times, cooks would have to prepare the ingredients before using them.

Excellent Barley Water
(Poor Xury’s receipt)

Wipe very clean, by rolling it in a soft cloth, two tablespoonsful of pearl barley; put it into a quart jug, with a lump or two of sugar, a grain or two of salt, and a strip of lemon-peel, cut very thin; fill up the jug with boiling water and keep the mixture gently stirred for some minutes; then cover it down, and let it stand until perfectly cold. In twelve hours, or less, it will be fit for use; but it is better when made over night. if these directions be followed, the barley-water will be comparatively clear, and very soft and pleasant to drink. A glass of calf’s foot jelly added to the barley is an infinite improvement; but as lemon-rind is often extremely unpalatable to invalids, their taste should be consulted before the ingredient is added, as it should also be for the degree of sweetness that is desired. After the barley-water has been poured off once, the jug may be filled with boiling water a second time, and even a third with advantage.

Poor Xury by the way was a character in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Xury was a servant young boy  – I don’t know whether he made barley water or not! A grain of salt is a measure of salt, not a single crystal – but it is not much more! 2 grains for the barley-water is 0.004571 ounce! Calf’s foot jelly is exactly that, a jelly made from boiling a calf’s foot… I think I can do without that, thank you, especially if I was an invalid!

By the way, if you want something to read while sipping your barley-water, with or without the calf’s foot jelly, my novel Radwitnter is now available as a paperback!


Last night after an enjoyable but hectic weekend at the end of an extremely busy and tiring (but successful week) we went out for dinner at a local restaurant we hadn’t been to before but had been highly recommended, called Panache. It’s what is generically called an ‘Indian’ restaurant but in actual fact it is Bangladeshi; we were welcomed in by friendly staff, shown to our table and then the difficulty began – what to choose from the varied and delicious sounding menu! So many tempting things on offer! Because we were in on a Sunday night, we were able to take advantage of a special offer menu for a set price – although it’s less extensive than the everyday menu, there was a great choice of wonderful meals (we’ve been told they are wonderful by people who visit often!

I love very hot, very spicy food – but I don’t like hot for the sake of hot – it has to add to the whole dish! In the end after much contemplation, I chose something I’d not had or heard of before, lamb hara, described as ‘cooked in a medium hot sauce with whole spices and a touch of tamarind, garnished with coriander’. It was really good – maybe not as spicy hot as I usually have, but the balance of flavours was perfect. If I had one little criticism, for my taste it was a little sweet – but that is just me! We all enjoyed our meal and the staff were wonderful, the setting lovely, a perfect evening!

I got to thinking about the word ‘panache’… synonyms of which include –

flamboyant confidence, flamboyance, confidence, self-assurance, style, stylishness, flair, elan, dash, flourish, verve, zest, spirit, brio, éclat, vivacity, vigour, gusto, animation, liveliness, vitality, enthusiasm, energy

…and began to wonder where it came from… French maybe, maybe originally from latin… I looked it up, visited my favourite on-line etymological site

and found this:

from the 1550s, “a tuft or plume of feathers,” from Middle French pennache “tuft of feathers,” from Italian pennaccio, from Late Latin pinnaculum “small wing, gable, peak”. Figurative sense of “display, swagger” first recorded 1898, in a translation of “Cyrano de Bergerac”, from French.

The play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, was written in verse in 1897 by Edmond Rostand, based on the real life Cyrano; it’s been translated and performed many, many times, and it was what brought ‘panache’ into common use in English. The real  Cyrano de Bergerac  born March 1619 and dying young in July 1655, was Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, a French novelist, playwright, man of letters and a duelist.

Lemon meringue pie yellow

My family is still playing ‘yellow car‘ that infuriating game which is all about being the first to spot a yellow car – that’s it, no points, no winners or losers, just being the first to shout, say, whisper ‘yellow car‘.

There is a great range of different yellows which cars are painted, from lovely warm boiled egg yolk, to feeble pale hardly there hint of yellow. There are also golds (are they yellow or not?) a sort of lime green which verges into yellow, particularly in a metallic finish. As we were coming home today we passed a car and had a car pass us, one was a feeble yellow, one was a lovely yellow – and the two colours reminded me of lemon meringue pie – the lovely colour was my mum’s lemon meringue pie, the feeble one was some pies I’ve seen in shops, cake cabinets in cafés etc.

My mum’s LMP had the most melting pastry (made with lard and margarine no doubt) a soft, oozing, luscious, very sharp and only a little sweet, smooth lemony, very lemony bit, meringues which were soft and almost chewy underneath, but crispy on top with a certain sticky yum… When it was cold (we always had it hot, and never with anything else like custard or cream or ice cream) the yellow filling became firmer, almost like a lemon curd but not stiff or solid.

I think this may have been the recipe she used:

Lemon Meringue Pie

  • 4 oz. Be-Ro Short Pastry
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 8 oz. caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • ¼ pint boiling water
  • 1 oz. cornflour
  1. Line a 17 inch pie dish with pastry and bake blind at 190ºC, 375ºF, Gas Mark 5.
  2. put egg yolks, 4 oz. sugar, lemon juice and zest, boiling water in a pan, and blend stirring like fury
  3. mix cornflour with a little cold water, add to the lemon mixture, bring to the boil and pour into the baked flan case
  4. Whisk egg whites stiffly and gradually beat in remaining sugar; spread evenly over the lemon filling, and bake at 150ºC, 300ºF, Gas Mark 2, for about 25 minutes until crisp and pale golden brown