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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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!

Witches’ Brew

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A concoction of strange, powerful or terrifying ingredients from toads and newts to bats and snakes, this brew consists of anything you fancy. Needless to say, quantities are variable, depending on what you can catch. Given the ingredients, witches were apparently excellent cooks unless they cheated and cast a spell over the cauldron at the end to make it taste good.

The following recipe I can guarantee as tasty and measurement free. It’s one of those perfect recipes where you toss in whatever you have in the fridge, while muttering incantations of course. Take a big cauldron, put on fire, and in it heat a generous amount of dark green extra-virgin olive oil. Drop a chopped onion into the oil (garlic too, if you like) and stir with a large wooden spoon, trying to keep your long grey hair out of the pot. Add the meat of your choice, stirring till brown. Use one pound of finely sliced beef, pork or veal if you don’t want to go to the nearest swamp and catch critters. Mild Italian sausages, sliced once they are partially cooked, make a tasty stew.

Spells and magic help with the rest of the ingredients, together with your imagination. Don’t forget to add a glass of red wine if you are partial to it. Add a can of tomatoes, a couple of carrots, peeled and sliced, cubed potatoes or pasta, green beans, zucchini or whatever vegetables you have on hand. A spoonful of tomato puree will increase the tomato flavour but is optional. Add water to thin or olive oil to thicken and enrich the mixture. Simmer to reduce the juices.

Sprinkle in salt and pepper, a teaspoonful of oregano or Italian herbs, and chopped fresh parsley. All good witches have a herb garden. As a good witch, you will naturally charge the herbs before you put them in the pot. Hold them in your hands and visualize their energy mingling with yours. Pinch them to release their scent and to perceive their vibrational energy. Remember that parsley stands for purification and protection and will ensure a stress-free environment at dinner. Pepper drives out negative energy as well as protects. If pepper makes you sneeze it means it’s driving out demons, a very useful quality. Sage is for wisdom and, like thyme, aids psychic awareness and promotes long life. Thyme and basil are vital in love spells. Oregano is connected to Venus and promotes happiness and tranquillity, gives good luck, health and protection. You will realize at this point that the herbs you choose to add to the dish are of crucial importance in creating the right atmosphere for your evening, if not the rest of the week.

Serve in a bowl with fresh French bread for dipping, and a glass of hearty red wine. When the children come knocking at the door, you will be well fortified, never mind tranquil, happy, and protected from demons. Don’t forget to give a dish to your familiar – the black cat – or the evening could still go awry.

 

Raffles Hotel – Tigers and Singapore Sling

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Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Early one morning on 13 August 1902, an escaped circus tiger bounded under the Raffles Hotel Billiard Room, which was built on stilts. Charles Phillips, principal of Raffles Institution and a member of Singapore’s rifle team, was urgently called to the hotel. Rushing over in his pyjamas, he saw the eyes of the tiger gleaming in the half-light under the building, took aim, and killed it. A python and a wild boar have also visited the hotel in the days before Singapore became an urban jungle but no stories tell of their demise.

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Apart from the wildlife, Raffles is known for its Singapore Sling, created at the Long Bar between 1910-15 by the Hainanese–Chinese bartender, Ngiam Tong Boon. It has been popular ever since as a good antidote to tiger sightings. Sitting in rattan chairs under twirling fans in the hot, moist atmosphere of Singapore, any drink is welcome. In the early days, guests could sit on the verandah to catch the cooling sea breezes and see five miles of shipping from all over the world bobbing at anchor. The hotel still stands on Beach Road but so much land has been reclaimed that the beach is now out of sight. The following recipe was jotted on a bar chit by a visitor in 1936.

SINGAPORE SLING

2 measures of gin

1 measure of cherry brandy

1 measure of fresh orange, lemon, lime and pineapple juice

Drop of Cointreau

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Garnish with a slice of pineapple and a cherry

Shake well with ice and serve in a tall glass. Don’t forget the umbrella.

Raffles Hotel was established by the Armenian Sarkies brothers and named after Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles. They leased the 10-room colonial bungalow on Beach Road from an Arab trader, Syed Mohamed Alsagoff, on 1 December 1887. The glorious main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899, designed by architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren. Over the years a verandah, wings, ballroom, and a bar and billiards room were added.

Raffles is known not only for tigers and slings but for its famous guests. Somerset Maugham visited in the 1920-30s and wrote every morning under a frangipani tree in the Palm Court. He noted that Raffles Hotel “stands for all the fables of the exotic East.”

Raffles Hotel has featured in many films, including the BBC’s Tenko, which recreated the experiences of British, Australian an Dutch women captured after the fall of Singapore (February 1942). The film Paradise Road tells the story of the same camp. The women were held in internment camps on Sumatra until 1945, when they were repatriated to Singapore. Raffles Hotel acted as the clearinghouse for news. A woman who had been in the same camp as my father’s first wife recognised him from her description, told him of her death a few months before and handed back her wedding ring, which he wore for the rest of his life.

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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Lady Clementine Churchill’s Coffee Cream

 

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Sir Winston and Lady Churchill

LADY CHURCHILL’S COFFEE CREAM

In the 1930s Mrs. Landemare was one of the most sought after cooks in Britain. She had cooked for Sir Winston and Lady Churchill from the early twenties doing temporary work—Scotland in the autumn, Newmarket in racing week, ball suppers, Chartwell weekend parties—but in 1939 she offered Lady Churchill her full-time services. Lady Churchill knew she would be able to make the best out of rations and that everyone in the household would be happy. She worked tirelessly throughout the war, leaving the kitchen after midnight and returning shortly after to start breakfast. She noted the difficulties in preparing decent food during the Blitz. On VE night, however, Churchill told her that he could not have managed through the war without her. Mrs. Landemare remained for fifteen years, retiring in 1954.

The domestic suite in the Cabinet War Rooms below Westminster includes a tiny, windowless bunker kitchen where Mrs. Landemare was ready to fricassée a chicken, even with the Nazis at the door. Luckily they never arrived; instead she cooked for the Churchills in their flat above the Cabinet War Rooms, known as the No 10 annexe, or at No 10 itself, a quarter of a mile away. “One thing that tested her a lot,” recalls Churchill’s daughter, Mary Soames, “was when my father, to show that it was ‘business as usual,’ sometimes decided to use the dining room at No 10 instead of the annexe. So Mrs. Landemare would have to transfer from one kitchen to another and be driven round in the duty car with the covered dishes wrapped in shawls to keep them warm, clasped tightly on her lap.”

The night of October 14, 1940, was even worse. During an air raid, Churchill chivvied Mrs. Landemare out of the No 10 kitchen and into an air-raid shelter. Three minutes later the kitchen was, Churchill wrote, “a heap of black dust and rubble.”

On view to the public, the bunker kitchen at the Cabinet War Rooms contains waffle irons, pastry cutters, jelly moulds, and copper saucepans but no mechanical whisks or gadgetry, because Mrs. Landemare scorned such “modern” devices.

Churchill’s domestic suite with the bunker kitchen is at the Cabinet War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1 (020-7930 6961); open daily 9.30am-6pm.

In 1958, she published “Recipes from No. 10: Some Practical Recipes for Discerning Cooks,” with a foreword by Clementine Churchill: “Mrs. Landemare’s food was delicious. She is an inspired and intuitive cook, and it is I who encouraged her to write this book.” So she got as near to the kitchen as her desk and pen.

 

COFFEE CREAM

4 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

4 tablespoons strong black coffee

1 packet gelatine

Shredded, toasted almonds

Dissolve gelatine in coffee in a glass jug standing in saucepan of hot water.

Beat yolks with sugar in a basin standing in hot water until creamy and thick. Add gelatine and coffee mixture. Remove bowl from water and continue beating until cold. Whip whites of eggs. Whip cream. Add alternately to cooled mixture.

Turn out into cut-glass serving dish. Chill. Before serving, sprinkle with toasted almonds.

 Don’t forget to toast Mrs. Landemare.