Bread Puddings exist in many culinary traditions. Most people would recognise, and love, a good Bread and Butter Pudding, essentially layers of sliced bread scattered with raisins and then covered in a custard of milk, eggs and sugar, possibly with nutmeg, and baked in the oven. The earliest bread and butter puddings were called “whitepots” and often contained suet rather than butter, and sometimes rice instead of bread (rice puddings – another great British staple) and any combination of fruits – currants, raisins, lemon zest, apples. One of the earliest recipes appeared in 1723 but variations of this have probably been around forever. Food historians have traced examples of bread puddings dating back to the 11th and 12th century (probably as a way to use up stale bread) and, stale bread soaked in water and flavoured with a little sugar was often known as “poor man’s pudding”.
Most regions of England have their own version of such puddings, this one is “Newark Pudding”. The settlement of Newark, a large market town about 20 miles from Nottingham, can be traced back to Roman times, but it is probably most famous for its place in the history of the English Civil War. It is strategically located next to the River Trent, the Roman Fosse Way and the Great North Road. Newark controlled the Trent Crossing that linked York and the north with London and King Charles. The town supported the King and withstood three violent seiges between 1643 and 1646 when it was ordered to surrender by the King. The ruins of the grand Castle date back to 1068 and stand on the banks of the Trent as a visible reminder of the town’s place in England’s history.
So – to Newark Pudding. This recipe appeared in the Newark Cookery Book published about 1890 and was reproduced in Angela Geary’s book “Our local Food, Past and Present” in 1994. The preface to the original reads “These recipes have been contributed by Good Housewives and Capable Cooks in various quarters of Great Britian, and to each and all this book is respectfully dedicated”.
I have a adapted the recipe slightly as I found the original to be not sweet enough and the taste of vanilla too mild for my taste. (apologies, the recipe is in imperial not metric).
1 pint fresh full-fat milk, 1 oz (slightly) stale white bread crumbs, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Ground Rice, Quarter Pound raisins (or sultanas), half an oz Butter – melted, Quarter teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence.
First soak the breadcrumbs in half a pint of the milk. Seperate the eggs and beat the yolks until light and creamy. Add these yolks to the milk and bread mixture, stir to a smooth batter. Mix the ground rice with a little milk until it forms a paste and then add the rest of the milk, melted butter, raisins, sugar, vanilla and bicarbonate of soda. Beat the egg whites until stiff and then fold them gently into the mixture.
Pour into a well-buttered ovenproof dish and bake for one hour at about 180C. Serve with custard or pouring cream (it is sooo hot straight from oven, I recommend the cream), eat cold for breakfast the next day (well I did).