Monday, 7 February 2011

Canteen fever

The other day Dave kindly offered to take any photos I might need to be taken. Alas, this was after my feeble unfocussed effort of several weeks before, shown above, to capture a package of 'Aunty's' Spotted Dick. I chose a red table napkin as a background, because I wished to emphasize the burning, blood-red, vital qualities of this splendid dessert. But there's never a Dave about when you want one, so I can only apologize for the quality and hope you understand the sincerity and conviction that went into the taking of it. At least the date's in focus.

'Aunty', whoever she is, makes individual portions. Into the microwave an individual portion went, J. being no lover of canteen puddings. It didn't need much lubrication, just a dressing, a veil, of a kind of de-natured cream called Bridélice, a word which looks like a rather unpleasant matrimonial condition (although pronounced 'breed-day-lease'). In any case we've re-christened this cream Dulux.

It was excellent, a worthy sacrifice on the altar of noshtalgia, a longing for comfort food particularly associated with childhood, a sort of à la recherche du pudding perdu. I've only two complaints, viz.:

1. I remember Spotted Dick as a lumpish grey suety roly-poly pudding with currants or sultanas embedded. 'Aunty's' was more of a sultana sponge, and

2. We bought these puds in an Essex Tesco's while on a UK visit. They're made in and imported from NEW ZEALAND. I'm sure my sense of eco-outrage should have totally eclipsed my pleasure in eating it. But I'm afraid it didn't. Clearly I am a weak vessel.


english inukshuk said...


(on many counts)

Dave said...

If only you had said. I have several of Aunties puddings in my freezer (for emergency use only, of course) and could have photographed one for you.

moreidlethoughts said...

Good grief! Ring the bells! Bang the drum! Something imported from a country other than China?
Of course, one has to ask "why?"

Z said...

You shop at Tesco's? That is quite shocking.

Sarah said...

I have heard about this sort of thing.....Men of a certain age hankering after Nanny and her comforting nursery treats.....

Christopher said...

That's good to know, Dave, thanks. Do you have any...erm, photogenic tins of Ambrosia Creamed Rice Pudding in your larder? Perhaps I could call on you for that when the need arises?

MIT: I know. Even so I expect the packaging and the printer's ink and the little plastic pot it came in were made in China. No good will come of it. I was going to continue your apostrophe in verse (Beyond belief! Oh, the smells! Fill the tum!) but could only get this far. Maybe that's far enough?

As for you other girls ('Shocking!' IE. 'Shocking!' Z. 'Men of a certain age...' Sarah.) I don't know what I've done to deserve this opprobrium. I don't notice any of you saying 'Yes, we'll be round later with a freshly-made apple pie/treacle sponge/bread and butter pudding just out of the oven for your especial delectation'.

Or perhaps I was out when you called? I shall go and have look in the garage in case you left it/them there.

Z said...

I had added to my notes on your diet, for when you visit. They now read -

'Chris - cake, pref with cream/strawberries/home-made jam. No potatoes. Proper puddings'

The notes for Dave are rather longer and mainly contain what not to feed him.

Do you like your bread and butter pudding with sultanas, marmalade (you could have both) or fresh raspberries (which works surprisingly well)? Shortcrust pastry isn't my strong point I'm afraid, but I'll make a crumble.

Oh, and custard, cream or ice cream?

Do you prefer sponges steamed or baked?

Sarah said...

I don't do baking....or fussing over men, or nursey stuff.....I do, however...well not here perhaps.

Oh Z stop it !

Dave said...

I think I could manage to eat what Chris is eatingm Z.

Sorry, Chris, no rice pudding in the house. Having endured my mother's for 20 years, I now try to avoid it.

Z said...

I didn't give you puddings, Dave. I am so sorry. Next time you come to lunch, I promise you, I will.

Sorry, Sarah. I have you down for light and spicy fish dishes, is that right? And delicious crunchy salads.

Anyone make *the best* rice pudding? Mine is a touch hit and miss. Tinned is slightly disappointing, wrongly soft and no skin, with a faintly metallic flavour. Better than nothing, I suppose.

patroclus said...

Just wait till we come over in May - I will make you a steamed lemon sponge pudding with lemons from your OWN LEMON TREE. You can't get more locally-sourced than that!

Rog said...

Nostalgia. Very good.
Surprised they didn't use kiwi fruit though.

Christopher said...

Z, you have the holy fire, the visionary gleam. You are a true poetess.

Bread-and-butter pudding of heaven,
Bread-and-butter pudding of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more,
(I want no more)
Feed me till I want no more.


Tarte aux fraises,
Tarte aux fraises,
I will ever sing of thee,
(Will sing of thee)
I will ever sing of thee.

I hope this doesn't put you off your next rendering of Cwm Rhondda.

She's such a tease, that Sarah, you know.

Dave: Quite understand. Maybe you preferred her sago or tapioca puddings?

Patroclus: Wonderful. They're ripening even now, and as for the ones that were scattered during the recent gale damage, J. is even now using to add zest to her stewed blackberry and apple.

Rog: Do I sense a fellow pudding man? (Taste, that is, not shape.)

letouttoplay said...

Your story reminded me of a folk song by Alex Atterson, entitled "The Pudden". I'm afraid I can't find it on the internet but it ends with the loss of the pudden and a scottish voice calling out, sorrowfully, "Aaah, Ma Pudd'n".

(Your unfocussed photo looks appropriately nostalgic by the way and also disguises the lack of any resemblance to the real thing which you describe so evocatively)

Spadoman said...

I started writing the saga, in two parts, that will take my readers to find out the magic of moose dung probability. I am doing this at your suggestion. Then, you write about spotted dick. That will be a tough act to follow.
I'd like to see a 'from scratch' recipe of what a spotted dick actually contains.
Interesting bit.


Christopher said...

Mig: Don't know the song, but I look forward to wasting yet more time trying to find it. 'Pudd'n' in Scotland may be savoury (e.g black/white pudding) and may also refer to otherwise uneatable bits of 'meat' like numbles, pizzle or skink.

Spadoman: Our friend Sarah the artist has fixed views about Spotted Dick, which she calls Spotty Dick, no doubt a back-reference to one Spotty Muldoon, a figure from remote childhood. She would possibly claim that this wonderful dessert and moose dung were practically the same, in fact she can hardly tell them apart, the difference being just a matter of a slight rearrangement of carbon and hydrogen molecules. But I look forward to your moose dung monograph.


Z said...

We called one dog Muldoon because he was blond with white spots on his head - his mother was part-Dalmation, black with white spots.

The mention led me to listen to Pete and Dud all over again. Thank you, darling.

letouttoplay said...

I'm pretty sure you are right about the (un)savouryness of the pudden Christopher. But I don't remember Mr Atterson mentioning numbles, pizzle or skink. I shall have to look those up.

Sarah said...

Now look what you have started

Z said...

Indeed, Sarah. We know what numbles and pizzle are, don't we. I thought skink was smoked haddock soup, but maybe that's only the Cullen sort

Christopher said...

Z: Pete and Dud, oh yes. Somehow Flanders and Swan weren't in the same league.

Mig: I was also thinking of potted heid, a Glasgow delicacy well worth not failing to avoid.

Sah: Me? I'm totally innocent!

Christopher said...

Z, I thought skink was gristly scrapings of shin cartilage, not very appetizing, the sort of thing you found occasionally in stovies, or - if from the pig - in feijoada. Cullen skink is, as you say, a sort of soup, not that I've ever tasted it. We need Hector to advise.

Sarah said...

Smoked haddock soup.Anyone would think I haven't got any work to do today.

Anonymous said...

When I were a lad way back my real aunty, living off The Pilgrims Way, turned out a delicious Spotted Dick from a pint sized white earthenware bowl stuffed with a glutinous mix of sheep’s fat, flour, a few rough oats, sugar (demerara) a touch of salt and butter, currants, sultanas a single egg separated of yoke and albumen which was beaten and folded in, a dash of cochineal (proper beetle’s blood) and vanilla - all packed in rapidly together in the bowl, tied tightly about in muslin and dumped into an already fiercely boiling pan all sealed with additional tied about string to hold the pan lid shut. Essentially, we were in fer “Steam Pud” (again). The pan for the purpose had an improvised pierced hole in the lid done with hammer and small nail so that steam might issue out its orifice without undue precipitation which it did (in any case) in high pitched hiss and sometimes scream with pan sometimes inclined to rattle and jump on its anthracite fuel fed hob. Without hammer and nail the pot would have prematurely ejaculated its Spotted Dick all over the kitchen walls and ceiling as was attested by aunty when she first concocted her particular tasty concoction. In between - the pan might be hesitantly checked of its decreasing bubbling water and topped from a kettle and resealed for the duration over an awfully long time of cooking. Our Spotted Dick of wartime childhood was gobbled down with Birdseye Custard in a thrice.

Christopher said...

Thank you, Anon, for this very elegant memento, which I enjoyed so much that I read it aloud. With my magpie beak for the quirkish worm, however, I'd be interested to know if

a) You had several pretend aunts

b) They also lived close to the Pilgrims' Way, maybe in the neighbourhood of Gadshill, where they dressed in buckram and scratched a living robbing pilgrims?

Measled Richard said...

The weird thing (speaking as an ex-Pom and a New Zealander for the last 20 years) is that you cannot buy Aunty's Spotted Dick in New Zealand - in fact, the only spotted dicks I've ever seen on sale here are the tinned Heinz ones made in England. They are sold only in specialist UK food shops. That may outrage the eco warriors even more.

On a related topic, does anyone happen to have the receipe for 'bacon badger' that used to appear on the Atora suet packets in the 1960s? It was a great family favourite. Alas, you aren't allowed to import Atora suet to NZ and local butchers tend to look a bit blank at the mention of suet.

Christopher said...

Hello MR. Thanks for this. I would never have thought it, although it did cross my mind that the very modest servings of Aunty's SD we get would never satisfy a typical Kiwi appetite. Suet import ban remains a mystery (Atora do make a vegetable suet, but it's not the same) and 'bacon badger' is a complete mystery. Could it be linked to 'drabbed bawlor', which is a Romany dish of hedgehog baked in a clay crust? When cooked the crust is removed, taking the spines with it. I can't say I've ever eaten it. Best wishes!

Barnacle Bill said...

Quite apart from the surreal image of consignments of Spotted Dick making their way around the world from the UK to NZ and vice versa, it was good to discover that someone apart from me remembers the Bacon Badger recipe from the Atora suet packet. Sadly I think my mother lost the recipe some time in the 1970s, but I have often thought of contacting Atora to see if they have it in their archives. Many a Sunday lunchtime in Scotland in the 1960s was enhanced by this excellent dish, and many a Sunday afternoon resounded to the explosions of wind which were the Badger's after-effects.

Measled Richard said...

The suet ban has something to do with BSE, I believe. For the same reason, I am not allowed to give blood in New Zealand because I lived in the UK during the 1980s.

Bacon Badger is a boiled pudding made with (as I recall) bacon, onion, potato and suet - hence the impact on Barnacle Bill's digestive system. I read somewhere that it was called 'badger' because of its well-rounded badger-like shape, not because any relatives of Mr Brock were involved in its preparation.

Sparky said...

Go to your local Butcher and ask for Suet, I get mine from Pinehill Butchery on Auckland's North Shore.

Christopher said...

Barnacle Bill, Measled Richard and Sparky:

Well it's real pleasure to have you guys aboard and to provide a forum for one of the more sensible discussions ever to have cropped up on Lydian Airs. If it wasn't a small matter of some 15,000 miles away, I - and many other more locally-based readers, I'm sure - would be hammering on the Pinehill Butchery door for our dose of suet, even if it doesn't come in a pack labelled Atora.

And as for that Bacon Badger, I'm sure it will provoke more than wind if I update your mention of it, which I'm going to do in a couple of days.

Good for you and any other Kiwis that feel like joining in. If any of you come across Aunty give her a hug from me.

Measled Richard said...

I think you'll find that of 'us Kiwis', one is from Scotland and one is from Kent - the tangata whenua (people of this land) have yet to be introduced to the delights of Bacon Badger.

It was the spotted dick picture that drew me to your blog in the first place, but I have very much enjoyed reading many of the other posts and comments. Your bio is somewhat cagey on where you taught, which may be quite deliberate. I attended Fallin Primary and Dollar Academy.

Christopher said...

Maculate Dickon, thank you for this and for your kind comments. No, I hadn't realised I was dealing with a cell of honorary Kiwis.

Watch out for a forthcoming post about all this - if you're interested - to bring this fascinating topic up to date.

Morayshire. Rosie at

is the person you want for Clackmannanshire. Knock three times and ask for Maureen Chlorine. You will be seduced in no time flat.