A Baked Marrow Pudding

Make the most of the chilly February weather with this indulgent Georgian-era pudding. Toasted bread, raisins, bone marrow and creamy ginger-spiced custard are layered up in a dish, topped with a puff pastry lid and baked in the oven for the ultimate in comfort food. Sounds familiar? Substitute the marrow for butter, and you’d have something along the lines of a classic British bread and butter pudding:

This 18th century baked marrow pudding bears more than a passing resemblance to bread and butter pudding, a British classic

This 18th century baked marrow pudding bears more than a passing resemblance to bread and butter pudding, a British classic

A Bak’d Marrow Pudding

Take a pint of cream & boyle in it 2 rase of ginger, a little sugar & let it cool. Put to it 6 eggs, 2 whites, half a spoonfulls of flower. Then have some sippits of bread toasted & some raisons, some lumps of marrow, & butter ye bottom of your dish very well & lay a lairer of sippits & then a layer of raisins & then 6 spoonsfulls of cream, than a layer of marrow, then raisins & sippits again & cream, & so fill yr dish. Put a lid of puff paste at top. 3 qrs of an hour bakes it.

Bogberry pudding

If you have any cranberries left over from Christmas Day, this recipe for a ‘bog berry’ pudding offers a tasty way of using them up!

This 18th century recipe is a great way to use up your Christmas leftovers: for bogberries, use cranberries.

This 18th century recipe is a great way to use up your Christmas leftovers: for ‘bog berries’, use cranberries.

A Bog Berry Pudding

Take to quarts of bog berrys and put them in a brass skilett with half a pint of water and let them stew for an hour kieping them stiring untill the be very soft. Then strain them through a fine cloath. Then put your liquire back unto your skillet with a pound of white sugar and let it boyle for half an hour. When cold, mix it up with the yolks of eight eggs, pounded cinnamon, nutmeg and mace, 2 spoonfulls of rose water, a glass of sack, lemon peel shread small with half a pinte of melted butter. Put unto your dish, with past about the brim. An hour will bake it.

A monster plum pudding at St Marylebone Workhouse

Archivist Jo Buddle explores the extraordinary story of a giant plum pudding and reveals the darker reality of life in Britain’s Victorian workhouses:

Members of the United Cooks' Society preparing a monster plum pudding at Marylebone Workhouse

Members of the United Cooks’ Society preparing a monster plum pudding at Marylebone Workhouse

This image from the Illustrated London News of 3 January 1863 records a ‘monster’ undertaking at Marylebone Workhouse.  It shows a plum pudding being made by the London United Cooks’ Society for cotton workers in Manchester, who were struggling with supply because of the American Civil War. The Marylebone Union lent their boiler and facilities for the job

This was no ordinary plum pudding. The finished pudding was over 10 ft in circumference and the list of ingredients was breathtaking. It contained 130 lb of currants, 130 lb of sultanas, 210 lb of flour, 130 lb of suet, 80 lb of peel, 80 lb of sugar, 1040 eggs, 8 gallons of ale, 4 lb of mixed spice and 1 lb of ground ginger. The final result weighed in at 900lb!

The kitchens at Marylebone Workhouse were well set up for mass catering. At its height, Marylebone workhouse had capacity for 1921 inmates. Its dining room was was 120ft long and the kitchen was equipped accordingly, with two 50 gallon beef-tea boilers and a 200 gallon tea infuser. The potato steamers had a total capacity of three quarters of a ton.

On occasion, at Christmas, inmates at Marylebone might be granted a special meal by the workhouse guardians, supplementing their regular meagre diet with a festive cake or pudding. The usual fare at Marylebone was much more simple, featuring cheap dishes such as pea soup, mutton broth and Irish stew. Food was simple and strictly rationed. 

This view of St Marylebone Workhouse was originally drawn by a pauper inmate of the institution in 1866.

This view of St Marylebone Workhouse was originally drawn by a pauper inmate of the institution in 1866.

Although the Marylebone workhouse did not rank amongst the severest of the poor house institutions, life within it was nevertheless hard and uncomfortable. Those who had lost the means to house and feed themselves turned to the shelter of the workhouse as a very last resort. Men, women and children were segregated and those who were able were expected to work for their living. All able inmates were employed in menial tasks, from stone-breaking to oakum-picking (unravelling old ropes, which would then be sold on to the Navy).

Plan of St Marylebone Workhouse in 1881, showing the separation of male and female dormitories (wards)

Plan of St Marylebone Workhouse in 1881, showing the separation of male and female dormitories (wards)

In some workhouses, the regime descended into cruelty. Rather than providing a living for inmates, the imbalance of exacting physical labour and a nutritionally-poor diet at these institutions was leading to starvation and death. In 1845 a scandal broke out at Andover, where workhouse inmates were found gnawing on animal bones due of a lack of food. 

The work of high-profile campaigners such as Charles Dickens, along with news stories such as the scandal at Andover, led to a growing unease about the workhouse system. By late 19th century it was recognised that the dietary regimes of the nation’s workhouses had to change. From 1900 onwards, workhouse unions were encouraged to provide a more varied and balanced diet for their inmates. In 1901, the distribution of an official workhouse recipe book by the National Training School of Domestic Cookery ensured that workhouse kitchens were producing better meals with greater nutritional value.

In 1930, the system of poor law administration changed and, with the abolition of the Board of Guardians, many workhouses closed or became public assistance institutions. However, many people consider that workhouses didn’t truly disappear until the establishment of a Welfare State and the foundation of our National Health Service in 1948.

[Jo]

A plum pudding for Stir Up Sunday

Christmas may still seem a long way off but today is Stir Up Sunday. The last Sunday before Advent, it’s traditionally the day for preparing Christmas puddings. With a month or so still to go until 25th December, this early preparation gives the puddings ample time to mature before they are served up on Christmas Day.

Here’s an eighteenth-century recipe from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies to give you some inspiration:

A Georgian plum pudding recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Georgian plum pudding recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Receipt to Make a Plum Pudding

Stone one pound of raisons. Add one pound of fresh suet, the yolks and whits of twelve eggs. Beat up very well. When that is don, put in the suet and one naggin of brandy and a nutmeg. Their must be a bout tow spoonfulls of fower mixed with the raisins and the must be put in the last. It well take at least four hours boyling. Their must be too spoonfull of brown sugar.

Apple pudding, two ways…

If you’ve enjoyed a bumper crop of apples this year, you’re probably still trying to find good recipes for using them up. If you’ve already had your fill of apple pie and have stocked up your cupboards with apple jams and jellies, then here are another two ways with apples for you to try…

Recipe for Boston Apple Pudding, as transcribed from The Cook's Oracle in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Regency recipe for Boston Apple Pudding, transcribed by our Unknown Ladies from Kitchiner’s  The Cook’s Oracle

Boston Apple Pudding

Peel one dozen and a half of good apples. Take out the cores, cut them small, put into a stewpan that will just hold them with a little water, a little cinnamon, two cloves and the peel of a lemon. Stir over a slow fire till quite soft. Then sweeten with moist sugar and pass it through a hair sieve. Add to it the yolks of four eggs and one white, a quarter of a pound of good butter, half a nutmeg, the peel of a lemon grated and the juice of one lemon. Beat all well together. Line the inside of a pie dish with puff paste and bake half an hour.

Georgian recipe for Baked Apple Pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Georgian recipe for Baked Apple Pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Baked Apple Pudding

Take twelve […] large pippins. Coddle them over ye fire very slowly that they do not crack. When the are soft, peel, core them & pulp them through a cullander. Add to this three sponfuls of orange flower water, ten eggs well beat, all ye whites left out & strained, ½ a pound of butter melted. Make it very sweet. Grate the peel of two lemons & the juic of one. Half a hour will bake it.

And, if you’re still in need of inspiration, why not take a look back at another  apple pudding recipe we shared earlier in the year, which uses cream and crushed biscuits. One of our readers, Catherine, gave it a go – you can see the results by taking a look at her Georgian puddings, recreated

Revisiting sago…

Sago pudding… If you were at school in Britain in the ’50s and ’60s, the very mention of it may be enough to send shivers down the spine. Sago pudding, semolina pudding and tapioca pudding were all regulars on the school dinner  menu and, while some remember them fondly, many others have been put off these puddings for life by the gloopy versions they were confronted with as a child.

It’s a shame, as sago pudding is highly nutritious and, cooked well, serves as the perfect comfort food. If you’re brave give sago another go, why not start with this 18th century version from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies?

This sago pudding is prepared ‘an excellent way’ with flavourings of orange and lemon peel, cinnamon and brandy:

An 18th century style sago pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

An 18th century style sago pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Segoe Pudding an Excellent Way

Take 2 handfulls of segoe & boyle it in just as much water as will cover it, stiring it while it is boyleing least it burn. Dont boyle it longer than till it is thick. Take 8 eggs, beat them with a qr of brown sugar. When yr segoe is cold, put it to them & some pounded cinnimon, a large spoonful of pounded orange & lemon peel, 2 spoonfulls of brandy, half a pd of melted butter. Let it cool. Mix all well together & besur[e] stir it well as it goos in the oven lest the segoe settle to the bottom. An hour bakes it in a slow oven.

Sago is derived from the pith of a palm tree, native to India and South East Asia. The Elizabethan Explorer Sir Francis Drake is said to have been one of the first Britons to experience the harvesting and preparation of sago on the eastern Indonesian island of Ternate. A written record by Francis Pretty, one of Drake’s attendants on his voyage around the world, states that the local people there gave them

meal, which they call sagu, made of the tops of certain trees, tasting in the mouth like sour curds, but melteth like sugar, whereof they make certain cakes, which may be kept the space of ten years, and yet then good to be eaten.

Our next starch pudding is based on an ingredient found closer to home: millet. This cereal was widely eaten by the peasantry of continental Europe and was generally considered as a food of the poor. However, in the 18th century millet puddings became rather fashionable in British kitchens.

This Georgian recipe shows how millet was appropriated for the middle classes. The pudding is enriched with large quantities of eggs, butter and cream: ingredients which would have put it out of reach of the labouring classes. Delicate flavourings of nutmeg and sweet bay (‘lawrell’) water lent an additional veneer of sophistication:

A Georgian-era recipe for millet pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Georgian-era recipe for millet pudding from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A Millet Pudding

Take a handfull of millet, boyle it a little in a pint of water. Then, after you have taken it of the fire, stir in to it whilst it is hot 2 large prints of butter, a whole nutmeg, some sugar to your taste. Set it by to coole. When it is quite cold, put in 12 eggs and but half the whites, a pint of sweet cream boyled & mix all these well together. An hour boyls it. A boyled rice pudding is the same way but pound the rice & put in a little lawrell water.

The Cooking Up History sessions – 5: potato pudding and warden pie

Chelsea and Christina were our willing helpers and ‘guinea pigs’ for the latest Cooking Up History session. They joined us in the Archives kitchen on a rather grey and damp autumnal day. It was perfect weather for sampling a seasonal menu of warm potato pudding and a warden pear pie, both 18th century dishes from our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies.

Potato Pudding

18th century style potato pudding

18th century style potato pudding

Potato pudding was a rather comforting prospect on a cold and damp Friday afternoon. Having peeled, boiled and cooled our potatoes in the morning, we were all set to combine our ingredients at the start of the session. Chelsea mashed our potatoes vigorously with a fork before adding the melted butter, cream and sugar. We then whipped up egg whites with a fork (foregoing the modern kitchen aid of an electric whisk) and added this to our mixture along with ground nutmeg, orange juice and a generous tablespoon of brandy. The pudding didn’t looking particularly appealing at this point but we were pleased that the method had been so straight forward. Happy that everything seemed to have gone to plan, we popped the pudding in the preheated oven.

Mashed and mixed and ready for the oven! Our potato pudding just prior to baking...

Mashed and mixed and ready for the oven! Our potato pudding just prior to baking…

Even though the unknown ladies’ recipe gave us a suggested cooking time for the pudding, there was no indication of oven temperature. We kept a close eye on it while it was cooking, removing it from the oven only to return it several times, until we were satisfied that it had cooked through. After 1 hour and 15 minutes of cooking time, and a further 10 minutes to allow the dish to cool and set, our patience paid off and we were able to sit down and enjoy the end result!

Fresh from the oven, our 18th century style potato pudding

Fresh from the oven, our 18th century style potato pudding

While Chelsea dished up, Christina remarked that the potato pudding seemed very similar in appearance to many of the other 18th century dishes we’d tried over previous sessions. Thinking back, we all agreed that many of the puddings we’d tried – from almond puddings to cheeseless cheesecakes – had a similar smooth consistency and golden colour. But each dish had something different to offer in terms of flavour, and we were sure that the potato pudding would be no exception…

A hearty portion of potato pudding, served up by our Cooking Up History group

A hearty portion of potato pudding, served up by our Cooking Up History group

In fact, it was delicious! The delicate flavouring of the nutmeg was particularly pleasant and, balanced by the brandy, was not overpowering. The potato provided a nice texture and we didn’t even mind the few lumps that had escaped Chelsea’s fork! Our conversation turned briefly to modern day equivalents of this dish, with Hilary noting its resemblance to semolina and Chelsea commenting on the similarities between our dish and sweet potato pie, a traditional dish from the American South.

Warden Pye

Chelsea in the middle of preparing our warden pie

Chelsea in the middle of preparing our warden pie

Our warden pie was keenly anticipated by the archives staff, all of whom wanted to try a piece of our fresh pear pie. For our Cooking Up History team, however, it was going to be one of their most technically challenging recipes to date.

The recipe had proved tricky to adapt for our modern kitchen, as it offered two separate methods for preparing the pears: either stewing them in water with alum, or baking them in a pot with white bread. Both methods were ways of softening the pears without them discolouring. We decided to part slightly from the original, poaching the pears and then dipping them in lemon juice to keep them from browning.

We did follow the recipe’s advice of peeling and coring the pears after they’d been cooked, but in hindsight we felt they would have been easier to handle had we done this before the poaching. It was a pretty fiddly job!

The pears arranged in our warden pie, ready for the pastry top!

The pears arranged in our warden pie, ready for the pastry top

Having peeled and cored five of our six pears, we arranged them around the edge of our pastry-lined pie dish and stuffed each one with a colourful mixture of brown sugar, candied peel and cinnamon. We then peeled the remaining pear and placed it at the centre, scattering the remaining sugary stuffing mixture in the gaps between the fruits.

Chelsea and Christina put the finishing touches to our warden pie’s pastry lid

Chelsea and Christina put the finishing touches to our warden pie’s pastry lid

Finally, we placed a sheet of pastry over the top – with a steam hole cut around our central pear – trimmed down the edges and added a few pastry decorations. Chelsea commented that it all looked rather ‘fancy’!

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Our Warden pie spent a good hour in the oven before we dished it up. The pastry had collapsed a little, but overall it looked incredibly appetising. A layer of sweet, juicy syrup had been created at the bottom of our pie, but we were all pleased to see we had not fallen into the trap of a Great British Bake Off style ‘soggy bottom’; our pastry was crisp all over. The cloves, one placed on top of each of our 5 stuffed pears, offered a stronger punch alongside the candied citrus fruits. None of the ingredients proved overpowering and we all agreed that the pie was well suited to modern palates.

The moment of truth...

The moment of truth…

The pie went down really well with everyone!

The pie went down really well with everyone!

We were really pleased that both of our recipes had been such a great success. Replete and enjoying a well earned rest, Chelsea mentioned that at the beginning of the session she hadn’t been able to envisage what our dishes would end up looking or tasting like. It is certainly true that the vague instructions given in many of our Cookbook’s recipes make it difficult to imagine the finished dishes. We noted the usefulness of visual imagery such as photos and drawings in contemporary recipe books. It’s a pity the lady compilers of our 18th century Cookbook hadn’t illustrated it with explanatory drawings and diagrams!

You can find recipes for both of these dishes in our Cooking Up History pages. If you try them out at home, don’t forget to let us know how you get on!