On July 27th in 1774, our old friend Parson James Woodforde - a graduate of Oxford - entertained six guests there. Somehow this seems auspicious to me as I have spent a large part of the weekend finalising my plans to visit Oxford in September for the annual Symposium on Food and Cookery.
So, what did the good parson enjoy at his little dinner party on this day (it is already the 27th in Oz, I assure you)?
“I breakfasted, dined, supped and slept again at College … [Six Gentlemen] dined and spent the afternoon with me at New College. I borrowed the Chequer Room of the Bursars for my company to dine in. We were very merry and pushed the Bottle very briskly. I gave my Company for dinner, some green Pea Soup, a chine of Mutton, some New College Puddings, a goose, some Peas and a Codlin Tart with Cream. Madeira and Port Wine to drink after and at dinner some strong Beer, Cyder, Ale and small Beer. … I had a handsome dish of fruit after dinner… I gave my company only for supper cold mutton. After supper I gave them to drink some Arrac Punch with Jellies in it and some Port Wine. … We drank 8 bottles of Port one bottle of Madeira besides Arrac Punch, Beer and Cyder. I carried of my drinking exceedingly well indeed.”
There are many different dishes called College Pudding in the very vast English pudding repertoire. The earliest known recipe is usually quoted to be that in William Kitchener’s The Cook’s Oracle (1830), and his version is:
Beat four eggs, yelks and whites together, in a quart basin, with two ounces of flour, half a nutmeg, a little ginger, and three ounces of sugar; pounded loaf sugar is best. Beat it into a smooth batter, then add six ounces of suet chopped fine, six of currants well washed and picked; mix it all well together; a glass of brandy or white wine will improve it. These puddings are generally fried in butter or lard but they are much nicer baked in an oven in patty pans; twenty minutes will bake them: if fried, fry them till they are of a nice light brown, and when fried roll them in a little flour. You may add one ounce of orange or citron minced very fine; when you bake them, add one more egg or two spoonfuls of milk. Serve them up with white wine sauce.
However - there is a recipe specifically named New College Puddings in The Compleat Housewife, by E. Smith, published in 1736.
To make New-College Puddings.
Grate a penny stale Loaf, and put to it a like quantity of Beef-suet finely shred, and a Nutmeg grated, a little Salt, some Currants, and then beat some Eggs in a little Sack [sherry], and some Sugar, and mix all together, and knead it as stiff as for Manchet, and make it up in the form and size of a Turkey-Egg, but a little flatter; then take a pound of Butter, and put it in a Dish, and set the Dish over a clear fire in a Chafing-dish, and rub your Butter about the dish till ‘tis melted; put your Puddings in, and cover the Dish, but often turn your Puddings, until they are brown alike, and when they are enough, scrape Sugar over them and serve them up hot for a side Dish.
You must let the Paste lie a quarter of an hour before you make up your puddings.
Something very like this recipe also appears in a book about the college itself - New College, by Hastings Rashdall (1858-1924) and Robert Sangster Rait (1874-1936), published in 1901. Unfortunately the authors don’t reveal its provenance, although the wording suggests that it is significantly earlier than 1901 – perhaps it is the real original from the college kitchen archives?
New Colledge Puddings.
For one duzon take a penny halfe penny white bread and grate it an put to that halfe a pound of beefe suett minced small half a pound of curantes one nutmeg and salt and as much creame and eggs as will make it almost as stiffe as past then make you in the fashon of an egg, then lay them into the dish that you bake them in one by one with a quarter of a pound of butter melted in the bottom, then set them over a cleare charcole fire and cover them, when they are browne, turne them till they are browne all over, then dishe them into a cleane dishe, for yr sause take sack, suger, rosewater and butter, pour this over yr puddings and scrape over fine suger and serve them to the table.
We have shared many previous meals with Parson Woodforde. If you would like to repeat the experience, they are at the following links:
Quotation for the Day.
It's not improbable that a man may receive more solid satisfaction from pudding while he is alive than from praise after he is dead.