Sweet memories: remembering the first time I ate bread and butter pudding
JP McMahon: I was six at the time and a far cry from the chef I am today
Bread and butter pudding appears in many Irish cook books of the last hundred years
Do you recall the first time you tasted bread and butter pudding? Was it in your grandmother’s house? Or your mother’s? Maybe it was somewhere else entirely. I can’t exactly recall which grandmother (Grandma or Nana) made the pudding but I do remember picking the sultanas out with disgust. Why ruin a dish with dried fruit? Granted I was six at the time and a far cry from the chef I am today but something inside me never liked sultanas or raisins in desserts.
Bread and butter pudding appears in many Irish cook books of the last hundred years, from Maura Laverty to Monica Sheridan and Darina Allen. I find it strange that it’s defined as a British dessert, but this is probably due to the fact that it originated in England and played its part in feeding the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in their big houses.
As many of you will know, the pudding is made by layering slices of leftover buttered bread, scattered with raisins in an oven dish, over which an egg custard mixture is poured. Seasoning usually includes spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and often lemon or orange peel. Several recipes include a dash of brandy or whiskey in the custard.
One of the earliest published recipes for a bread and butter pudding so named is found in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife (1728).
“Take a two penny loaf, and a pound of fresh butter; spread it in very thin slices, as to eat; cut them off as you spread them, and stone half a pound of raisins, and wash a pound of currants; then put puff-paste at the bottom of a dish, and lay a row of your bread and butter, and strew a handful of currants, a few raisins, and some little bits of butter, and so do till your dish is full; then boil three pints of cream and thicken it when cold with the yolks of ten eggs, a grated nutmeg, a little salt, near half a pound of sugar, and some orange flower-water; pour this in just as the pudding is going into the oven.”