On Friday we went out for Lucius's office dinner in this lovely upstairs dining room at the Hind's Head at Bray, Heston Blumenthal's pub (not to be confused with his restaurant, the Fat Duck, a couple of doors down the High Street). Good food - thrice-cooked chips, that sort of thing.
I had a dandelion salad, bitter and wintery, with a little bacon and a quail's egg. Moules to follow, and then, for pudding (something I don't often eat), quaking pudding - a delicious modern take on a 17th century English baked cream which is turned out of a mould like a jelly ... and quakes just like a jelly shakes. Blumenthal's version is flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg - masses of it - rather than the traditional English custard flavourings which would be more likely saffron or lemon zest, perhaps orange blossom water.
Elizabeth Raffald gives two versions in her book, The Experienced English Housekeeper for the use and ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks, &c, written purely from practice published in 1814:
To make a Quaking Pudding.
Boil a quart of cream, and let it stand till almost cold, then beat four eggs a full quarter of an hour, with a spoonful and a half of flour, then mix them with your cream, add sugar and nutmeg to your palate, tie it close up in a cloth well buttered, and let it boil an hour, and turn it carefully out.
To make a Quaking Pudding a second way.
Take a pint of good cream, the yolks of ten eggs and six whites, beat them very well, and run them through a fine sieve; then take two heaped spoonfuls of flour, and a spoonful or two of cream, beat it with the flour till it is smooth, and mix all together, and tie it close up in a dish or bason (sic) well rubbed with butter and dredged with flour; the water must boil when you put in the pudding. One hour will boil it; serve it up with wine sauce in a boat.
Pretty tricky in a modern kitchen, whichever recipe you go for. Heston Blumenthal, that extraordinary perfectionist, says he tried 50 versions before getting it right - part of that must have been playing with the flavourings, but I dare say it took quite a few goes to get the texture right, too.
Heston Blumenthal's definitive Quaking Pudding
100ml whole milk
400ml whipping cream
65g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
35g brioche crumbs
a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg (1g of each, if you want to be particular)
butter and flour to line the moulds.
Using your fingers, rub the moulds with softened butter. Place a coffee spoon of flour in each, then tap the mould, rotating it as you go. Once lined with flour, tip out the excess. Repeat with the other moulds. The butter and flour lining stops them sticking.
Preheat the oven to 100C. Warm the milk and cream with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg and sugar for about five minutes. Pour the warm milk over the egg/sugar mix, tip into the moulds and cook in a bain marie until 90C — this should take about 45 minutes.
When you're served this delicious concoction at the Hind's Head, it comes with a little card giving an explanation of the dish:
The word pudding historically refers to a food that is contained in animal gut to hold it when cooking, like "Black Pudding" of sausages. In the 17th Century, cooks realised that they could make puddings by containing food in cloth bags or bowls; this meant that more sweet puddings could be made than before. One of the sweet puddings that was invented then was the "Quaking Pudding"; a light sweet, gently flavoured dish that gained its name due to the fact that it quakes and shakes like a jelly when it is served. Quaking Pudding was a staple in recipe books throughout the 17th, 18th and early 19th Centuries when it began to disappear from recipe collections.
It deserves to be better known.
Baring all - Alice prescribed a bit of buffing, so I've done my desk today, taking everything off to give it a thorough dust and polish, admiring the sheen, and then - ...
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