Those of us who food-blog away in the bottom half of the globe have to deal on a daily basis with the constant threat of seasonal confusion due to the fact that food bloggers in the other half of the world outnumber us several large numbers to one, and therefore dominate cyberspace. We get a case of serious culinary cognitive dissonance when it is freezing outside yet we are bombarded with recipes for chilly ices and cooling salads, and when we are sweating and sweltering we are offered boiling soups and ‘winter-warming’ casseroles.
Well, today is the traditional Mid-Summer Day “up there” where most of you are. I am here to remind you that for some of us, it is Mid-Winter, and I have my thick socks on. I have made it my mission, at Solstice time, to try to find recipes that will suit us all (2006, 2007), and I have previously given you my Solstice Cake recipe.
What to do this year? We have a joint literary heritage which crosses equatorial boundaries, so I thought something inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. I give you Queen Mab’s Pudding, courtesy of Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (circa 1870). I give it first in the original form – suitable for those of you “up there”, then I give my own suggestions for adapting it to Mid-Winter.
Queen Mab’s Pudding.
Put a pint and a half of new milk or cream into a saucepan with any flavouring that may be preferred – either an inch of stick cinnamon, the thin rind of a lemon, vanilla, or eight or nine bitter almonds, blanched or sliced. Simmer the liquor gently till it is pleasantly and rather strongly flavoured, then put with it a pinch of salt, four ounces of loaf sugar, and an ounce of isinglass or gelatine, and stir till the last is dissolved. Strain the mixture through muslin, and mix with it the well-beaten yolks of five eggs. Stir it again over the fire until it begins to thicken, but on no account allow it to boil, or it will curdle. Stir until it is cool, then mix with it an ounce and a half of candied peel and an ounce and a half of dried cherries – or if preferred, preserved ginger or preserved pineapple may be used instead of the cherries, and alittle of the juice of the fruit may be stirred in with the pudding. Pour the pudding into an oiled mould, and let it stand in a cool place, or on ice, until set. Turn the pudding out very carefully, and pour around it a sauce made of clear syrup flavoured with lemon-rind and coloured with cochineal, or if preferred, mixed with a small portion of strawberry or currant acid.
Midwinter version: omit the isinglass or gelatine, throw the dried fruits into the warm custard if you like them, pour into warm bowls, add a blob of colourful jam or some sun-like soaked dried apricots. Eat.
Groaning over dinner.
Quotation for the Day.
"....that the mounds of ices, and the bowls of mint-julep and sherry cobbler they make in these latitudes, are refreshments never to be thought of afterwards, in summer, by those who would preserve contented minds."
Charles Dickens, while traveling in