In a weird coincidence, the last three cookbooks I have read have all contained recipes for Sussex Pond Pudding. I had never heard of such a thing before and suddenly, it was stalking me! The universe was absolutely, positively telling me something. And I took that message to be that I should make one. Because that’s what the universe does right? Offers a gentle guiding hand to point you in the direction of where you need to be going.
But first, somewhat of a digression. The cognitive bias that had me seeing Sussex Pond Pudding everywhere has a name – The Bader-Meinhof Phenomenom. It occurs when a word, name or thing comes into your attention and shortly afterwards it reappears with what seems like greater than normal frequency. I’d love to know if, after reading this any of you randomly hear the words Bader-Meinhof or Sussex Pond Pudding over the next few weeks. Let me know if you do.
My most recent sighting of a Sussex Pond Pudding (kinda makes it sound like the Loch Ness Monster) came from Big Table, Busy Kitchen by Allegra McEvedy.
I find Allegra McEvedy immensely likeable and all of her recipes that I have tried have been successful. She describes the Sussex Pond Pudding as follows:
“This classic English Steamed Pudding is definitely of a superior nature to most of it’s steamy brethren…it’s the only steamed pudding I ever make and I need to make it at least once a winter”
The next reference came from The National Trust’s Complete Traditional Recipe Book by Sarah Edington.
She offers some the following explanation of the name.
“Sussex and Kent extend their rivalry to puddings – the most famous being Sussex Pond Pudding and Kentish Well Pudding. The former consists of a suet crust enclosing butter, brown sugar and a whole lemon, and in the latter currants are added. Either way, when the pudding is cut open, a rich sweet syrup, the well or pond – oozes out.”
The final book (which was actually the first book I read containing those three words was Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking. Which you can read more about here.
You may have noticed that thus far, you have not seen any of my photos of the Sussex Pond Pudding. I thought I would intersperse my pictures with Laurie’s commentary.
By the way, Laurie Colwin calls it Suffolk Pond Pudding. For the sake of consistency, I will refer to it as Sussex Pond Pudding throughout.
But first. Can we talk about suet? OMFG – was a more disgusting substance ever invented? This has to figure right up there with the civet pooping coffee and that bird embryo they keep getting people to eat on Survivor and The Amazing Race. I had to look it up because I was actually not too sure what it was. I wish I hadn’t
Suet – raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys.
I am really sorry British people who eat this stuff all the time but that is just disgusting. Raw sheep kidney fat. Exactly what I want in my sweet pudding.
Turns out you can buy (fake?) suet in the supermarket and it looks kind of like breadcrumbs of butter. So not as bad as you might think. Just try not to think where those buttery breadcrumbs come from.
And that pastry? Was a bastard of a thing to make. And I was not at all happy with the finished product. It was very both heavy//thick and fragile. Getting it to line the pudding bowl was a nightmare.
And now, over to Laurie Colwin.
“Sussex Pond Pudding although something of a curiousity sounded perfectly it splendid….it never occurred to me that nobody might want to eat it”
No one wanted to eat mine either. The fussiest eater in the world took one look at it.
“What is that?”
It’s a Sussex Pond Pudding”
“It looks disgusting”
He comes from Kent. Maybe I should have added currants.
Back to Laurie:
“My suet crust was masterful. When unwrapped from it’s cloth, the crust was a beautiful deep honey colour”
Mine too, at least at the bottom, which became the top where all the butter and sugar had soaked into the pastry.
“My hostess look confused. “It looks like a baked hat”, she said.
“It looks like the Alien,” my future husband said.
“Never mind, ” I said. “It will be the most delicious thing you ever tasted”.
“I cut the pudding. As Jane Grigson had promised, out ran a lemon-scented buttery toffee. I sliced up the lemon which was soft and buttery too. Each person was to get some crust, a slice of lemon and some sauce. What a hit! I thought. Exactly the sort of thing I adored. I looked around me happily and my happiness turned to ash”
The buttery lemony sauce was by far the best thing about this . It was actually quite delicious. And the soaked buttery pastry was not awful either.
My host said: “This tastes like lemon-flavoured bacon fat”
“I’m sure it’s wonderful, ” said my hostess. “I mean, in England”.
The woman guest said “This is awful.”
My future husband remained silent.
Mine did not taste like bacon fat, maybe because I used the fake supermarket suet. If you got it in the right ration of sauce (lots) to pastry (not much) it was actually not too bad. It was not the “weird inedible sludge from outer space” Laurie Colwin describes however it is also not something I will feel compelled to make at least once a year like Allegra. Or ever again.
Although I am going to have to find something to do with the rest of that suet!
I guess that sometimes, instead of being that gentle guiding hand, the universe is a smartrase little jokester who is six steps ahead of you laying down banana peels for you to prat fall on.
And then, just as you are shaking your fist at it, it gives you a little wink and a grin and holds out its hands in a let’s be friends gesture. In my instance, remember a couple of weeks ago I said this:
I have a real hankering to go back and watch some early XFiles. I have yet to scratch that particular itch but it’s there….
And lo and behold, I was flicking channels on Saturday night during an ad break in, ok, I admit it, The Hunger Games and look what was on my telly:Just a couple of minutes before this scene Mulder was examining Scully’s butt for alien probes. It was AWESOME! I can’t wait for next Saturday!
Have a great week!