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Spotted Dick

"as British as it gets" Jamie Oliver


Again I am starting with Delia, because I came across this as I trawled through the third volume of her Delia's How to Cook series of books, looking for something to make for dinner. She called it Spotted Dick Rides Again because:


"This was once a very famous pudding, but it's now sadly forgotten"


Like every other English child now grown, it took me back to school lunches where Spotted Dick was often a feature. I don't remember it being a particular favourite, but I didn't mind it. After all it was sweet, it had currants and sultanas - and custard, of which as Felicity Cloake says:


"However you shape it, spice it or steam it, one thing that isn’t optional is custard"


And Felicity's comment about 'however you shape it' is actually apposite to Delia, because I have now checked out a number of different recipes and I only found one other recipe which had it as a steamed pastry roll enclosing a mix of dried fruits - and this was from The Spruce Eats, which is an American online publication, so they could be excused for getting it wrong. Not Delia though. Surely? I certainly don't remember it like this but I put it out there because of the Delia effect.


This is the kind of thing that I remember - a slice or a wedge rather, from a pudding that had been cooked in a pudding basin. This one is from another British institution BBC Good Food. Mind you I can't imagine that our school kitchen made a lot of individul puddings in pudding basins. They are much more likely to have done like The Spruce Eats did with their pastry covered roll, and wrapped it in muslin before steaming it somehow.


For Spotted Dick is one of those esteemed steamed puddings that people rubbish but secretly enjoy. I mean sticky date pudding is a prime example surely?


So what about that name? Well the 'spotted' bit is pretty obvious - all that dried fruit that studs the pudding - but the 'dick'. Unfortunate choice isn't it and causes great amusement to 'foreigners'? But:


"Dick" and "dog" were dialectal terms widely used for pudding, from the same etymology as "dough" Wikipedia


And others seem to concur.


Before I leave the historical bit and go on to examples here is a brief word about the man who first wrote the recipe down - Alexis Soyer - a French chef who spent most of his working life in England. Here he is wearing his trademark beret - which makes me wonder whether he is responsible for the notion that the French wear berets.


Anyway he was a chef to the aristocratic élite in France until the July Revolution of 1830 which saw the final end of the Bourbon monarchy in the person of Charles X and the beginning of the last royal reign in France - Louis Philippe from the Orléans side of the royal family - the line descended from the brother of Louis XIV - he of Versailles. Anyway apparently after the July revolution the job market for chefs to the aristocracy dried up, although I don't quite understand why because there was a king until 1848.


Be that as it may Alexis Soyer went to London where he pursued a successful career doing the same thing until he eventually took over the running of the Reform Club in Victorian London.

Whilst there he designed enormous new kitchens, (see above) and also wrote a number of cookbooks, including for the less fortunate in society. It was in one of these - A Shilling Cookery for The People (1845), that the recipe for Spotted Dick first appears in written form. I don't think anyone suggests that he invented it - just that he wrote it down. As well as catering to the rich he also was responsible for setting up soup kitchens in Dublin through the potatoe famine years, and also persuaded the British government to do the same in England.


So I'll end with a selection of recipes from here and there. People have mostly not fiddled with it hugely although alcohol - rum, brandy ... sometimes makes an appearance. The vital thing to remember however is the custard:


"If you try serving Spotted Dick without the custard sauce the Dickensian police of Victorian England will parade into a time machine and come clobber you over the head with a wooden billy club." Daring Gourmet


Felicity Cloake does her perfect thing which includes most of the more usual variations and some thoughts on what is good and what isn't. Then we have Jamie Oliver; delicious. UK; The Daring Gourmet and Valli Little.



Note the different colour of the puddings. I'm guessing that there must be more spices in the darker ones.


I don't think I shall really be venturing into this anytime soon although it did sort of give me a hankering for times gone by, winter meals around the table with stodgy sweet puddings with lots of of, I fear, Bird's Eye custard. Maybe on a cold, wet and dismal winter's day.



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05 พ.ค.

Just before I left the UK in 2002 I bought a Spotted Dick at the supermarket for a lark but I found it too. doughy and heavy!!

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