When Voltaire made his often-quoted statement that the country of Britain has “a hundred religions and only one sauce”, he was saying something which was untrue and which is equally untrue today, but which might still be echoed in good faith by a foreign visitor who made only a brief stay and drew his impressions from hotels and restaurants. For the first thing to be noticed about British cookery is that it is best studied in private houses, and more particularly in the homes of the middle-class and working-class masses who have not become Europeanised in their tastes. Cheap restaurants in Britain are almost invariably bad, while in expensive restaurants the cookery is almost always French, or imitation French. In the kind of food eaten, and even in the hours at which meals are taken and the names by which they are called, there is a definite cultural division between the upper-class minority and the big mass who have preserved the habits of their ancestors.
Generalising further, one may say that the characteristic British diet is a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet, drawing much of its virtue from the excellence of the local materials, and with its main emphasis on sugar and animal fats. It is the diet of a wet northern country where butter is plentiful and vegetable oils are scarce, where hot drinks are acceptable at most hours of the day, and where all the spices and some of the stronger-tasting herbs are exotic products. Garlic, for instance, is unknown in British cookery proper: on the other hand mint, which is completely neglected in some European countries, figures largely. In general, British people prefer sweet things to spicy things, and they combine sugar with meat in a way that is seldom seen elsewhere.
Finally, it must be remembered that in talking about “British cookery” one is referring to the characteristic native diet of the British Isles and not necessarily to the food that the average British citizen eats at this moment. Quite apart from the economic difference between the various blocks of the population, there is the stringent food rationing which has now been in operation for six years. In talking of British cookery, therefore, one is talking of the past or the future – of dishes that the British people now see somewhat rarely, but which they would gladly eat if they had the chance, and which they did eat fairly frequently up to 1939.
First of all, then, breakfast. Ideally for nearly all British people, and in practice for most of them even now, this is not a snack but a serious meal. The hour at which people have their breakfast is of course governed by the time at which they go to work, but if they were free to choose, most people would like to have breakfast at nine o’clock. In principle the meal consists of three courses, one of which is a meat course. Traditionally it starts with porridge, which is made of coarse oatmeal, sodden and then boiled into a spongy mess: it is eaten always hot, with cold milk (better still, cream) poured over it, and sugar. Breakfast cereals, which are ready-cooked preparations of wheat or rice, taken cold with milk and sugar, are often eaten instead of porridge. After this comes either fish, usually salt fish, or meat in some form, or eggs in some form. The best and most characteristically British form of salt fish is the kipper, which is a herring split open and cured in wood-smoke until it is deep brown colour. Kippers are either grilled or fried. The usual breakfast meat dishes are either fried bacon, with or without fried eggs, grilled kidneys, fried pork sausages, or cold ham. British people favour a lean, mild type of bacon or ham, cured with sugar and nitre rather than with salt. At normal time it is not unusual to eat grilled beef steaks or mutton chops at breakfast, and there are still old-fashioned people who like to start the day with cold roast beef. In some parts of the country, for instance in East Anglia, it is usual to eat cheese at breakfast.
After the meat course comes bread, or more often toast, with butter and orange marmalade. It must be orange marmalade, though honey is a possible substitute. Other kinds of jam are seldom eaten at breakfast, and marmalade does not often appear at other times of (the) day. For the great bulk of British people, the invariable breakfast drink is tea. Coffee in Britain is almost always nasty, either in restaurants or in private houses; the majority of people, though they drink it fairly freely, are uninterested in it and do not know good coffee from bad. Of tea, on the other hand, they are extremely critical, and everyone has his favourite brand and his pet theory as to how it should be made. Tea is always drunk with milk, and it is usual to brew it very strong, about one spoonful of dry tea leaves being allowed for each cup. Most people prefer Indian to Chinese tea, and they like to put sugar in it. Here, however, one comes upon a class distinction, or more exactly a cultural distinction. Virtually all British working-people put sugar in their tea, and indeed will not drink tea without it. Unsweetened tea is an upper-class or middle-class habit, and even in those classes it tends to be associated with a Europeanised palate. If one made a list of the people in Britain who prefer wine to beer, one would probably find that it included most of the people who prefer tea without sugar.
After this solid breakfast – and even now, in a time of rationing, it is usual to eat a fairly large bulk of food, chiefly bread, at breakfast – it is natural that the midday meal should be somewhat lighter than it is in many other countries. Before one can discuss the midday meal, however, it is necessary to explain away the mysteries of “lunch”, “dinner” and “high tea”. The actual diet of the richer and poorer classes in Britain does not vary very greatly, but they use a different nomenclature and time their meals differently, because certain habits adopted from France during the past hundred years have not yet reached the great masses.
The richer classes have their midday meal at one-thirty in the afternoon and call it “luncheon”. At about half-past four in the afternoon they have a cup of tea and perhaps a piece of bread-and-butter or a slice of cake, which they call “afternoon tea” and they have their evening meal at half-past seven or eight, and call it “dinner”. The others, perhaps ninety percent of the population, have their midday meal somewhat earlier – usually about half-past twelve – and call it “dinner”. They have their main evening meal at about half-past six and call it “tea” and before going to bed they have a light snack – for instance cocoa and bread-and-jam – which they call “supper”. The distinction is regional as well as social. In the North of England, Scotland and Ireland many well-to-do people prefer to follow the working-class time scheme, partly because it fits in better with the working day, and partly, perhaps, from motives of conservation: for our ancestors of a century ago also had their meals at approximately these hours.
But though the name and the hour may differ, every British person’s idea of midday meal is approximately the same. We are not here concerned with the quasi-French meals that are served in hotels, but solely with British cookery, and therefore we can leave both soups and hors d’oeuvres out of account. Most British people are inclined to despise both, and do not care for them in the middle of the day. British soups are seldom good, and there is hardly a single one that is peculiar to the British Isles, while even the word “hors d’oeuvre” has no equivalent in the British language. The British midday meal consists essentially of meat, preferably roast meat, a heavy pudding, and cheese. And here one comes upon the central institution of British life, the “joint”: that is, a large piece of meat – round of beef or leg of pork of mutton – roasted whole with its potatoes round it, and preserving a flavour and a juiciness which meat cooked in smaller quantities never seems to attain.
Most characteristic of all is roast beef, and of all the cuts of beef, the sirloin is the best. It is always roasted lightly enough to be red in the middle: pork and mutton are roasted more thoroughly. Beef is carved in wafer-thin slices, mutton in thick slices. With beef there nearly always goes Yorkshire pudding (1), which is a sort of crisp pancake made of milk, flour and eggs and which is delicious when sodden with gravy. In some parts of the country suet pudding (see below) is eaten with roast beef instead of Yorkshire pudding. Sometimes instead of roasted fresh beef there is boiled salt beef, which is always eaten with suet dumplings and carrots or turnips.
It is necessary here to say something about the specifically British ways of cooking potatoes. Roast meat is always served with potatoes “cooked under the joint”, which is probably the best of all ways of cooking them. The potatoes are peeled and placed in the pan all round the roasting meat, so that they absorb its juices and then become delightfully browned and crisp all over. Another method is to bake them whole in their jackets, after which they are cut open and a dab of butter is placed in the middle. In the North of England delicious potato cakes are made of mashed potatoes and flour: these are rolled out into small round pancakes which are baked on a girdle and then spread with butter. New potatoes are generally boiled in water containing a few leaves of mint and served with melted butter poured over them.
Here also we may mention the special sauces which are so regularly served with each kind of roast meat as to be almost an integral part of the dish. Hot roast beef is almost invariably served with horseradish sauce, a very hot, rather sweet sauce made of grated horseradish, sugar vinegar and cream. With roast pork goes apple sauce, which is made of apples stewed with sugar and beaten up into a froth. With mutton or lamb there usually goes mint sauce, which is made of chopped mint, sugar and vinegar. Mutton is frequently eaten with redcurrant jelly, which is also served with hare and with venison. A roast fowl is always accompanied by bread sauce, which is made of the crumb of white bread and milk flavoured with onions, and is always served hot. It will be seen that British sauces have the tendency to be sweet, and some of the pickles that are eaten with cold meat are almost as sweet as jam. The British are great eaters of pickles, partly because the predilection for large joints means that in a British household there is a good deal of cold meat to finish up. In using up scraps of food they are not so imaginative as the peoples of some other countries, and British stews and “made-up dishes” – rissoles and the like – are not particularly distinguished. There are, however, two or three kinds of pie or meat-pudding which are peculiar to Britain and are good enough to be worth mentioning. One is steak-and-kidney pudding, which is made of chopped beef-steak and sheep’s kidney, encased in suet crust and steamed in a basin. Another is toad-in-the-hole, which is made of sausage embedded in a batter of milk, flour and eggs basked in the oven. There is also the humble cottage pie, which is simply minced beef or mutton, flavoured with onions, covered with a layer of mashed potatoes and baked until the potatoes are a nice brown. And finally there is the famous Scottish haggis, in which liver, oatmeal, onions and other ingredients are minced up and cooked inside the stomach of a sheep.
There are not many methods of cooking birds which are peculiar to Britain. The British regard as inedible many birds – for instance, thrushes, larks, sparrows, curlews, green plovers and various kinds of duck – which are valued in other countries. They are also inclined to despise rabbits, and rabbit-rearing for the table has never been extensively practiced in Britain. On the other hand they will eat young rooks, which are shot in May and baked in pies. They are especially attached to geese and turkeys, which (at normal times) are eaten in immense quantities at Christmas, always roasted whole, with chestnut stuffing in the case of turkeys, and sage and onion stuffing and apple sauce in the case of geese.
Fish in Britain is seldom well cooked. The sea all round Britain yields a variety of excellent fishes, but as a rule they are unimaginatively boiled or fried, and the art of seasoning them in the cooking is not understood. The fish fried in oil to which the British working classes are especially addicted is definitely nasty, and has been an enemy of home cookery, since it can be bought everywhere in the big towns, ready cooked and at low prices. Except for trout, salmon and eels, British people will not eat fresh-water fish. As for vegetables, it must be admitted that, potatoes apart, they seldom get the treatment they deserve. Thanks to the rain-soaked soil, British vegetables are nearly all of excellent flavour, but they are commonly spoiled in the cooking. Cabbage is simply boiled – a method which renders it almost uneatable – while cauliflowers, leeks and marrows are usually smothered in a tasteless white sauce which is probably the “one sauce” scornfully referred to by Voltaire. The British are not great eaters of salads, though they have grown somewhat fonder of raw vegetables during the war years, thanks to the educational campaigns of the Ministry of Food. Except for salads, vegetables are always eaten with the meat, not separately.
In the second half of the midday meal we come upon one of the greatest glories of British cookery – its puddings. The number of these is so enormous that it would be impossible to give an exhaustive list, but, putting aside stewed fruits, British puddings can be classified under three main heads: suet puddings, pies and tarts, and milk puddings.
Suet crust, which appears in innumerable combinations, and enters into savoury dishes as well as sweet ones, is simply ordinary pastry crust chopped beef suet substituted for the butter or lard. It can be baked, but more often is boiled in a cloth or steamed in a basin covered with a cloth. Far and away the best of all suet puddings is plum pudding (1), which is an extremely rich, elaborate and expensive dish, and is eaten by everyone in Britain at Christmas time, though not often at other times of the year. In simpler kinds of pudding the suet crust is sweetened with sugar and stuck full of figs, dates, currents or raisins, or it is flavoured with ginger or orange marmalade, or it is used as a casing for stewed apples or gooseberries, or it is rolled round successive layers of jam into a cylindrical shape which is called roly-poly pudding, or it is eaten in plain slices with treacle poured over it. One of the best forms of suet pudding is the boiled apple dumpling. The core is removed from a large apple, the cavity is filled up with brown sugar, and the apple is covered all over with a thin layer of suet crust, tied tightly into a cloth, and boiled.
British pastry is not outstandingly good, but there are certain fillings for pies and tarts which are excellent, and which are hardly to be found in other countries. Treacle tart (1) is a delicious dish, and the large or small mince pies which are eaten especially at Christmas, but else fairly frequently at other times, are almost equally good. The mince-meat with which they are filled is a mixture of various kinds of dried fruits, chopped fine, mixed up with sugar and raw beef suet, and flavoured with brandy. Other favourite fillings are jams of various kinds, lemon curd – a preparation of lemon juice, yolk of egg and sugar – and stewed apples flavoured with lemon juice or cloves. An apple pie is often given an exceptionally fine flavour by including one quince among about half a dozen apples.
The other main category of puddings – milk puddings – is the kind of thing that one would prefer to pass over in silence, but it must be mentioned, since these dishes are, unfortunately, characteristic of Britain. They are preparations of rice, semolina, barley, sago or even macaroni, mixed with milk and sugar and baked in the oven. The one made with barley is somewhat less bad then the others: the one made with macaroni is intolerable to any civilised palate. As all of these puddings are easy to make, they tend to be a stand-by in cheap hotels, restaurants and apartment houses, and they are one of the chief reasons why British cookery has a bad name among foreign visitors.
There are, of course, XXX countless other sweet dishes, including the whole range of jellies, blancmanges, custards, soufflés, ice puddings, meringues and what-nots, which are much the same in all European counties. A few oddments which do not fit into any of the above categories are pancakes – British pancakes are thinner than those of most countries, and are always eaten with lemon juice, – batter pudding, which is made of much the same ingredients as Yorkshire pudding, but is steamed instead of being baked and is eaten with treacle, and baked apples. The apples are cored but not peeled, filled up with butter and sugar, and cooked in the oven: it is important that they should be served in the dish in which they are cooked With cooked fruit of any kind British people always eat cream, if they can get it. In the West of England a particularly delicious kind of clotted cream is made by slowly simmering large pens of milk and skimming off the cream as it comes to the surface.
If the midday meal ends with cheese, that cheese will probably be foreign. Some of the cheeses native to Britain are very good, but they are not produced in large quantities and are mostly consumed locally. The best of them is Stilton, a cheese rather the same kind as Roquefort or Gorgonzola, but stronger-tasting and closer in the grain. Wensleydale, a similar but milder cheese, is also very good.
When one has described the midday meal one has also described, in its broadest outlines, the evening meal of the minority who call that meal “dinner”. Of course luncheon and dinner are not quite the same. Dinner is a more elaborate meal, and would always consist of at least three courses, since it would start with either soup or hors d’oeuvre. But there is no luncheon dish that is definitely not a dinner dish, or vice versa, and the enormously long dinner menus which were fashionable in the nineteenth century have been obsolete for two decades or thereabouts. Even before the war, a fairly elaborate dinner would normally consist of four or at most five courses. Very few meals included more than one meat course, and the practice of eating a “savoury”, usually a preparation of cheese or salt fish, after the sweet, was rapidly going out. On the other hand it is usual to drink more alcohol with the evening meal. Few British people drink much in the middle of the day – for those who drink at all, half a pint of beer would probably be the average – and still fewer drink wine, even if they can afford it. Port wine, traditionally associated with Britain and still imported in considerable quantities, is almost purely an after-dinner drink. Gin is drunk before meals, whisky afterwards. After dinner it is usual to drink one or two small cups of coffee: coffee is drunk after lunch as well, but probably a great majority of British people prefer to end that meal with a cup of tea.
As has been pointed out already, the bulk of the British people call their main evening meal “tea”, not “dinner”, and have it at about half-past six – at any rate, they have it as soon as the bread-winner of the family returns from work. So far as food values go, “tea” is not necessarily very different from “dinner”, but the lay-out of the meal is different. “Tea”, also commonly called “high tea”, is a large, comfortable, informal meal, designed for people who are tired from work and have nothing to eat for six or seven hours. It has to consist, therefore, of something that can be got ready quickly, and it is usual to place all the dishes on the table at once.
High tea, if it is a good specimen of its kinds, consists of one hot dish, bread and butter and jam, cakes, salad or water-cress if they are in season, and – at normal times when such things are easily procurable – tinned fruit. Sometimes the main dish is cold ham, tinned salmon or shellfish, but usually it is something hot: it may be some kind of toasted cheese, such as the delicious Welsh rarebit (1), or fried bacon, or sausages, or kippers, or perhaps stewed beef or cottage pie. No tea would be considered a good one if it did not include at least one kind of cake. Cakes are one of the specialities of British – more particularly of Scottish – cooking, and, like puddings, they are too numerous to be listed exhaustively: one can merely indicate a few that are outstandingly good. The best, and the most characteristic of Britain, is the rich, heavy plum cake (1) which is so impregnated with spices and chopped fruits as to be almost black in colour. In their fullest glory those cakes are studded all over with blanched almonds, and at Christmas time they are even richer by being covered with a layer of almond paste and then coated all over with icing sugar. There are, of course, many other varieties of plum cake – a “plum” cake simply means one that has currants or sultanas in it – ranging down to quite plain and inexpensive ones. The richest plum cake, which contain rum or brandy, improve with keeping, and it is usual to make them some weeks or months before it is intended to eat them. Another rich variety of cake contains crystallised cherries instead of currants, and a much plainer kind, which is always better than home-made, is flavoured with caraway seeds. British gingerbread – very dark in colour, and containing black treacle – is also nearly always better when made at home. Shortbread – a sort of very rich biscuit containing a great deal of butter – is seen at its best in Scotland. There are countless varieties of small cake: sponge cake, macaroons, doughnuts – different from the better-known American variety in that they have a dab of jam in the middle, – jam tarts, which are commonly eaten hot, and buns of various kinds of which are only slightly sweetened and are intended to be split open, toasted and eaten with butter. Scones, which are tiny round cakes made of flour, milk and cooking fat, are commonly baked just before teatime and eaten so hot that the butter melts when it is spread on them. A particularly delicious kind of tea cake, also made to be toasted and buttered, is the crumpet, which is unsweetened and is eaten with salt. Crumpets, which are of very strange appearance – they are white, and full of holes like a Gruyere cheese – are made by a process that is know to very few people. As well as cakes, biscuits are much eaten at tea-time. British biscuits are exceptionally good, but they are seldom successfully made at home, since they need very carefully regulated temperatures which are only possible under factory conditions.
For the overwhelming majority of people, tea is in the invariable drink at the evening meal. It is very unusual to drink any alcohol at this meal. British working-people, in any case, do not often drink alcohol in their own homes. They like to bring home a few bottles of beer for midday dinner on Sundays, but for the most part their drinking is done in the public house, which serve as a kind of club. Many people drink yet another cup of tea with this final snack which is taken just before going to bed. This snack probably consists of cake, biscuits or bread-and-jam, though in the big towns, where the fried fish shops stay open until a late hour, it is common to end the day with fried fish and chipped potatoes.
It will be seen that British cookery displays more variety and more originality than foreign visitors are usually ready to allow, and that the average restaurant or hotel, whether cheap or expensive is not a trustworthy guide to the diet of the great mass of the people. Every style of cookery has its peculiar faults, and the two great shortcomings of British cookery are a failure to treat vegetables with due seriousness, and an excessive use of sugar. At normal times the average consumption of sugar per head is very much higher than in most countries, and all British children and a large proportion of adults are over-much given to eating sweets between meals. It is, of course, true that sweet dishes and confectionery – cakes, puddings, jams, biscuits and sweet sauces – are especially glory of British cookery but the national addiction to sugar has not done the British palate any good. Too often it leads people to concentrate their main attention on subsidiary foods and to tolerate bad and unimaginative cookery in the main dishes. Part of the trouble is that alcohol, even beer, is fantastically expensive and has therefore come to be looked on as a luxury to be drunk in moments of relaxation, not as an integral part of the meal. The majority of people drink sweetened teas with at least two of their daily meals, and it is therefore only natural that they should want the food itself to taste excessively sweet. The innumerable bottled sauces and pickles which are on sale in Britain are also enemies of good cookery. There is reason to think, however, that the standard of British cookery – that is, cookery inside the home – has gone up during the war years, owing to the drastic rationing of tea, sugar, meats and fats. The average housewife has been compelled to be more economical then she used to be, to pay more attention to the seasoning of soups and stews, and to treat vegetables as a serious foodstuff and less a neglected sideline.
At the end there will be found half a dozen recipes of characteristic British dishes which have already been shortly mentioned. In addition it is worth listing the foodstuffs, natural or prepared, which are especially good in Britain and which any foreign visitor should make sure of sampling.
First of all, British apples, one or other variety of which is obtainable for about seven months of the year. Nearly all British fruits and vegetables have a good natural flavour, but the apples are outstanding. The best are those that ripen late, from September onwards, and one should not be put off by the feat that most British varieties are dull in colour and irregular in size. The best are the Cox’s Orange pippin, the Blenheim Orange, the Charles Hoss, the James Grieve and the Russet. These are all eaten raw. The Bramley: Seedling is a superlative cooking apple.
Secondly, salt fish, especially kippers and Scottish haddocks. Thirdly, oysters – very large and good, though artificially expensive. Fourthly, biscuits, both sweetened and unsweetened, especially those that come from the four or five great firms whose names are a trademark. Fifthly, jams and jellies of all kinds. These are usually best when home-made, with the exception of strawberry jam, which is nearly always better as a manufactured product. Some varieties not often seen outside Britain are blackcurrant jelly, bramble jelly (made of blackberries) narrow jam with ginger, and damson cheese, an especially stiff kind of jelly which can be cut in slabs. In addition, no one who has not sampled Devonshire cream, stilton cheese, crumpets, potato cakes, saffron buns, Dublin prawns, apple dumplings, pickled walnuts, steak-and-kidney pudding and, of course, roast sirloin of beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and horseradish sauce, can be said to have given British cookery a fair trial.
The only alcoholic drinks which are native to Britain, and are all widely drunk, are beer, cider and whiskey. The cider is fairly good (that brewed in Herefordshire is the best), the beer very good. It is somewhat more alcoholic and very much bitterer then the beers of most other countries, all save the mildest and cheapest kinds being strongly flavoured with hop. Its flavour varies greatly from one part of the country to another. The whiskey exported from Britain is mostly Scottish, but the Irish kind, which is sweeter in taste and contains more rye, is also popular in Britain itself. One excellent liquor, sloe gin, is widely made in Britain, though not often exported. It is always better when home-made. It is of a beautiful purplish-red colour, and rather resembles cherry brandy, but is of a more delicate flavour.
Finally, a word in praise of British bread. In general it is close-grained, rather sweet-flavoured bread, which remains good for three or four days after being baked. It is seen at its best in the kind of double loaf. Rye bread and barley bread are hardly eaten in Britain, but the wholemeal wheat bread is extremely good. The great virtue of British bread is that it is baked in small batches, in a rather primitive way, and therefore is not at all standardised. The bread from one baker may be quite different from another down the street, and one can range about from shop to shop until one is suited. It is a good general rule that small, old-fashioned shops make the best-flavoured bread. Throughout a great deal of the North of England the women prefer to bake their bread for themselves.
1 ounce butter.
4 ounces cheese (coarsely grated).
1 tablespoonful milk or beer
½ teaspoonful made mustard
Pepper and salt
Method. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the milk, salt, mustard and cheese. Heat and stir until the cheese has melted. Pour on to slices of hot buttered toast which have been prepared beforehand. Serve immediately.
4 ounces flour
1 or 2 eggs
½ teaspoonful salt
½ pint milk (or milk and water)
Method. Put the flour into a basin with the salt. Make a well in the centre, break in the eggs; beat well, adding the milk to make a think batter; allow this to stand for 2 hours. Melt some dripping in a baking-tin and when quite hot pour in the batter. Make for half an hour in a hot oven.
12 ounces short crust pastry.
2 ounces breadcrumbs.
A pinch of ginger or a little lemon juice.
Method. Make the pastry crust in the proportion of eight ounces of flour to five ounces of butter, with a pinch of salt, and mix with cold water. Line a flat metal dish with the pastry. Cover with a layer of bread crumbs, then pour in the golden syrup. Sprinkle lemon juice or ginger over the syrup and cover with the remainder of the crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes in a hot oven.
ORANGE MARMALADE (handwritten note – ‘Bad recipe!’ –‘too much sugar and water’ – not other edits)
2 seville oranges
2 sweet oranges (no)
2 lemons (no)
8lbs of preserving sugar
8 pints of water
Method. Wash and dry the fruit. Halve them and squeeze out the juice. Remove some of the pith, then shred the fruit finely. Tie the pips in a muslin bag. Put the strained juice, rind and pips into the water and soak for 48 hours. Place in a large pan and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until the rind is tender. Leave to stand overnight, then add the sugar and let it dissolve before bringing to the boil. Boil rapidly until a little of the mixture will set into a jelly when placed on a cold plate. Pour into jars which have been heated beforehand, and cover with paper covers.
¾ 1b butter
½ 1b sugar
¾ 1b flour
¼ lb crystallised cherries
¼ Ib raisins
¼ lb sultanas
¼ lb chopped almonds
¼ lb mixed candied peel
The grated rind of 1 lemon and 1 orange
½ teaspoonful of mixed spice
A pinch of salt
1 glass brandy
Method. Beat the butter and sugar to a cream; add each egg separately and beat until the mixture is stiff and uniform. Sift the flour with the mixed spice and the salt, stir well into the creamed mixture, add the raisins (stoned beforehand), the cherries cut in halves, and the sultanas, the candied peel cut into small pieces, the grated lemon and orange rind, add the brandy. Mix thoroughly, put into a round tin lined with greased paper, put into a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and bake slowly for 3 ½ hours.
1 lb each of currants, sultanas & raisins
2 ounces sweet almonds
1 ounces sweet almonds
1 ounces bitter almonds
4 ounces mixed peel
½ lb brown sugar
½ lb flour
¼ lb breadcrumbs
½ teaspoonful salt
½ teaspoonful grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoonful powdered cinnamon
6 ounces suet
The rind and juice of 1 lemon
A little milk
1/8 of a pint of brandy, or a little beer
Method. Wash the fruit. Chop the suet, shred and chop the peel, stone and chop the raisins, blanch and chop the almonds. Prepare the breadcrumbs. Sift the spices and salt into the flour. Mix all the dry ingredients into a basin. Heat the eggs, mix them with the lemon juice and the other liquids. Add to the dry ingredients and stir well. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little more milk. Allow the mixture to stand for a few hours in a covered basin. Then mix well again and place in well-greased basins of about 8 inches diameter. Cover with rounds of greased paper. Then tie the tops of the basins over the floured cloths if the puddings are to be boiled, or with thick greased paper if they are to be steamed. Boil or steam for 5 or 6 hours. On the day when the pudding is to be eaten, re-heat it by steaming it for 3 hours. When serving, pour a large spoonful of warm brandy over it and set fire to it.
In Britain it is usual to mix into each pudding one or two small coins, tiny china dolls or silver charms which are supposed to bring luck.
Commissioned by the British Council, 1946. Unpublished. Many thanks to Marie McPartlin for the transcription.
You might also like:
- George Orwell: A Nice Cup of Tea (Evening Standard, 1946)
- George Orwell: In Defence of English Cooking (Evening Standard, 1945)
- George Orwell: The Moon Under Water (Evening Standard, 1946)
- Sophie Mackenzie: George Orwell’s hot and cold British menu (The Guardian)
- Alex Renton: George Orwell’s Christmas pudding recipe (The Times)
- Alex Renton: Christmas pudding a la Orwell (The Guardian)