In my last post, about eating other people’s food, I wrote about the episode in David Copperfield where the young David ‘loses’ his meal to the hungry waiter in the Yarmouth inn. As well as drinking David’s ale and eating his chops, he also dives eagerly into his ‘batter pudding’:
'Why, a batter-pudding,' [the waiter] said, taking up a table-spoon, 'is my favourite pudding! Ain't that lucky? Come on, little 'un, and let's see who'll get most.'
The waiter certainly got most.
Whilst most of us are familiar with the batter pudding which is Yorkshire pudding, the traditional English accompaniment to roast beef, a sweet version has a long tradition in English cuisine. Bearing resemblances to the French batter pudding, clafoutis, from the Limousin region in France, which traditionally contains fresh cherries, recipes for English batter puddings date back centuries. Some of these are simply sweetened batter and others contain fruit, whether dried or fresh.
Mrs Beeton, in her Book of Household Management, published in 1861, just over a decade after David Copperfield, includes a recipe for 'Baked batter pudding'. Her version is sugar-less and includes currants, but at the end of the recipe she does suggest using fresh fruits when in season, such as 'damsons, plums, red currants, gooseberries, or apples', saying that, if these are used, 'the pudding must be thickly sprinkled over with sifted sugar.'
However, going even further back, cherry batter puddings were apparently introduced to England by the Normans - presumably they brought their version of clafoutis with them. Cherry batter puddings are particularly associated with Kent, and since David Copperfield spends significant parts of his life in Kent - as did Dickens himself - that was the version I made. With fresh cherries not being in season, I used tinned, which worked well. And, in deference to Mrs Beeton - who uses suet in her recipe - I stirred melted butter into the final mixture.
David Copperfield's (and the waiter's!) Batter Pudding
Ingredients (for 4 portions):
50g butter (melted)
60g plain flour
Pinch of salt.
1 tin cherries (pitted and drained) or 250g fresh (pitted)
Butter and lightly flour a pudding dish, and place the cherries on the bottom.
Set the oven to 180C, 170 (fan) or Gas mark 4.
Mix together the flour, caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and milk. Stir to make a batter. Add melted butter.
Pour the batter over the cherries.
Bake the pudding for 35 - 40 minutes until risen and golden brown.
Dust with sifted icing sugar before serving.