Episode 98. Christmas Puddings Through History

Join Hazel Baker as she talks with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook, about the the various Christmas puddings throughout history.

What could a shirt sleeve be used to cook? What is hard sauce? How did the fashion of puddings change over the years. 

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Your host: Hazel Baker

Hazel is an active Londoner, a keen theatre-goer and qualified CIGA London tour guide.

She has won awards for tour guiding and is proud to be involved with some great organisations. She is a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and am an honorary member of The Leaders Council.

She has been an expert guest on Channel 5’s Walking Wartime Britain (Episode 3) and Yesterday Channel’s The Architecture the Railways Built (Series 3, Episode 7). Het Rampjaar 1672Afl. 2: Vijand Engeland and  Arte.fr Hannah Snell programme.



Guest:  Paul Couchman, the Regency Cook

I’m a history food teacher. I give online courses using historic recipes that take people back in time. I use a handwritten cookbook from the early nineteenth century and I’m lucky to give courses in an 1830s kitchen.

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Hello and welcome to our London History Podcast, where we share our love of London. It’s people, places, and history. It’s designed for you to learn things about London that most Londoners don’t even know. I am your host, Hazel Baker, Qualified London Tour guide and CEO and founder of londonguidedwalks.co.uk.

Each episode is supported by show notes, transcripts, photos, and further reading, sometimes even video. All to be found on our website and then select the episode that you fancy. If you enjoy what we do, then you will love our guiided walks and private walking tours that we offer throughout the year.

98. Christmas Puddings Through History

[00:00:00] Hazel Baker: Joining me in the studio today is Paul Couchman, the Regency Cook. Hello Paul. Lovely to have you back Paul.

[00:00:58] Paul Couchman: Hello. It’s nice to be back again. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

[00:01:02] Hazel Baker: It has, but of course food is always going to be coming back onto this show. It’s fascinating how things have progressed over the two years that we have now been, and of course with Christmas coming up, what better thing to talk about than Christmas Puddings?

[00:01:21] Paul Couchman: Absolutely. One of my favourite things to eat as well. I don’t know about you. Do you love a Christmas pudding?

[00:01:25] Hazel Baker: I love a Christmas pudding. My birthday is on Christmas day. I know, that can be problematic; people forget it, presents and all the rest of it. But I am guaranteed to have two of my favourite things to eat; that is brussel sprouts and Christmas pudding. It is a winning day.

[00:01:46] Paul Couchman: I had my first sprouts yesterday because I always wait because I love them so much. So I’ll be eating almost every day, I think from now on Sprouts up until about January. I love them. I adore them.

[00:01:59] Hazel Baker: I don’t get what people are going on about.

Yeah, I absolutely adore them, especially when they’re in season. They’re so tasty. Yeah. Yeah. Alrighty. So in terms of Christmas pudding for those that may be not familiar with the Christmas pudding, what is it?

[00:02:14] Paul Couchman: Okay, so the usual ingredients in the Christmas pudding are, so it brown sugar always, but not always, but raisins, oranges dried candy peel, breadcrumbs, egg, spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and lots of alcohol.

Christmas Pudding Ingredients

The thing about the Christmas pudding which makes it different, because if I read this list out to you think, oh, it’s a Christmas cake. But the thing that makes the Christmas pudding different is it’s got sew it in it. And the wonderful thing about sew is that it melts. So when it’s warm, it melts in your mouth and it carries the flavours of all those love ingredients, including the alcohol, right into your bloodstream, into your taste buds.

And that’s what’s so delicious about it. And they sue it as well, is the other thing. It makes the texture different. Christmas cake can be a bit stodgy, but Christmas pudding isn’t because it’s meltingly soft and when you put it in your mouth, like I said, it will melt in your mouth and all those flavours will get in.

And the other thing is lovely, of course it’s warm, and then you can put other things on it and what you do. Usually, traditionally, I dunno if you do this, but it’s nice to have a brandy butter. Even nicer actually is one butter. And they used to call this a hard source because basically it starts off hard when it’s cold.

And then when you put it onto this lovely, warm pudding, it will melt down and start forming a sort of a lovely loss of beauty sauce, then you get all this texture difference as well going on as well. Because what you traditionally do, as you set it a light you put some holly on it, and then you pour some brandy over and you set it alight.

And the great thing about setting it a light are, there’s two things actually. One of it, there’s there’s symbol symbolism to it. It’s this whole thing about light coming back, because of it’s the darkest period of the year. And the light is, They used to like candles, but you can always just light your Christmas pudding.

It’s like faith in the eventual return of the sun, so it’s symbolic, isn’t it?

Christmas Pudding on fire

[00:03:55] Hazel Baker: Yeah. Is there a tip that you can give us on, for childhood memories, my mom would get us to turn off the light, she’d light the Christmas pudding with dad, and it’s a little blur. That was, it’s this little blue flame millisecond and it’s gone.

So other than copious amounts of alcohol, is there anything else that one can do to get a good flame?

[00:04:16] Paul Couchman: No, it really is copious amounts of alcohol. The problem is if you see a lot of the the ones on TV and stuff in adverts and stuff, they would just use other spirits to do it, it’s the quantity of alcohol in the spirit.

So if you really want to really go for it, then you have to use more of it. But the thing is about the spirit. Another thing it does, it caramelises, you probably know this is what caramelises the top. . . So again, it’s adding another flavour note. You’re getting a slightly sour flavour, which then contrasts with the sweetness.

So you got another flavour going on as well. Yeah. So I love, I love the way that all these. Different things that you do with puddings

[00:04:48] Hazel Baker: It starts the texture as well, isn’t it?

[00:04:50] Paul Couchman: Absolutely. You get the crisp, crispy, soft going on. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:04:54] Hazel Baker: And you get those little pools of melted brandy butter.

Yes. And then I then, I don’t know about you, but I do have brandy butter and custard. Is that naughty?

[00:05:02] Paul Couchman: Oh, I was just saying, I think because I talk a lot on Twitter about these things, so I will put up a tweet about, what do you serve Christmas pudding with? And I am not somebody who says, you can’t have this, or you can’t have that. Because I love everything. I love custard, I love cream. I love thin cream, I like thick cream. And all the other sources are come on later as well. Whatever floats your boat. I’m not a traditionalist, but I would say to people, if you haven’t tried the traditional sources, do you get them a go and see if you like them?

Yeah. Cause there are some lovely old recipes out there.

[00:05:37] Hazel Baker: Yeah. I make my own brandy butter, which you get that nice texture, don’t you, with the, yeah. With the, with the grains. Now you said something just now about rum butter. Yes. What? Rum and Brandy?

[00:05:49] Paul Couchman: No. I leave the brandy out. I just choose the rum.

It’s slightly nice in the brandy, I think. But

[00:05:53] Hazel Baker: so what’s going on? The Christmas pudding. Are you putting rum on the Christmas pudding then?

[00:05:56] Paul Couchman: Yeah. Why not, give it a go? I say there’s nothing. It, its a change. Yes, I do like it. I think it’s so either lovely

[00:06:12] Hazel Baker: I assume you are a a boil it for an hour kind of guy?

[00:06:16] Paul Couchman: Absolutely. Do, I must say microwaves are brilliant. I shouldn’t say this cuz it goes against my sort of brand as the Regency Cook, but yeah, one of the best ways of heating a Christmas pudding, especially energy saving is a microwave. But I shouldn’t really say that. Should I? But it is good cuz obviously the heat from within, so it’s a very quick way of doing it that’s nice.

[00:06:33] Hazel Baker: Yes, absolutely. Hopefully if anybody hasn’t tried a Christmas pudding, you might think now that put all of those wonderful ingredients together either steam it or boil it and then set it a light and wow your friends and family with this wonderful dessert, which actually should be more than on Christmas day.

But of course it’s so rich. It’s it’s extra special. But it’s not the Christmas pudding that we’ve had through the centuries. Is it?

[00:07:02] Paul Couchman: We’ve had it through the centuries, but we haven’t eaten it like we do now. So a pudding at the end of a heavy pudding at the end of a heavy dinner, which kind of makes no sense at all.

Cause if you think, and we go back through history now, puddings from the 16th century onwards, they used to be eaten alongside other foods. So either you were rich and you had it as one of the meals. Table. Imagine a table like you would, I dunno, have for Thanksgiving or something like that, table full of food.

And it would’ve been one of the things on the table for rich people. But if you were poor, you might actually have your pudding before the main meal, before the beef. For example, if you are eating meat just to fill you up. Cause it’s a great way of filling you up. So it’s almost comical. We do it the other way around.

Now we have this massive meal and then we have a massive pudding. But they would’ve done completely the opposite. Fill your stomach up first if you were poor. And get other, and then you’d have, you wouldn’t feel so terrible about having a tiny bit of meat, and if you were rich, you’d pick and choose what you would eat.

So you’d have a tiny bit of Christmas pudding, which I think is a nice idea as well. Just a little bit of pudding with something else. There’s this idea, don’t you? I know my gran used to do it. There’s great big bowl of it and you feel obliged to eat it, and then you feel terrible afterwards.

Yeah, if you look at history, that’s probably not what you should be doing. You should probably be eating it after a little meal. Maybe just a little snack and then have you putting afterwards, maybe on Boxing Day rather than on Christmas day.

[00:08:22] Hazel Baker: I like that idea. Just spread the Christmas yumminess along, really.

[00:08:27] Paul Couchman: Absolutely. I’ve got another thing to say about puddings. Just generally. They weren’t always associated with Christmas. They were associated with special occasions. It was special occasion food harvest or maybe a combination, something like that. But then you suddenly get this connection with foods that are, feast foods become then connected with Christmas.

And there’s, lots of examples of that. But pudding is one of them. And then just to finish the Victorian story as well, just quickly, queen Victoria would’ve eaten her pudding as part the second course alongside other foods, even when it started to come fast. Would not eat it like that.

So they gradually pudding does slide to the dessert side of things, but Queen Victoria, they doggedly and a lot of older people as well. At that period you have this transition between something called service a la Francis and service a la russe. So service Francaise is where everything is on the table at the same time.

Yeah. And service a la russe is more the way we eat in posh restaurants. Of course, after the course, delicate course after delicate course and people hung on to that old wear. And people like Queen Victoria did as well. So yeah, that’s where the pudding was at that point. Then towards the end awarding period, it starts to slide right to the end of the desserts.

[00:09:33] Hazel Baker: So what is ferment y? Because I was reading some old Victorian newspapers and obviously from fermenty I kind of associate with Christmas more than anything else. But then I was reading that it was still in 1887, served at Country Wakes, which I suppose are important occasions.

[00:09:51] Paul Couchman: Yeah, so fermenty is fascinating cuz fermenty starts off in a medieval period as something that a king might eat. And if you were king, you wouldn’t just eat it by itself, you’d eat it with venison or maybe even porpoise.

Yes, they used eat pos. Yes. Sorry if I shocked you. Yeah, I’m very glad we don’t do that anymore, but they used to do all sorts of things that we wouldn’t eat anymore. Things like cranes and some of the seabirds, which are actually very disgusting, but are big and look great on tables.

But fermenty used to be served. If you were if you had the money, then you would serve it with saffron and what is it exactly? It’s a wheat based porridge basically. So if you want to make it a home, the way I do it is with Bulgar Wheat. Okay. And you cook down bulgar wheat in terms of absolutely soft.

And then you cook it again in milk with lots of spices. And I put saffron in mine as well. , and then some dried fruits as well. If you think back to the medieval pi, these things were terribly expensive. Yes. So putting all those things together now, now if you look at it, it’s oh, nice for breakfast.

But, back then it would’ve the most exotic things, spices from, very far away, which had been almost there waiting. And you’ve got all these other Mediterranean dried fruits that come in as well. Yeah. And some alcohol. But it starts with, like I said, it starts off in the medieval period, but slides its way down in the 19th century to something.

You get served at country fairs and if you know you’re Thomas Hardy, it’s rather lovely if you don’t. Thomas Harvey Mayor of Casterbridge is perfect example. He basically buys fermenty at the beginning of the novel. He buys fermenty which has been laced with rum, and then something goes. I’m not quite sure what goes wrong.

At the end of the novel, the same woman that has sold him the fermenty is now destitute because nobody wants fermenty anymore. So it’s sold in the beginning of 90 Century, something you, you pay money for affairs and then 90 end of the 19th century, nobody wants that anymore. So if I go back to the medieval period, you’ve served right down from, something, which the second we’ve eaten in the court to something, a woman in the 19th century can’t sell.

There, so it’s gone all the way down and now it’s disappeared, so we don’t eat it anymore on Christmas, but they would’ve eaten often Christmas mornings. They would’ve eaten this in the 19th century. And like you said, sometimes it wakes as well, it very much of a food at that point for the poor.

But it’s lovely, isn’t it? But it’s a forgotten Christmas food. It’s a food that used to be at Christmas and is that, is no longer eating a Christmas. Do you eat it warm or cold? You eat it warm. I. . Yeah, it’s much an nicer, warm,

[00:12:15] Hazel Baker: yeah. So we got ferment. What about plum Pot then? Is that like the next, how it progresses?

Because that’s much richer,

[00:12:22] Paul Couchman: isn’t it? Yeah. That would be lovely, wouldn’t it? If we went from fermenty to plum pottage then to plum pudding, but we don’t really, cuz they’re all ancestors of each other sort of and grey food story. And she talks to them as cousins, which I think is quite nice. But they’re basically things that they’ve all eaten.

Roughly at the same time by different people right through the country, at different points. People would have, would have yeah, different times and at different locations in Britain, you would eat these things for Christmas and one by one they die out. And I did a talk last year and I did a sort of pudding fight, which I thought was quite nice.

So these four things I’ve got some, yeah, we’ve got Hacking pudding as well. Just throw in there as well. Oh yes. We’ve got, so we’ve got ity on one side, we’ve got plum pudding on the other side. We’ve got hacking pudding on one side and we’ve got plum pudding and they all fight their way to the deaf and basically they all die except for plum pudding.

They’re similar, that’s the thing. So if you. Look, at, wheat based. With lots of, things, alcoholic’s got it’s got raisins and things in it as well. Lots of the Christmasy things. Spices as well. We’ve got plum pot, which is instead of being enriched or thickened with wheat, it’s thickened with breadcrumbs.

And Is that what Peas pots, Pease. Potage is thicken with peas, surprisingly, but yeah. So stu, it’s the same sort of texture.

[00:13:32] Hazel Baker: So do you think people just got fed up of eating the same?

[00:13:35] Paul Couchman: texture. It’s a good point. You mean with the pudding? Cuz eventually you stop putting it in puddings. Yeah I think that’s probably one of the reasons.

The other thing you can do, it’s also, if you think about it and through the history as well, the idea about puddings is they come from sausages. Really, it’s this idea of putting something in an intestine or skins or porches boiling them. And then you’ve got something that you can keep, which is quite handy if you think about it.

Yeah. And. The idea of using a pudding cloth to do that means that you can actually start doing sweet things instead. You’re not so reliant on bits of animals to do it. And the sew it, if you think about it, is the only thing left over from the animal that’s still in there. But yeah, those fill things.

Formative plum potage hacking pudding and hacking pudding has got meat in it. It’s another sort. It’s more like a bit of a sausage really. So it’s got a bit of

[00:14:19] Hazel Baker: what would that look like if you were going to be serving hacking pudding? What would that look like on a

[00:14:24] Paul Couchman: play role? Yeah, so what you do, When you make it like a big sausage, imagine like a big salami or something like that.

Yeah. So you cook it in the pudding cloth and then, and I’ve got one in the fridge down, so I’ve got all four of those in the fridge downstairs. , it’s Christmas . And what you do is you you cook it in the normal way, steam it and everything, but then what you do is actually cut slices of it and you bake it or fry it, sorry, in butter.

But which fat you like large is nice too, and you can serve it then as a piece. It’s a bit like you serve a blood pudding or something like that. Yeah. And it’s all fruity again. It’s got some of the similar, sugars and spices in it and some of the same ingredients as plum pudding. Do you have or I used to, I like it with an egg and some, with some cabbage, fine cabbage or something for breakfast.

Ooh. Cause it’s really quite different. Yeah. Yeah. How would that, yeah. Do you fancy the one with that?

[00:15:16] Hazel Baker: I actually, I am fencing some of that, so it’s a bit more like a, like a haggish, how you use Exactly.

[00:15:22] Paul Couchman: But more fruity. It’s got more fruit in it and a bit of sugar as well. So it’s, and it’s slightly more spicy as well.

So yeah, it’s actually quite nice. The one I wouldn’t advise is Plum Pot, because basically you do make it with a beef stock and then you start adding things like breadcrumbs and dried fruits, figs and wine. It does become a bit odd. It’s a bit odd. And also the texture’s. Glue peaks, breadcrumbs.

So I think it’s a bit of an odd one. So I might leave, if I was going to tell you to eat any of those or try those, I’ll probably go over the fermenty, which is rather lovely actually with sat from. And I’ll give the hacking pudding and of course the plum pudding. I’ll probably leave the Plum Pot, but do give it a go just to say you’ve made it once

Cause it’s wasn’t fun to make it, but you.

[00:16:05] Hazel Baker: And where’s the best place to get a good recipe for these? And

[00:16:08] Paul Couchman: Paul? Yeah, on my course, of course. But , the other pla and I’m gonna plug it cuz it is a lovely book. There’s a really lovely book, Christmas We Feast by Annie Gray, and she has all the recipes in there as well.

It was published last year. It’s now out in paperback, and I get no commission on this, but it’s a really good read. It’s really good fun. She’s she’s a very engaging writer. It’s a walk through Christmas history and it’s very fun.

[00:16:32] Hazel Baker: Fantastic. I’ll add that in us. Thank you.

Yeah. So you mentioned about this this pudding cloth to replace in testings, with like our black puddings, et cetera. So what is it exactly for people to get a better.

[00:16:45] Paul Couchman: So putting cloth usually is butter Muslim or something like that. But in the day, they would’ve used any bits of cloth they could get their hands on, if you think about it.

So it could have been linen, it could have been cotton, it could have been the sleeve off your old shirts, cause they reuse things as well. So whenever I do the course, I tell people, don’t worry too much about which cloth you use, because they wouldn’t have worried. The important thing though is with the putting cloth is to.

What I do is put it into boiling water while it’s still hot. You take it out and you cover it in flour, so you want a nice crust on it, basically. So you want nice coating flour, which will become a crust as you put the pudding inside it. Tie it up and boil it. Hey, that’s clever. And I showed it cause I did I did a course yesterday and it’s lovely to show people that, because when you very carefully pull off the cloth and it’s a bit like pulling off a bandage on your skin cause it takes ages.

But you get this lovely sort of crust on the outside of your pudding then. And as you cut through, of course the colour then changes. So you got a lighter colour and it reveals itself in all its glory when you cut through the mid love it and it cuts all back

[00:17:45] Hazel Baker: again. Fantastic. Yeah. And that’s an important part of when we talk.

Feasting food isn’t, it’s the theatre of it.

[00:17:51] Paul Couchman: Absolutely. Don’t you think, we talked about setting it a light, but there’s also this thing about bringing it in a cloth and then peeling a cloth off. I love it. Yeah. I love the drama food. I think there’s not enough drama in food , right?

[00:18:03] Hazel Baker: No I, yeah, I totally agree on that. Adding more drama and stirring things up a bit we have just had stir up Sunday. Yes. For those who don’t know, please explain.

Stir up Sunday

[00:18:15] Paul Couchman: So it’s the Sunday before advent and the official prayer on that day starts with

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Which is why it’s called Spit up Sunday.

And there’s lots of myths about it cuz I’m, the thing is, it probably wasn’t something they actually did in the Victorian period. Cause if you think of it, you’ve got all these poor families probably not displaced and probably not with each other at Christmas, and definitely not having time to make a pudding together.

they would probably be making puddings for other people. And then if you think about. They probably wouldn’t be down in the kitchen, so in the pudding up. So it’s something that happens later, but as, as well actually, no, cuz you give tours, these lovely myths are great stories. And so these stories get retold.

And so in this Ed Warding in the We Waring period, and then later people are starting to look back to the Victorian period at where they used to all get around the show at the puddings, but they probably didn’t . And the other lovely thing of course is we put tokens in. Puddings, and this is also something that’s transposed actually from the 12 Night Cake.

Oh, okay. And what they used to do was put in things and whatever you picked out would influence your future destiny. . And I’ve got four things here for you, . You probably know these. What would a thimble, what do you think it would happen if you got a thimble?

[00:19:26] Hazel Baker: You’re either going to have a very small drink, or you’re gonna be working for the rest of your life.

[00:19:31] Paul Couchman: Spinster. There you go. . There we go. A button. Button. They’re hard to guess. These, sorry, I make it really hard for

[00:19:39] Hazel Baker: you. The pressure is on now. So if I got a button I dunno. That’s something small, isn’t it? Go on, tell me. Yeah,

[00:19:44] Paul Couchman: it’s, they had something called a bachelor’s button and it would be a, just a quick one.

Cause something actually told me what a batter’s button is. It’s a button that you fixed on without sew. Having to sew it on. I was gonna say,

[00:19:57] Hazel Baker: just quite handy to sew it on for the rest of your life yourself. Oh, okay. Exactly. So

[00:20:02] Paul Couchman: if you got the button, you would then be a bachelor, Uhhuh and the other two are a bit easier.

You get a ring, that’s easy, isn’t it? Yeah. Marriage. And there was money for riches as well. So the coin would indicate that you were going to be rich. Yeah,

[00:20:16] Hazel Baker: the coin stays, yeah. Yes. The coin totally stays. So growing up we had little silver things that mom, watched them put them in syrup Sunday each year.

Yeah. And I can never remember any of them apart from

[00:20:30] Paul Couchman: the horseshoe. Oh, a horseshoe. I love that. But

[00:20:34] Hazel Baker: eventually that got a bit mangled after my sister accidentally chewed. And so then the brand new five pence pieces came out. The tiny ones we’ve got now. And so she started putting those in the Christmas put instead.

And I remember the first year, I got two , so that was a really good Christmas.

[00:20:54] Paul Couchman: And did it work? Did you have a lucky year the next year?

[00:20:55] Hazel Baker: Who knows, I think it’s all about mindset.

[00:20:57] Paul Couchman: That isn’t it. Maybe , but that’s awful. To get something terrible, that means you’re gonna influence the rest of your, you won’t.

Maybe that’s how it works. Oh dear. That’s awful. Oh, that’s it.

[00:21:07] Hazel Baker: Think of all those family jokes.

[00:21:11] Paul Couchman: I’m glad they’ve taken out all these horrible things. Said you were going to have a bad year.

[00:21:15] Hazel Baker: Yes. They also had like really horrid Christmas cards, didn’t they?

[00:21:20] Paul Couchman: Yes, very dark. Yes. Very. Yeah, absolutely.Absolutely.

[00:21:23] Hazel Baker: In terms of the stir Sunday, so we’re thinking it is more a bit of a nice story looking back on history rather than something that practically happened.

[00:21:32] Paul Couchman: The things that does happen, Later of course then, it does become something. But this idea that it’s got a sort of mythical past, which actually it didn’t have, but eventually it does become something everybody does.

And like I said, I do it now on Zoom with people in America. That was what I did last night. Yeah, it’s.

[00:21:48] Hazel Baker: Oh, fantastic. And then what about, we talked about some of these accompaniments for Christmas pudding. So we mentioned, as you said, like the hard source, which is a brandy butter or a rum butter.

I have now learned. Yes. And we talked about the the custard you mentioned. Oh, would you do creme Anglaise or would it be English custard?

[00:22:08] Paul Couchman: I’d prefer English custard cause it’s thicker. Good. Because it don’t, you think it just stops nicer down, but Yeah, you might. I, yeah, I just, I think a thin sauce wouldn’t work really.

No. Yeah, I say that cause I’ve watch earlier I’d said single cream could work. So yeah, go. I’d prefer it though. I’d prefer custard

[00:22:26] Hazel Baker:. I think it depends whether you’re more going for a heavy Christmas pudding or whether you’re going more for a, I suppose a plum pudding.

[00:22:35] Paul Couchman: You have to go with the heavy, don’t you? It’s heavy anyway, so…

[00:22:39] Hazel Baker: In for a penny, in for a pound might as well.

[00:22:41] Paul Couchman: So I’ve picked out free for you here cause oh, but one, I’m not actually sure. This is from a 1960s book by someone wonderful called Elizabeth Craig, who if not heard of, she’s lovely.

She’s, she wrote extensively from the 1920s to about the 1990s. But she’s got in one of her books, she’s got Ida Down source and I think. A variant of the sources we’ve talked about. But I love the name Ida Down Source.

[00:23:05] Hazel Baker: I have never heard of that. What, what’s in it?

[00:23:06] Paul Couchman: I think it’s the same. When I was looking at the recipe, it is basically looked the same.

It’s called Ida down because of the coating. So it’s a sort of freak sauce. But I love the, I think they just popped into a name on it cuz it sounds lovely. Cause when I look to the ingredients, oh, that’s just a sort of hard source. But I’ve also got St. Clement’s source.

So this is butter, cast of sugar, orange cornflower, and lemon vines. So that would be the cornflower dates it a bit, so that’s probably a bit 1840s, 1850s onwards.

[00:23:33] Hazel Baker: That makes sense if you’re adding it with your candid. Peel in the, so that kind of compliments it, isn’t it?

[00:23:39] Paul Couchman: And I’ve got one from the lovely Mrs. Beaten from 1861 as well, which is, she calls it beaten source. Eggs run with brandy. There we go. Sugar, water boil whisk thick and fo and serve it once. So that’s a lovely concise recipe there. Oh,

[00:23:56] Hazel Baker: been in a, like a bain marie?

[00:24:00] Paul Couchman: She doesn’t say it, but she doesn’t say I do it on a very low heat.

. Yeah. Cuz of the eggs. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. I’m tempted to, Heat up the first things, put the egg in and be very careful. Then with the last bit, with the last bit wicks. Cause often you can just throw eggs in, can’t you, at the end, if there’s enough heat and it would just thicken without any extra heat.

So I might do it that way. But yes, she’s very . She’s, she wrote a lot of books for people who already knew how to cook and then will very, some of the recipes are just shorthand almost. So you’re right you need to know like the knowledge we have to actually make that. But I think that sounds rather nice.

[00:24:36] Hazel Baker: It does. And do you have a particular favourite Christmas pudding recipe? One that you comes

[00:24:42] Paul Couchman: back to? Yeah. I, it’s the one I’ve made for the last five years really. So I do the, the Zoom classes I use a lighter Acton, so bit earlier than Mrs. Beaten 1840s really. And people say it’s one of the most delicious Christmas puddings.

It’s a sort of lighter pudding really. It doesn’t have all, it doesn’t have everything thrown into it like a little later. Puddings have, so she’s a bit more restrained. But it has your usual things. It’s got raisin and currents, it’s got mace, nutmeg, just mason and nutmeg, rather. Not all arthritis.

It’s got some brandy in there. It’s got apple, but half an apple in there, bread comes to it, those sort of things. But yeah, it’s really good. And if you’re not tired, it I really advise everyone’s right, especially people who don’t really like Christmas pudding, because you might actually like this.

And the thing is, and what I think really turns people off from puddings is they’re so sweet. And I think that’s where it all goes wrong, is you’ve got to have, and I mentioned it earlier, you’ve gotta have sort of balance between sweet and sour and it shouldn’t be too sweet cuz it just gets too sick.

It’s heavy enough as it is, you throwing loads of sugar on it, it becomes almost impossible to eat. So I understand when people say they don’t like Christmas pudding, but I do say try some older recipes because you might like, Something that doesn’t taste like the commercial puddings taste now.

[00:25:51] Hazel Baker: I totally agree with that one. And I suppose that leads nicely onto, we’ve talked about having a heavy pudding after a heavy lunch, and so there is often seconds or leftovers. And well frying was a thing back in my house and also a friend was mentioning she used to have it with some cheese.

Yeah, it’s good with cheese and you talk about too sweet, then a nice bitter what kind of cheese?

[00:26:18] Paul Couchman: Anything That’s a bit you said I tried something, I’d probably go over hard cheese cuz works, doesn’t it? So I do a hard chair. You know a good one. Yeah. There’s also Dutch, if you can get your hands on Dutch cheese, they have really old cheese they call it.

Really dark. It’s been extra mature, so that would be really nice. It’s almost on its way to Parmesan, if you think about it, that a old Dutch, they’re called our cast, our old cheese, and it’s almost crumbly. It’s so old and is crumbly. But that would work really well. That would work really well with that.

Pudding. Other

[00:26:46] Hazel Baker: ways of eating pudding. Who

[00:26:47] Paul Couchman: knew? But fine. Definite. And then I talked about hacking pudding, didn’t I? Yeah. Yes it’s a similar thing. Yeah. Pudding can definitely be fine. Yeah. Really good. Like I said, with some oh, the greens, you’ve got all the greens left over, haven’t you?

Usually, yeah. A photos on and get an egg going with that as well, and have a lovely. Really nice breakfast with a bit of Christmas pudding. And also if you’ve got any beef leftover, if you are eating beef, it’s really good with beef as well in a sandwich even.

[00:27:10] Hazel Baker: We’ve talked a little bit about your course and I’m sure that people would be absolutely delighted to know that they can still get in on the action.

Paul does run a course called The History of Christmas at Customs Fe and Food From Me, evil to War Time. So in a nutshell, pool, what could people. So

[00:27:29] Paul Couchman: I do this together with this wonderful historian called Sarah Tobias. And we do little, we have 15 minute slots that we bounce off each other. So she’ll do 15 minutes of history, and then I’ll do 15 minutes of recipes and then we’ll bounce back and then I bounce back to her and then

So it’s like that and it’s quite heavy pace. And what I do is actually in each session I do six recipes and I make them all and show. During the course, and what we do is record the sessions. So I’ve got we’ve just done the the medieval, let me think, medieval renaissance or Restoration, that sort of time.

Elizabethan. , we’ve done that one already recorded. I’ve got coming up is Regent in Georgia. And if you join, basically if you join along, you’ll get recordings of most of it. And if you’re lucky enough sign up on time, you can come and watch the live shows as well, but the record’s brilliant.

And what I do is send out all the recipes as well, so you can try all these really bizarre things. So things like, like the firm tea, I could probably go and put the hacking pudding in as well. So all the recipes will be there. Just to follow along and to make yourself, if you buy my course, it’s, it’d be, it’s great fun as well.

And you learn a lot about history.

[00:28:31] Hazel Baker: I’ve already learned a lot today fabulous. Do it. No. Brilliant. Thank you, Paul.

[00:28:35] Paul Couchman: My pleasure.

Other Christmas themed episodes you might not have listened to include:

Episode 75: The Christmas Cracker – a Victorian Invention

Episode 74: Christmas in 1950s and 1960s London

Episode 35: A Tudor Christmas

Episode 34: London’s oldest shops food and drink


Join Paul online for a cooking session


If you are in London, then come and join me on a Christmas walks. We have  Christmas lights walking tour,  a Victorian Christmas walking tour and we also have A Christmas Carol walking tour, yes, even on Christmas Eve.

That’s all for now.

See you next time.


Other episodes with Paul Couchman:

Episode 55. The Regency Cook

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