What an excellent thing is an English Pudding! The Lord of Devonshire’s delicious pudding set with bone marrow and spiced custard is the epitome of old English comfort food; three out of four of my guests had seconds immediately. The dish is rich and silky, puffing up when taken from the oven to create a creamy confection of delight. Those who wolfed down two portions one after another, did so with such murmurs of satisfaction I do believe it would be a pudding fit for the Royal table.
But how did the “Lord of Devonshire” come to have a pudding named after him?
Charles Blount came to court at the age of twenty. He was known to be clever, courageous and amiable but perhaps it was his “beautiful eyes and comely proportion” that first got him noticed by Queen Elizabeth I. She “subjected him to an inquisition, with the eye of majesty fixed upon him, then seeing his confusion, gave him her hand to kiss, saying she would bethink herself how to do him good.” 1.
Queen Elizabeth was so keen on this comely vision of a man, she liked to keep him at court, sometimes against his wishes, as he up for adventure and advancement. She eventually let him go to serve in several military campaigns abroad and fight under Lord Henry Seymour during the Armada. He was much valued for his intelligence and negotiating skills and was made Lord Deputy of Ireland, then Lord Lieutenant by Elizabeth. James I created him Earl of Devon (not to be confused with the title of the Earl of Devonshire of Powderham Castle in Devon UK) and he reached high favour until he secretly married his mistress, mother of his five children, after her divorce from a miserable forced marriage. James I would not legitimise the secret marriage and they were sent from court. Both died soon afterwards. The love story inspired John Ford’s play “The Broken Heart”.
This pudding recipe was collected, written down and named as the Lord of Devonshire’s (rather than his correct title, Earl) by Elinor Fettiplace, an English aristocrat who wrote a book of recipes in 1604 when Mountjoy was at the height of his powers. The manuscript was rediscovered, edited and published in 1986 by Hilary Spurling and remains a fascinating document of Elizabethan cuisine and household management. It is doubtful Mountjoy would have gone down to the kitchens and made his own pudding but possibly, while out in the field on military campaigns, he might have come into closer contact with the people who prepared his food than the average Lord. At some point he shared his recipe with Elinor or she heard of it from others, and here we have it today.
Bone marrow puddings were still commonly being made in the 1920’s and into the war years, see Good Things in England by Florence White, Persephone books.
Ask your butcher for a beef marrow bone and ask him or her to saw it into 4 pieces. Simply bake the bones and scoop out the marrow. Sieve it, while still a hot liquid, to remove the bits and you are left with a clear liquid which turns white and solid when cold. Use like butter.
Bone marrow is nutritious and also very good on toast, Queen Victoria was said to eat it every day! (see below for the recipe). Marrow is “a significant source of the hormone adiponectin, which helps maintain insulin sensitivity, break down fat, and has been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity-associated cancers. 2” Marrow is also very good on toast and Queen Victoria was said to eat it every day! (see below for the recipe. So you don’t have to feel guilty. Bring on the marrow fat.
“Take manchet and slice it thin, then take dates the stones cut out, & cut in pieces, & reasins of the sun the stones puld out, & a few currance, & marrow cut in pieces, then lay your sippets of bread in the bottome of your dish, then lay a laying of your fruit & mary on the top, then another laying of sippets of bread, so doo till your dish be full, then take cream & three egg yolks & whites, & some cynamon & nutmeg grated, & some sugar, beat it all well together, & pour in so much of it into the dish as it will drinke up, then set it into the oven & bake it.” Recipe as found. Adaption below.Ingredients – Recipe serves 4 -6
8 finely hand-cut stale white bread, crusts removed,
A handful dates, chopped (50g)
A big handful raisins (85g)
1tbspn currants (10g)
The beef marrow from a marrow bone
Or butter the bread with unsalted butter if you must
600ml single cream (you may have some left over)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a good grating ½ nutmeg
5 tbsp sugar
- Butter a bread loaf tin
- Mix the dried fruit together
- Take a bowl and mix the cream, eggs, spices and all but 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- If using cut marrow bone: bake in the oven for approx 45mins then scoop out the marrow and place it in a bowl. The solids will settle at the bottom, sieve the liquid to remove the solids. While still hot spread the clear liquid onto the bread slices, or dip them into it as I did. If you have to – use butter instead! But it’s not the same at all.
- Layer the bread on the bottom, marrow-spread side up then layer the fruit sparingly and repeat until you fill the tin ending with a layer of bread.
- Carefully pour the cream mixture on top and then dredge the top with the rest of the sugar and another grating of nutmeg.
- Bake at 180 for about 45mins (it will puff up and should be golden brown on top) Serve hot with even more cream if you are feeling naughty. And who wouldn’t be.
Marrow Toast – loved by another Queen
Queen Victoria’s cook, Charles Elme Francatelli, claimed marrow toast was eaten every day at dinner by her majesty while he was in her pay. This is how she liked it.
Sieve the hot marrow (as above) then “season with a little chopped parsley, salt & pepper, lemon juice and the mere suspicion of finely chopped shallot. Toss lightly altogether, then spread it out upon squares of hot crisp dry toast and serve immediately.”
Kitchenalia Cartoons can also be seen in Devon Life Magazine – the Devon county magazine (UK) offering hundreds of pages of articles and superb photography every month.Text refs: