Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

January 5

.... well, it is a little late, but better late than never. And I think it is still January 5 in some parts of the world.

“On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Eleven pipers piping …”

One of the most important gigs that a piper gets is to pipe in the Chieftain o’the Pudding Race (haggis) on Burns Night (January 25). The Scots have certainly got the idea right, even if most of the rest of the world is confused and concerned about haggis. All of the other incarnations of ‘pudding’ should be equally valued and so honoured – and there are many incarnations indeed.

The word ‘pudding’ comes from the Anglo-Norman bodeyn or bodin (think modern French boudin), meaning entrails, hence is a legacy of 1066 and all that. The word may originally have referred to ‘a stuffed entrail or sausage’, but it pretty soon got applied to the reverse anatomical concept of ‘a stuffing made of a mixture of minced meat, suet, oatmeal, seasoning, etc, and roasted within the body of the animal (so that we can have a hare with a pudding in its bellye). I am not entirely sure of the difference between a boudin and a saucisson (clearly I need to spend more time in France), but I am quite certain that in English, not all puddings are sausages. The French, having an inadequate language to describe the sweet delights that the English consider ‘puddings’, were forced to borrow it back again, so that they can made plum poutinge at Christmas.

From its sausagy start the pudding was adapted fairly rapidly to ‘a sweet or savoury dish with a farinaceous base – boiled, steamed or baked, especially containing suet’, and in British hearts to any sweet dish at all, delicate or solid. The family also branched out to pudding-cake (cake which is boiled or steamed) and pudding-pie (pie without the crust). If you are onto a good thing, rename everything in its honour.

Today’s recipe is from My Daily Dinner Cookery Book: the work of a practical housewife, a little Australian book - not dated, but pre-decimal currency when the New Idea magazine cost 6 pence. Probably the late 1950’s I’d say, by the look of the cover and the recipes. The pudding (dessert, sweet, ‘afters’) for the Saturday of the first week of the Summer menus (it is summer here in ‘Down South’) is – Apple fritters, which, by a nice turn of serendipity and cross hemispherical co-operation are also entirely appropriate for those of you freezing in the Other Hemisphere.

Apple Fritters.
Four oz flour, pinch of salt, one egg and enough milk to make a thick batter. Put the flour and salt into a basin, make a hole in the centre, break in the egg, and mix the flour in gently from the middle, add the milk gradually till all the flour is in. Beat well till smooth. Allow to stand for an hour, if possible.
Peel and core two apples. Cut in fairly thin rounds, four to an apple. Cover each piece well with batter, and fry in boiling fat till a light brown. Turn and brown on the other side. Drain well on kitchen paper (or cheap blotting paper). Serve on a paper doyley, and dust with castor sugar. A squeeze of lemon is an improvement. Cut a lemon into quarters, put in a small dish, and hand around.

“On the eleventh day of Christmas
My good friend gave to me
Eleven puddings cooking
Ten beers a-brewing,
Nine loaves a-rising,
Eight cheeses ripening,
Seven fish a-swimming,
Six eggs a-poaching,
Five golden fruits,
Four keeping cakes,
Three boiling hens,
Two chocolate tarts,
And a partridge in a pear tree.”

Tomorrow’s Story …

The Twelfth Day of Christmas.

Quotation for the Day …

… good advice to all women is the READ their cookery books, and not just use them for one or two special recipes which taste their fancy. K. Balfour, editor of the above book.

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