Monday, April 02, 2012

Easter Specialties.

I have covered many Easter-related foods in blog posts in the last six years (links are below), and the day may come when I have to resort to an unrelated topic – but this is not the year. I find that I have not yet covered the famous English traditional dish of Easter Bistort Pudding.

Easter Bistort pudding is not a sweet dessert, it is the far older form of pudding – a starchy dish whose primary purpose was to fill the belly. For the poor, a boiled pudding was often the only dish at dinner, but for the rich it was a tasty side dish to a substantial protein. For the British poor, especially in the North, the starch was often oatmeal or barley. After many winter months of plain oatmeal, the first wild spring greens were an incredibly welcome sight, and were eagerly picked and added to whatever was in the pot.
Any non-poisonous greens will do to add to the daily grain – nettles, dandelion leaves, wild sorrel, and our ingredient for the day – bistort, or dock.  This large-leafed plant, not related to the dock which is used to counteract nettle stings, is Polygonum bistorta. Conveniently for us this week it is also known in some parts of the country as ‘Easter Ledges’ or ‘Easter Giant.’

Essentially, to make Easter Bistort Pudding (Dock Pudding, Easter Ledge Pudding), the leaves are boiled and mixed with cooked oatmeal or barley and eaten hot, straight from the pan, or allowed to go cold, then sliced and fried. The basic mixture can of course be improved with some onion and enriched with eggs, and in the best of all possible worlds, the slices are fried in bacon fat, and served with more bacon, and perhaps another egg or two on the side.

The Times of March 6, 1939 gives a recipe for a very up-market version of Easter Pudding, and suggests it be served with roast meats.
Easter Pudding.
It is pleasant to answer questions about that fine old Westmoreland dish Easter Pudding, so called because Polygonum Pistorta (known as Easter Ledges or Easter May’s Giants) is a favourite ingredient. This grows wild in many places, but is also planted by epicures in their gardens on account of the flavoursome young shoots.
This is a medley of herbs – the more the better – mixed with a little barley and bound with egg. The ingenious cook will find many good herb combinations. Boil a small rhubarb leaf*, dandelions, young black currant leaves, mint, parsley, and any suitable leaves with chopped onion. Mince them, add a little cooked barley, and a seasoning of salt and pepper and turn the mixture into a fireproof dish. Mix in an egg or two and sufficient butter to prevent the pudding from getting stodgy. Bake for half an hour in a moderate oven.

*Please note: rhubarb leaves are now known to be poisonous in sufficient quantities. The recipe is given here for historical interest only.

Quotation for the Day.
My mom used to say that Greek Easter was later because then you get stuff cheaper.
 Amy Sedaris

Previous Easter Posts.
In 1879, President Rutherford Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes hosted the first Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House itself [and recipe for pickled eggs]
White EasterCake, from an Australian wartime cookery book (1943)
WartimeChocolate Cake for Easter made with dried egg, recipe from a WW II Food Ministry leaflet.
Good Fridaydinner with the Brothers. seventeenth century brethren at the Hospital of  St.Cross, and   a recipe for mead.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I hope nobody uses this recipe nowadays. Rhubarb leaves aren't good for you!


SometimesKate said...

Isn't rhubarb leaf poisonous?

The Old Foodie said...

Thankyou Sandra and Kate: I did intend to flag this, so thankyou for reminding me. I think I should add a generic disclaimer to the blog - many of the ingredients and methods used in olden times are now considered not safe,but I give them for their historical interest! What do you think?