Monday, November 19, 2007

Pudding or Pie?

November 19 ...

I was planning to discuss the meaning of puddings today, but my bloggy friend Joe Pastry beat me to it with his wonderful exposé of puddings (or should that be series of exposées ?) last week. Joe covered several meanings of “pudding” - the concept of pudding meaning dessert/sweet, pudding in the sense of sausages, and the cusp between pudding and cake. He has even dared to bring tapioca into the pudding debate. I have no idea, Joe, what you have in store in Pre- and Proto-Puddings Part Two, so I will forge ahead anyway with a narrower pudding focus, and aim for perfect synchronicity but not duplication of our stories.

I wish to focus on the pudding that is also a pie, or the pie that is also a pudding - the “Pudding-pie”. There is a particular reason for focussing on this topic this month, for November was the time of the famous Dedington Pudding-Pie fair in Oxfordshire, England.

There are many different dishes called pudding-pies – including I understand some artificially coloured and flavoured commercial powder which becomes “pudding” with the mere addition of water. This post will not discuss that sort of “pudding” any further.

The oldest meaning of pudding-pies is a sort of custard or cheesecake (with or without a pastry crust) which was a popular Lenten dish. In various cookbooks across the ages the name has also been applied to baked dough puddings, boiled puddings, bread puddings, batter pudding (including one wonderful Norfolk variation – the Norfolk Pudding Pye Doll – which is the fen-folk’s name for Toad in the Hole). And the Dedington Pudding-pie, which is a category all of its own.

The origin of the Dedington pudding-pie is obscure. Perhaps the ancient Dedingtonians wanted to define their Martinmas fair in some way, and could not decide whether it would be with cake or plum pudding or pie, so they combined the ideas. We will never know, but whatever the story, the Dedington pudding-pie is a ‘raised’ pie filled with what to all intents and purposes is a plum-pudding mixture. The robustness of the crust is legendary - some reports say that the crust was put in the sun for a few days to harden before being filled. It is always possible, I suppose, that some ancient ones are still around and are the origin of the idea that every fruitcake has been around forever, and just gets re-gifted and re-gifted.

I give you Mrs. Beeton’s recipe (1861) for the ‘original’ variety of pudding-pie, most famously associated with the English county of Kent.

Folkestone Pudding Pies.
1 pint of milk, 3 oz. of ground rice, 3 oz. of butter, 1/4 lb. of sugar, flavouring of lemon-peel or bay-leaf, 6 eggs, puff-paste, currants.
Infuse 2 laurel or bay leaves, or the rind of ½ lemon, in the milk, and when it is well flavoured, strain it, and add the rice; boil these for ¼ hour, stirring all the time; then take them off the fire, stir in the butter, sugar, and eggs, and let these latter be well beaten before they are added to the other ingredients; when nearly cold, line some patty-pans with puff-paste, fill with the custard, strew over each a few currants, and bake from 20 to 25 minutes in a moderate oven.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Stinking Garlic.

Quotation for the Day …

As a rule they will refuse even to sample a foreign dish, they regard such things as garlic and olive oil with disgust, life is unliveable to them unless they have tea and puddings. George Orwell, "The English People"

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