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Puddings

for my own pudding recipes.

While I use casserole recipes from around the world, I tend to cook traditional British puddings. British cooking has often been ridiculed, but I think that our puddings are excellent.

The word pudding is now used mostly to mean the sweet course in a meal. It is also called a sweet or a dessert (although who uses which term is confused by the archaic British class system). However, in the past it was often a savoury dish, and we still have some dishes like this called puddings. There is still steak and kidney pudding, which is meat cooked by steaming in a suet pastry shell. There is Black Pudding, a sausage made of blood. There is Yorkshire pudding, which is crispy cooked batter which you eat with roast beef and gravy. There is also a nursery rhyme:

Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot nine days old.

Pease is made from dried peas, and is also not a sweet dish (and quite frankly would be disguting nine days old). So you can see that even today puddings are not always sweet. However, I have used pudding to mean the same as a dessert.

There are certainly puddings which are accurate in both the old and new meanings. These are the steamed suet puddings. Originally the pudding mix (which is sticky and gloopy) was put in a floured pudding cloth. This was tied up and boiled in a pan of water (probably suspended over the fire - these are ancient recipes!) The state of the cloth afterwards doesn't bear thinking about! Now we use bowls, and foil or greaseproof paper to stop the water getting into the pudding.

British puddings are often quite substantial heavy affairs. They are made of flour, fat and sugar, and they are a serious course in themselves. They date back to the times when flour and fat were cheap, and families were poor and hungry. They provided an important element of nutrition, as people needed to worry about getting enough energy from their food as opposed to getting fat. People would have pudding at each serious meal, and that might be twice a day (I did, at school and at home). Now we use less energy and our houses are warm, so we need less food. So don't pig out on these puddings!

There is some information about and on the .

The fat is usually a hard fat. In most of my recipes, I use butter as a fat. This is because I always have butter in the house, so it's easy to get hold of. The traditional fats would be lard or suet. These are both animal fats, so not suitable for vegetarians. I realise that butter is a milk fat, so not suitable for Jewish diets, or vegans. You can replace butter with margarine. You may be able to replace it with oil, but that would change the structure of the mixture, so I'll leave it to you to experiment!

One interesting ingredient is bread. This crops up all the time, as breadcrumbs, or slices of bread. I suspect that this is because the poorer British used to eat a lot of bread as it was cheap. British bread keeps quite well, but after a few days, it does go hard. Puddings were a good way to use up the bread. The bread is soaked in a liquid like milk or egg, or made into breadcrumbs and mixed in with sticky ingredients, so the hard bread becomes soft. It is also cooked, to make sure that it doesn't have any germs. (Not that they knew about germs. But they may have worked out that it didn't make them ill.)

Milk is often used in puddings as well, as it was another important source of nutrition to people who didn't get enough fat and protein (as opposed to us, who get too much). You can use standard milk or semi-skimmed milk, but I don't advise completely skimmed milk. One change that people often make to recipes is to replace the milk partly or wholly by cream. I don't. I think the recipes are quite rich and fattening enough as they are!

The British like to pour something over their puddings, such as cream or custard. Nowadays, they often use ice cream instead. I like to make puddings where this isn't necessary, and you can, if you want, eat them by themselves. However, steamed puddings really do need something, and that is usually .