Writing in English Recipes, one of my favourite writers, Countess Morphy, gives a little history of the English Christmas or Plum Pudding. She lists details of an eighteenth-century recipe of a fruit pudding moistened with beef broth, which on a closer look may not be as bad as it seems were you to ignore the tongue and substitute the beef broth with a marmite or Bovril style drink or something along those lines.
“Take of beef soup made of the legs of beef, 12 quarts; if you wish it to be particularly good, add a couple of tongues to be boiled therein. Put fine bread, sliced, soaked and crumbled; raisins of the sun, currants and pruants, two pounds of each; lemons, nutmegs, mace and cloves are to be boiled with it in a muslin bag; add a quart of good red wine, and let this be followed, after half an hour’s boiling, by a pint of sack.”Sack, by the way, is an old term for Canarian fortified wine or sherry.
‘Plum pudding as we know it to-day is a very different thing from that which was eaten in England a century or so ago, and the “Plumb-porridge” of our ancestors would hardly suit either modern purses or modern tastes.
The “pruant” or prune, or plum, no longer figures, although the pudding still retains the misleading name of “plum pudding.” ‘
She follows with Mrs Beeton’s recipe finishing up saying, ‘Tempora mutantur – let us bless Mrs. Beeton for a more “refined” and palatable version of our great national plum-less pudding.’
Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Pudding Recipe
- 225 g / 1 cup / 8 ozs. of moist sugar
- 225 g / 1/2 lb finely-chopped suet
- 225 g / 1/2 lb sultanas cleaned
- 225 g / 1/2 lb raisins halved and stoned
- 110 g /1/4 lb shredded mixed candied peel
- 55 g / 2 ozs of almonds, blanched and shredded
- the grated rind of 1 lemon
- 4 eggs
- a saltspoon of nutmeg, grated
- ½ a teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 pint of milk
- 1 wine-glassful of brandy
Mix all the dry ingredients together, stir in the well-beaten eggs, milk and brandy, turn the mixture into 2 well-buttered basins, steam from 5 to 6 hours.