Tag Archives: pudding

St Nicholas pudding

St Nicholas' pudding

Christmas is looming. Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is waiting to do the impossible and deliver gifts to millions of kids on Christmas Eve. Santa is a slightly baffling modern evolution of St Nicholas, who was in fact born to a Greek family, in what is now part of Turkey but was then part of the Roman Empire, in the late 3rd century.

St Nicholas’ feast day is actually 6 December (in Western Christianity; 19 December in Eastern Christianity) and in many cultures that date is still a big deal, with celebrations and special baked products: speculoos biscuits in the Netherlands; ciastka miodowe, honey cakes, in Poland; and vanilkove rohlicky, vanilla crescent biscuits, in the Czech Republic, among others. Even here in England there was apparently1 a traditional pudding – though I can’t imagine many people still make it for 6 December. Which is a shame, as it’s rather good, and could even make a good alternative to the traditional British Christmas pudding – a heavy, alcohol-infused concoction I’ve never liked.

Traditional British Christmas pudding is often called “plum pudding” – though its main fruit component is raisins, not plums. It gets the name as in older English “plum” was used to mean raisin, or dried fruits in general. St Nicholas pudding, on the other hand, is a genuine plum pudding.

I’m slightly confused by this as the plums on our Victoria tree were all ripe in August, and while there are later varieties, any fresh plums in early December would surely have been imports – but importing fruit was a less commonplace activity in Olde England than it is now in our industrial, seasonality-quashing modern world. More likely, it used prunes – dried plums. This recipe uses both. Luckily I had 3kg of our plums stoned and frozen from August.

Prunes and plums

Like Christmas pudding, this is a steamed pudding2 so it’ll need a good 2 hours cooking time. Plan ahead!

125g butter
125g caster sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
90g plain flour
8g ground cinnamon
4g ground cloves
4g baking powder
50g breadcrumbs
200g plums, stoned
60g prunes, stoned and chopped
80g golden syrup
About 6 more plums or prunes, stone and halved

Sauce
750g plums
240g caster sugar

1. Cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Add the zest of the orange.
3. Add the egg a little at a time.
4. Sieve together flour, baking powder and spices, and add to the mixture, along with the breadcrumbs.
5. Fold to combine.
6. Add the orange juice, plums and prunes and mix gently until well-combined.
7. Grease a pudding basin, then put the 80g (two generous tablespoons) of golden syrup in the bottom.
8. Arrange the halved 6 plums or prunes in the syrup.
9. Spoon the batter onto the top.
10. Seal with foil and tie.

Seal the pudding basin with foil and string

11. Steam for approx 2 hours.
12. Make the sauce by slicing plums into saucepan, with a little water. Simmer until well softened then puree by putting through a mouli, or blending and putting through a strainer.

Caramelise the sugar
13. Dissolve the sugar with about 60-80g water. When it’s dissolved, turn up the heat and boil to caramelise slightly. Remove from the heat, stir in about 60-80g more water – carefully, as it’ll spit.
14. Add the plum puree to the syrup, and stir well to combine. You can add some booze if you like – port, Kirsch, a dash of brandy.
14. Check if the pudding is cooked by lifting the foil and sticking in a skewer; it’s basically a moist cake, so the skewer won’t come out clean – but nor should it come out with bits that still resemble batter. If it’s still battery, keep steaming.
15. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out onto a plate and serve with the sauce.

You could even serve with some cream or vanilla ice cream, if you’re feeling really indulgent. It’s a lovely pud, with the orange, and possibly the caramelised sugar, tempering the sweetness of the sugar and syrup and adding some bitterness.

Portion of St Nicholas' pudding

1 I say apparently as although a recipe appears in my 1997 copy The Pudding Club Cookbook, and that one is essentially copied in Cooking With the Saints (Ignatius Press, 2001), I can’t find any mentions of the pudding in my books of older traditional British recipes.
2 OK, some Christmas puddings are boiled still. See this post for more discussion of just what is meant by “pudding” and its history.

8 Comments

Filed under Feasts, Puddings & desserts, Recipes

Pudding, boudin, budino and complex historical relationship between desserts and sausages

In my last post, I mentioned my attempt to make a boudin di ricotta (below). It either went wrong, or this retro cheesecake just wasn’t to my taste. Either way, one thing the dish got me thinking about was the word budino, which can be translated as “pudding”.

Budino di ricotta, baked

As anyone who’s interested in food, or eating, or sausages, or dessert, knows, the meaning of the word pudding can be little complicated. Likewise budino.

English has the word pudding, French boudin, and Italian budino. Surely these are all related? It’s agreed that the latter words come from the Latin for gut or intestine, botellus, which relates to the modern Italian word budella. English etymological dictionaries, on the other hand, suggest that the word pudding may comes from old English and German words for swellings and lumps (puducpuddek etc). Thankfully, other sources posit1 botellus as an alternative source too. The relationship seems too strong for the English word to not have the Latin root, surely?

Originally, pudding, budino and boudin all referred to much the same kind of product: sausages made with blood, meal, fat and animal bits (including ambergris, a sperm whale digestive byproduct), all stuffed into intestinal membrane and steamed or boiled.

Sanguinnacio

This sense of the word still exists in the things like the Scottish haggis, or the British black pudding, its French cousin boudin noir, and even an Italian cousin called sanguinaccio 2 (from the Latin sanguis, blood). Interestingly, though, the latter straddles both the older sense of the savoury pudding, and the modern usage, which more commonly refers to desserts. Italy has various versions of sanguinaccio, running the spectrum from full savoury sausage, to a chocolate pudding traditionally thickened and flavoured with fresh pigs’ blood at the time of slaughter to a basic chocolate pudding like a mousse, with nary a pig byproduct.

Pudding cloth boiled pudding

Although in British English, the word pudding has become almost synonymous with dessert, for me (I’m English), it more specifically refers to dishes that have been steamed or boiled.

Again, in the Middle Ages, food, specifically the food of the rich, would blend what we now consider very different flavours: the savoury with the sweet, meat with spices, salt and sugar. British mincemeat (as in Christmas mince pies) originally took this form, for example.

When one strain of the pudding evolved into savoury sausages, other strains evolved into desserts. The meat in the dish would have been reduced to fat in the form of suet or lard, while the grain, fruit, sugar and spices might have stayed. The animal membrane was replaced with a cloth, then latter a ceramic bowl, though the pudding was still cooked by boiling or steaming.

mason cash pudding basin

This path of evolution gives us things like British Christmas pudding, schoolboys’ favourite spotted dick, bread-and-fruit summer pudding and other dishes where even the fruit and spice has evolved out, such as one personal fave, treacle sponge pudding. Strangely, the word’s usage narrowed down even further in North American English, where, as I understand it, pudding just refers to mousse or custard-like deserts.

The abovementioned treacle sponge pudding is basically just a steamed cake mixture made with golden syrup (a gingery version of mine can be found here). If an equivalent type of mix is instead baked, then served as a dessert, it’s still a called a pudding (in BE). It may be long way from stuffed intestine but it’s still a descendant. We also still have savoury puddings in Britain, where a pastry crust is filled with meat and/or vegetables and steamed or boiled in a ceramic pudding basin (eg this one made with venison).

So any time Anglophones from North America and the British Isles find themselves arguing about the meaning of the word pudding – something we’ve done with a Canadian friend – bear this wonderful, convoluted history in mind!

Footnotes
1 From Etymonline: pudding (n.) c.1300, “a kind of sausage: the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, etc., stuffed with minced meat, suet, seasoning, boiled and kept till needed,” perhaps from a West Germanic stem *pud– “to swell” (cf. Old English puduc “a wen,” Westphalian dialect puddek “lump, pudding,” Low German pudde-wurst “black pudding,” English dialectal pod “belly;” also cf. pudgy).

Other possibility is the traditional one that it is from Old French boudin “sausage,” from Vulgar Latin botellinus, from Latin botellus “sausage” (change of French b– to English p– presents difficulties, but cf. purse). The modern sense had emerged by 1670, from extension to other foods boiled or steamed in a bag or sack (16c.). German pudding, French pouding, Swedish pudding, Irish putog are from English.

2 You can find recipes for various versions of sanguinnaccio online. There’s a more savoury one here (and pictured above). And while this one is made using sausage casings, it’s more a dessert. While this one (in Italian) is decidedly a dessert, made with neither sausages casings or even blood: so basically a chocolate mousse.

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Misc, Other food, Puddings & desserts