It is my birthday today, and I am certain that amongst the good things that are planned, some good food will be there. Just for fun, I am going to check out what was suggested for the day by Phillis Browne, the author of A Year's Cookery: giving dishes for breakfast, luncheon, and dinner for every day in the year, with practical instructions for their preparation (London, 1879) whose target readership was “people of moderate income, with moderate domestic help, and ordinary kitchen utensils”.
This is what she suggests – a menu entirely unsuitable for the sweltering December heat in Queensland, and not at all to my personal taste:
Eggs in Brown Butter
Brown and White Bread and Butter
Biscuits and Milk.
Boiled Leg of Mutton
Every day was a two-pudding day at the time, it seems. Phillis included recipes for every dish (all of them appearing several times over the year of course.) As the dish of the day I cannot resist the concept of ‘Cake Pudding’, and I must also share with you the recipe for ‘Guest Pudding’ as I am sure some of you will share my birthday.
This pudding is both economical and wholesome, and is generally a favourite with the children. To make it, gather together a number of pieces of broken bread and put them into a bowl. Pour upon them as much boiling water as will cover them, put a plate upon the bowl, and let them soak until soft, then drain away the water. Beat them up with a fork until smooth, and take out any pieces that still remain doughy. Stir into the mass a good lump of dripping, a pinch of salt, a little grated nutmeg, moist sugar to taste, and a few picked and dried currants, or, if these are objected to, sultana raisins may be used.
Grease a pie-dish, turn the mixture into it, and bake in a well -heated oven till the pudding is brightly browned on the top. A little jam is a great improvement to this pudding, and wine sauce makes it seem very much better than it really is. It must not be drained too dry.
Two bonus recipes come from the section on Invalid Cookery:
An invalid tired of milk puddings might like cake pudding for a change. Chop a little suet till it is as fine as sand, and be most careful that no skin or fibre is left therein. Mix thoroughly three dessertspoonfuls of the suet with three of flour, three of fine breadcrumbs, three of sugar. Beat an egg, and mix it with three dessertspoonfuls of milk, and stir into the pudding. Turn into a small greased basin, put a round of paper on the top, set in a saucepan containing boiling water to come half-way up the basin, and steam for an hour.
Sponge Cake Pudding.
Take a penny sponge cake, or a slice of stale sponge cake that will be equivalent thereto, and crumble over a wire sieve. Pour on a quarter of a pint of boiling milk, and beat with a fork. Sweeten, and, when cool, add a whole egg which has been whisked to a froth. Butter a cup, pour in the batter, lay a greased paper on the top, and steam till the pudding is firm in the centre. Turn out, sift white sugar over, and serve with a little wine.
It turns out that Guest’s Pudding is also based on bread:
Take eight ounces of bread-crumbs that have been passed through a wire sieve. Put half of these into a bowl, and pour upon them half a pint of boiling milk. Lay a plate on the top, and let them soak for a while ; then add the remainder of the bread-crumbs, three ounces of crushed ratafias, four ounces of moist sugar, four ounces of chopped candied-peel, four ounces of chopped suet, the grated rind of a fresh lemon, a pinch of salt, and a tea-spoonful of baking powder. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, then add four eggs, one at a time, and stir the mixture well. Pour the preparation into a buttered mould, lay a buttered paper on the top, and steam for two hours. (See Treacle Pudding, March 28th.) Let the pudding stand a minute or two, turn it out carefully, and serve with sweet sauce. If liked, half a pound of stale bread can be used instead of fresh bread-crumbs; but if this were done, the bread would need to be beaten well with a fork after soaking, and any lumps there might be would have to be taken away. Also, for economy's sake, two eggs and a little more milk might be used instead of four eggs