Bread and Butter Pudding

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In cool weather, bread puddings provide an inner furnace. They’re cheap and quick to make and if you don’t finish them, they can be put in the fridge and eaten later. The first recipe (or receipt) comes from The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife by Anne Hughes, dated 25 August 1796. Anne Hughes decided to start a diary to “set down all that I do every day” and so, for 13 months she wrote about her daily life, of the butter maken that sometimes “was longe time cummin” of collecting honey, pudden making, making merrie and all the social activities and hard work that was the lot of a farmer’s wife. This extraordinary document was rediscovered in the 1930s on a farm in Oxfordshire. The spelling is wonderful but not difficult to understand.

BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING WITH PEARS

You doe peel some pares, then putt sum peeces of breade and butter in thee bottom of a deep dyshe, ande laye thee pares on toppe, then more bredde and butter, throwing on sum sugger ande a pinsh of cynamon. Then you doe take 4 eggs and beate them harde for a bitt then putt them in a messure of mylke ande beate uppe till frothie, then poore over thee puddinge in thee dyshe and cooke itt gentlie for an hower bye thee clocke.

Try greasing the dish before you add the mixture. You could put it in the microwave for 20 minutes on low heat but wouldn’t get the crispy top. Apples would substitute for pears.

The second dish is unrecognizable as a bread pudding. It’s rich, spicy, delicious and Mexican. It’s also a very old recipe. The ingredients are local and the same as those used in the 1640s to make bread and cakes. The recipe was recorded by the Holy Office of the Inquisition and saved in the archives.

Generally eaten at Lent, the ingredients symbolise the Passion of Christ. Many Mexican families see the dish as a reminder of the suffering of Christ on Good Friday. The bread is for the Body of Christ, the syrup is his blood, the raisins are the nails of the cross, and the whole cinnamon sticks are the wood of the cross. The melted cheese stands for the Holy Shroud.

CAPIROTADA: MEXICAN BREAD PUDDING

1 cup rich brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon (or sticks)

1 cup water

2 ½ cups French bread cubes (stale is fine)

1 cup raisins or currants

¾ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup diced sharp cheddar

In a large pan combine brown sugar, cinnamon and water. Boil gently until the sugar is dissolved. Add the bread cubes and toss gently. Add raisins or currants, walnuts and cheese, and toss. Turn the mixture into a large greased casserole or baking pan. Bake at 375ºF for 15 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Each cook has a different recipe for Capirotada, so experiment with fennel or cloves, apples or lemon juice, toasted almonds, and goat’s cheese.

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Ice Cream Cone Revolution – Choc Mint Ice Cream Recipe

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It’s hard to imagine a world without takeaway containers, popsicle sticks or ice cream cones because we tend to eat on the run. In fact, the development of ice cream cones took centuries! Iced cream puddings became popular in the late 1700s and wafers of fine flaky biscuit were eaten with or after the pudding as a digestive aid at the end of the meal. Although wafer cornucopias were used to decorate iced pudding dishes, the pudding was not inserted in them.

Iced puddings were popular also in the 1800s but containers were rarely mentioned in cookbooks. Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Cookery Book, 1888, had a recipe for almond-encrusted cornets filled with cream or “water-ice or set custard of fruits, and served for a dinner, luncheon, or summer dish.” Chef Ranhofer’s book, The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art, 1894, had a recipe for “Rolled-Waffle Cornets” and recommended putting flavoured whipped cream in the cornets.

In the streets, Italian immigrants in London may have sold ice cream in cones, but there is no evidence of this practice. Biscuit cup companies became popular at the turn of the 20th century. Antonio Valvona registered the first patent in 1902 in Manchester, England for an “Apparatus for Baking Biscuit Cups for Ice Cream.” We took another step toward the cone.

The ice cream cone was introduced by accident at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers (IAICM) credits Ernest Hamwi with the invention. Pastry-maker Hamwi was selling “zalabia,” a traditional Levantine flat waffle-like pastry sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. His stall happened to be next to an ice cream stand run by 16-year-old Arnold Fomachou. Fomachou ran out of ice cream dishes mid-way through the fair so Hamwi twisted his zalabias into cones and scooped Fomachou’s ice cream into them to serve to the public. They became an instant success. J. P. Heckle approached Hamwi after the fair to buy his waffle machine and ask him to partner in the first ice cream cone company, the Cornucopia Waffle Company. In 1910, Hamwi opened his own company, the Missouri Cone Company. The first US patent was issued in 1924 for a “machine for forming thin, freshly baked wafers while still hot into cone-shaped containers.” We reap the benefits.

 

MINT AND CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

¼ cup sugar

½ cup water

3 large egg yolks

1¼ cups light cream

1¼ cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons crème de menthe

4 squares of dark chocolate, chopped

In a heavy saucepan, dissolve sugar in ½ cup of water. Bring to the boil and boil until 215ºF (102C).

Beat the yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour in the syrup, beating until the mixture becomes thick and light.

In another bowl, whip the creams together until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the yolks with the crème de menthe and chocolate. Pour the mixture into a container, cover and freeze till firm. Before serving, transfer ice cream to the fridge for 30 minutes.

Orange Chocolate Truffles

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Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Christmas comes but once a year and for that we are very thankful. Many years ago in England during the war, my mother and grandmother scrimped and saved their rations to get enough ingredients to make Christmas puddings. They made the puddings in October to give them time to ripen but when Christmas came, the puddings were mouldy and unusable, the product of poor quality ingredients in wartime.

Some years later, my family lived in Malaysia and one Christmas when my grandmother was visiting from England, she and my mother sweated away in 30-degree heat making a traditional pudding according to Great Aunt Polly’s recipe. The Chinese cook was fascinated.

Before dinner, mother pointed out the brandy to pour over the pudding and told Cookie to light it before bringing it to the table. When the cold consommé and roast turkey had been eaten, he whispered urgently to her that he couldn’t get the brandy to light. She said, “Never mind, Cookie, bring it in just the same.” He placed the pudding in front of my father for him to serve it, while at mother’s end of the table were fruit salad and mince pies. Father served out twelve portions, which Cookie passed round. My father was the first one to taste the pudding. He grimaced and said, “Something’s wrong with this pudding!” Cookie brought in the bottle of “brandy” he had used. It was Shell Teepol cleaning fluid, a new product that my father had been given to try. Cookie thought he would keep the best brandy for after-dinner drinks. Luckily, they could safely eat the fruit salad and mince pies. It was yet another memorable Christmas.

Instead of sweating over a hot stove, I recommend something completely different: orange chocolate truffles. They are great for gifts both to others and yourself.

4 oz (114 gm) of milk chocolate, in pieces

2 oz  (57 gm) of grated plain dark chocolate or powdered drinking chocolate

2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk

1 oz (30 gm) of butter

1 orange (for the zest)

1 lb (454 gm) of icing sugar

Your choice of Cointreau, brandy, crème de cacao, orange liqueur

In a mixing bowl put the pieces of chocolate, butter and condensed milk. Put the bowl into a larger bowl of hot water to soften the chocolate and butter. Stir until well blended and smooth. Grate the rind of the orange and add to the mixture. Stir icing sugar gradually into the mixture until it is firm enough to roll into balls without sticking to the fingers. We wouldn’t want that to happen! Adjust icing sugar and liqueur to get the right texture. This could take hours if you are really diligent! Make balls about the size of a walnut (or a mouth) and roll in grated plain dark chocolate or powdered cocoa or drinking chocolate. Put the balls on waxed paper on a baking tray and put in the fridge to harden. Then wait!

The Proof is in the Summer Pudding

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Summer pudding originated in spas and nursing homes in mid-18th century England, where it was served to patients as an alternative to heavy, fattening puddings made with pastry, suet or butter. It was known as hydropathic pudding but summer pudding was obviously a better name.

Although water spas have always existed, bathing was frowned upon for decades until 1702 when Queen Anne visited the ancient Roman city of Bath. When the fashionable Richard “Beau” Nash arrived in Bath two years later, the new regimen was established. Suddenly the health benefits of drinking water and bathing were all the rage. Bath became the social capital of Britain, attracting the rich and famous over the summer to bathe and drink the water in the pump room, while amusing themselves with gambling and gossiping. The pump room has been seen in many Jane Austen movies.

Diet was an important part of this health-based regimen so the traditional puddings were now frowned upon. It is not known when fresh fruit became part of the mix and scholars argue over when the summer pudding, as we know it, originated.

Before bread had additives to prevent it from drying, summer pudding was a good way to use up stale bread and summer fruit. It’s an old favourite in my family and has the advantage that it can be made any size with any fruit. In late summer, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, black/red currants and gooseberries make a wonderful mixture. Once pitted, cherries, plums and apricots would also work. In winter, use canned fruit and omit the cooking. You can make one large pudding or individual teacup puddings for an event.

Combine a mixture of soft berry fruit (2-3 lb) lightly cooked with sugar in a saucepan (don’t let the fruit lose its shape) or in the microwave.

Cut a loaf of white bread (no crusts), brioche or sponge cake into thick slices. Line a pudding basin with the bread, making sure there are no gaps.

Pour in the fruit and juice but keep back some juice and a few berries for decoration. Cover the pudding with more bread (cut slices to fit). Put a plate on top of the pudding and a weight on top. Leave it in the fridge overnight.

To serve, take the weight and plate off. Put your serving dish on top of the pudding and flip the pudding. Pour over the reserved berries and juice if needed. The pudding usually turns out with a spectacular marbled white and burgundy look. Serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or Bird’s custard.

Bird’s Custard is the original version of custard powder, which is cornflour-based and thickens to form a sauce when mixed with milk and heated. Bird’s Custard was formulated in England by Alfred Bird in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs, used to thicken traditional custard. He did the world a service because now you can make custard in a matter of minutes. I’m ashamed to say my father and I used to fight over the skin on the top of the jug.

Singapore Chicken Rice and Desserts

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Chicken rice is a favourite lunch dish in Singapore served at a hawker’s stall in waxed brown paper tied up with plastic string or in the air-conditioned Mandarin Hotel on Orchard Road. It’s quick to cook, tasty and very healthy. As long as you have the ingredients, it can be ready in half an hour.

CHICKEN RICE

In a big pot (Dutch oven) on the stove, add a tablespoon of cooking oil (not olive oil) and heat.

Add:

Onion or garlic, sliced or crushed
Ginger root, sliced (no need to peel)
Bunch of green onions (spring onions), chopped
Bunch of cilantro/coriander, chopped (save some to use as garnish)
Chicken (thighs, breast)(2 or 3 per person)
Cover with water
Add Chinese soya sauce
Add a couple of packets of chicken OXO/Bovril
Bring to the boil and then simmer
Adjust seasoning (soya and OXO)

When the chicken has cooked for half an hour and the soup is tasty, take the chicken pieces out with a slotted spoon and take the skin off. Slice chicken. Serve on rice and sprinkle fresh cilantro on top. Ladle the soup into a separate bowl. On the table have individual small dishes of Chinese soya sauce and sweet Thai chilli sauce for each person to dip their chicken in. Use Chinese bowls, ceramic spoons and chopsticks. Serve with Jasmine tea.

Next day when the leftovers have been in the fridge, a coating of fat will cover the soup. Scoop it off into a paper towel and discard; reheat the soup. It will be even better.

RICE

Prepare long grain Basmati rice while the chicken is cooking. A coffee mug of dry rice is good for three people. Fill a saucepan with water, rest a sieve on the top and put the rice in the sieve. With a wooden spoon under cold running water, stir the rice until the water is clear. Lift the sieve out of the water and discard water. Put rice into saucepan and cover with fresh water (about I cm/a knuckle above the rice). Put on high heat, wait until it boils, then turn it down to simmer until the rice is dry and fluffy.

SALTED FRESH FRUIT

After hot spicy dishes, the regular dessert is a plate of sliced fresh fruit, sprinkled with salt (sea salt). The salt brings out the flavour of any fruit – oranges, apples, water apples, star fruit, watermelon, bananas or what have you. Put toothpicks into the slices so they are easy to pick up; provide a dish for the skins.

LYCHEES & ALMOND JELLY

Another cooling dessert is almond jelly and lychees. In Chinatown you will be able to buy a packet of almond jelly. Stir the powder into hot water, pour into a baking tray and put in the fridge. When it has set, cut the jelly into cubes. Empty a can of lychees (and their juice) into a bowl with the almond jelly cubes. The flavours are subtle and refreshing.

Afternoon Tea, Anyone?

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Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is said to have started afternoon tea in 1830. She complained about “a sinking feeling” between lunch and dinner and began having tea with bread and butter served mid-afternoon. Teatime became more elaborate as she invited her friends and the dishes increased: crustless sandwiches, pastries, crumpets, and scones with jam. It wasn’t until the price of tea came down that everyone began drinking it and it became part of the working class high tea, or supper, a meal served with eggs and ham around 6 pm.

We associate tea with scones and jam, but Devonshire cream teas may have started centuries before tea was introduced to Britain. As far as we know, scones, jam and clotted cream originated in Tavistock, Devon in the early 11th century. Monks served scones to the labourers who helped them restore the monastery after a Viking raid in 997 AD. Apparently they had no difficulty finding volunteers!

This recipe makes 8 scones (no raisins originally):

225g / 9oz flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

50g / 2oz butter

25g / 1oz caster (berry) sugar

150ml (1/2 cup) milk

1 medium egg
Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease baking tray.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter to breadcrumb texture.

Stir in sugar. Add milk. Mix lightly into a soft dough.

Scoop dough onto a floured board and knead briefly.

Roll dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut into circles. Put on baking tray.

Brush the tops with beaten egg.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until well-risen and golden brown.

Cool on wire rack.

Tea was drunk only by the wealthy in the 1600s and it was highly taxed. Even in the early 1800s ships could take a year to transport loose tea from China to Europe, making transport expensive. The East India Company had a monopoly on the tea trade in 1832 and began to reduce the journey by building light, fast ships called clippers. We now use the expression “at a good clip,” which comes from the ships. They were streamlined square-riggers and could make 15-22 knots under full sail. The most famous was the Cutty Sark, built in 1868. It made the tea run only eight times (clippers rarely lasted 20 years) and can be seen at Greenwich, London.

We use tea bags without thinking, but they were invented only about 100 years ago. The first tea bags were hand-sewn silk-muslin sample bags. By 1904, Thomas Sullivan of New York was shipping tea bags around the world. A machine was soon invented to replace the hand sewing.

The Empress Hotel, Victoria BC, used to serve tea and crumpets with honey for 35 cents but even that price became too high during the Depression, when many of the Empress residents lost fortunes in the crash. One lady made economies by ordering hot water at teatime because it was free. She then slipped a teabag surreptitiously into the pot while the staff looked the other way.

Hooray for Rice Pudding

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In the United Kingdom, rice pudding is a popular traditional dessert. The earliest rice puddings were called whitepot, as were bread and butter puddings. Gervase Markham has the first known recipe in his worthy book, The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman, published in London in 1615.

 

WHITEPOT 1615

“Take the best and sweetest cream, and boil it with good store of sugar, and cinnamon, and a little rose-water, then take it from the fire and put into it clean picked rice, but not so much as to make it thick, and let it steep therein till it be cold; then put in the yolks of six eggs, and two whites, currants, sugar, cinnamon, and rose-water, and salt, then put it into a pan, or pot, as thin as if it were a custard; and so bake it and serve it in the pot it is baked in, trimming the top with a little sugar or comfits.”

 

COMFITS: whole almonds (blanched), 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp water

Toast almonds in dry frying pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with sugar, stir to coat. When sugar melts, add water to make syrup. Coat almonds in syrup. Put on wax paper to cool. Place on pudding.

To blanch almonds, soak them in boiling water for a few minutes; the skin can be rubbed off.

 

Rice was probably introduced to Spain in the 10th century by trade from India but was not cultivated in Europe until the 15th century. Britain began to import rice from Spain and Italy at this time. Both long and short grain rice were grown but by the 17th century the risotto type of rice, Arborio, predominated in the areas exporting to Britain.

The first rice pudding recipe is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice, either short or long grained. The second recipe is German/Austrian and a show stopper at a dinner party.

 

CREAMY RICE & RAISIN PUDDING

½ cup raisins

1 cup cooked rice

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon butter

2 eggs

1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Grated nutmeg (optional)

Put the raisins and cooked rice in a lightly buttered deep 6-cup baking dish. Heat milk and butter to scalding (not boiling). Beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla. Gradually stir in heated milk. Pour over raisins and rice. Grate nutmeg on top and set the dish in a shallow pan of water. Bake in a moderate oven (300ºF) for one hour. Alternatively, put the dish in the microwave for 20 minutes on medium power without the pan of water.

 

REIS à la TRAUTMANNSDORF

1/3 to ½ cup washed short-grained rice

Vanilla pod

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon sugar

125 ml carton whipping cream

Packet of frozen raspberries, thawed

 

In a double saucepan boil rice in milk with sugar and vanilla pod. Cook for one hour but don’t let it get too dry. Cool. Whip cream and fold into cool rice. Chill and serve with raspberries.

 

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