Forgotten Puddings

Variety in the ingredients, we think, is held only of secondary consideration with the great body of the people, provided that the whole is agreeable and of sufficient abundance.

Mrs Beeton

Do you know your Batchelor’s Pudding from your Baroness Pudding? Cabinet from College? Or indeed, Empress from Exeter? Me neither. How many puddings have fallen by the culinary wayside, victims of changing tastes and the whims of fashion? Were they too boring, too complex, too expensive or just perceived as “old fashioned”. Were you put off certain puddings as a child because of having to suffer the industrial and institutional school dinner version?

Its easy to stick to our childhood favourites, only trying something new for a dinner party, or at a resturant. Cooking programmes on the telly only expose us to what is currently in fashion. Cookbooks either trot out the same recipes with variations time and time again, or vie with each other to see who can combine the most fancy and unlikely ingredients. All very pretty, but how many of us are going to get round to making such expensive and outlandish creations?

Did you know I collected vintage cookbooks? Guess what my favourite section is? Puddings and Desserts, hurrah! Having grown a little tired of cake of the month, though It will still happen sporadically no doubt, I feel it’s time to delve deeper into these foodie goldmines for second helpings of inspiration. I will be deliberately choosing the weird, obscure and old fashioned puddings that few of us have ever heard of, adapting to modern tastes/ingredients/measures only if absolutely necessary.

Starting with Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (because why not?), I wanted to make the rather bizzarely named “Stone Cream”. Sadly, no two books can decide on what flavouring to use, also Crumb Towers has fallen on hard times recently and I can’t afford to buy a bottle of sherry just to splash it around in a pudding we might not even like! Instead we will begin with “Vanilla Cream”, the ingredients are readily available and it’s not too hard to make. You will need a jelly mould that will hold at least 1 pint (roughly 600ml), or a variety of small moulds. It looks good as a centrepiece, though in retrospect I think it would be better served as an individual portion, with some zingy fruit sauce drizzled around it. The boys adored this pudding, and as puddings go, it’s pretty nutritious. If you worry about sugar, I’m sure you could cut down or use an alternative.

The original recipe calls for isinglass, which I have replaced with leaf gelatine, and eight eggs, which I have reduced to six. Apparently eggs were a lot smaller in those days, so recipes look a lot more extravagant than they actually were!

Vanilla Cream

  • 1 pint (600ml) milk (any kind)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 5oz (150g) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 sheets of leaf gelatine
  • 1½ tsp cornflour

Beat together the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract.

Put the milk in a medium sized saucepan and heat to boiling point.

While the milk is heating, soak the gelatine in cold water for five mins.

Pour the hot milk onto the egg yolks, whisking well the whole time. Pour back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture briskly over a medium heat until thickened. A wooden spoon or spatula with a flat edge is best for stirring, a whisk won’t make enough contact with the bottom of the pan, so the mixture would just go lumpy and burnt!

While you are stirring the mixture waiting for it to thicken, add the sheets of gelatine one at a time, stirring until dissolved. When it is nice and thick, pour into the mould/moulds. Allow to cool, then pop in the fridge to set.

To release from the mould, gently lower the mould into a bowl of hot water (do not allow the water to get inside!) keep it there from 30 to 60 seconds. The pudding should fall out when turned upside down over a plate.

Beautiful Soup Of The Month

Alice in Wonderland has to be one of the best loved children’s books ever written. Everybody loves Alice, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the March Hare. Maybe you have a soft spot for the Dormouse or Bill the lizard? Maybe you’re such a big fan that you’re now into weird cosplay (it happens)? Personally, I always loved the part with the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle. Where other children were into dragons, I always wanted a Gryphon. Part eagle, part lion, that’s pretty darn cool if you ask me!

As a small child, the Mock Turtle was a confusing creature – why did he have a calf’s head? Why the obsession with soup? Well…

…the book was published in 1865, a time when class and status were everything. Turtle soup was the trendy starter of choice at snobby dinner parties. According to Mrs Beeton, the green fat was of particular relish to epicures (eww!). The upper middle class types wanted to imitate the toffs, the middle class types wanted to imitate the upper middle class types, and so on. At the prohibitive cost of 2s per pound, not everybody could afford fresh, or even tinned turtle. What to do then? Veal meatballs were already part of the recipe, so it was a case of keeping the flavourings exactly as they were, but upping the veal content using a calf’s head. You can see what Lewis Carrol did there, right?

The thought of skinning and boiling up a calf’s head is only marginally less icky and gross than the thought of eating turtle with it’s lovely squishy, green fat (eww again!) Instead my dears, I bring you a new monthly feature (maybe): Soup Of The Month, guaranteed no brains or endangered sealife.

Spiced Sweetcorn soup

Based on a recipe from Delicious Magazine. Serves 4.

  • 4 large corn cobs
  • 6 slices of streaky bacon
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • ½ to 1tsp of chilli flakes or similar (I used Korean red pepper powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre of chicken stock (from a stock cube is fine)
  • ½ oz (15g) butter

Cube the potatoes, slice the onion and crush the garlic. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off three of the corn cobs.

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and soften the onion until lightly golden round the edges. Add the crushed garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute more.

Add the potatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins or until the potato is soft.

Meanwhile, grill the bacon until it is nice and crispy. Chop into smallish pieces and put to one side. Cut the kernels off the remaining corn cob. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and fry the remaining corn kernels until golden and caramelised.

Blend the soup till smooth (removing the bay leaves first). Divide between bowls and sprinkle with the chopped bacon and caramelised corn. Serve with a good fresh crusty bread. I used Tesco’s corn bread, it seemed fitting.


Lewis Carroll was a total grammar nazi, going so far as to insist that can’t should be written as ca’n’t, won’t as wo’n’t etc, as these are (in theory) more “correct”.

Ice Cream ‘n’ Stuff

Wow, what a crazy couple of months! School holidays, small boy back to school, Eldest Son back to college, new cats, new chickens and my usual chronic apathy. Be assured I have not forgotten you my dears! Many an awsome blog post has been composed in my addled brain, but never made it as far as the keyboard.

Ice Cream of the month and cake of the month are coming to an end (for the time being) to make way for fresh and exciting (?) monthlies.

July was the month of soft fruits. This year, thanks to a very makeshift fruitcage, the chickens failed to eat every single gooseberry before they were even ripe! Victory at last! There were enough to make a deliciously tangy ice cream, and some strawberry and gooseberry jam for teacher gifts (they do appreciate a change from chocolates). Gooseberries are rather tart, to the usual ice cream recipe, add about 150g of berries, cooked to a puree and add extra sugar to taste.

During August I wanted to do something a bit different. Blueberry and marshmallow didn’t turn out how I hoped, the marshmallows froze almost solid, very tough on the old gnashers! In the end I went for fennel, orange and chocolate chip, a combination of the three main fennel recipes to be found in blogland. It makes a nicely sophisticated and grown up ice cream.

Fennel, Orange and Chocolate Icecream

  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • the zest of 1 orange
  • 100g good quality dark chocolate

Heat the milk to boiling point. Add the fennel seeds, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least six hours, preferably overnight. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and chill till needed.

Beat together the egg yolks, sugar, orange zest and cornflour.

Carefully strain the milk into a clean saucepan and reheat.

Pour the hot milk over the egg yolks, whisking continuously. Pour it all back in the saucepan and stir briskly over a medium heat untill the mixture has thickened to the consistency of cream. Remove from the heat.

Pour into a jug. Add the double cream. Put in the fridge to chill.

Following the instructions for your machine, make the ice cream, adding the chocolate chips right at the end. Scrape into a tub and freeze until firm.



So what “monthlies” can you expect next? All will be revealed soon(ish)!

It is thought that “gooseberry” may be a corruption of the Dutch word Kruisbes or the German Krausberre. Sounds legit.