Mrs Bates spartan bread and butter pudding

We always had pudding after our lunch, even if it was only tinned fruit and evaporated milk, or mashed banana and top of the milk, or jelly. I have a single pudding bowl left from the kitchen of my childhood and it’s really small compared to the other bowls we have; bowls are now called cereal bowls not pudding bowls because of course we eat cereal regularly and pudding rarely.  The reason I mention the size of the bowl is to remind us that we ate much less when I was a child, even though it sounds as if we ate more. Lunch would be AA small portion of meat, several vegetables from the garden such as cabbage, broccoli, carrots, peas etc., potatoes and gravy. Plenty of room for a pudding afterwards! We didn’t eat between meals, although if we were at home not school we might have elevenses of a drink and a biscuit. Because we had our main meal at lunch time, we had something like beans or sardines or cheese on toast, or sandwiches, or maybe crumpets. Mum made wonderful cakes and buns and scones but when I look at her cake tins and bun trays, how small they are compared to what we would use today!

Back to puddings. Mum was a wonderful cook, and everything she made was lovely. She would use margarine rather than suet for puddings and we would have them flavoured with lemon, or with treacle in the bottom of the basin, or jam or marmalade, which then became the topping when turned out. Her pastry was so light, so crumbly yet crisp, fruit pies, treacle tart, lemon meringue, she had such a deft touch. Because things weren’t wasted, stale cake was transformed into something delicious and eaten with custard, and stale bread became bread and butter pudding. She never made bread pudding, which I didn’t know existed until I was an adult. She loved trying different recipes, and as well as her Bible – Mrs Beeton, she used the recipe books you could get with food products such as Be-Ro flour and Stork margarine. One other book she had was a 1965 book by the TV cook Zena Skinner, and here is Zena’s recipe for bread and butter pudding:

Mrs Bates bread and butter pudding

  • 5½ slices from a large 2lb loaf (cut into cubes)
  • 2 oz castor sugar
  • 2 standard eggs
  • 1 pint milk
  • 2 heaped tbsp marmalade
  • little butter
  1. tip bread cubes into a greased ovenproof dish to approx 2/3 full
  2. beat the eggs and milk then stir in marmalade
  3. pour over the bread cubes and dot the top with pieces of butter
  4. cook at 375º F, gas mark4-5,  190º C, for 1-1½h

This sounds a very spartan version of what should be luscious and lovely, I think it must have been from when there was rationing. I can’t imagine mum using Zena’s recipe – her bread and butter pudding had the bread in thin slices spread with butter – not too thick of course, a scattering of dried fruit, milk and eggs beaten together with a little sugar – not too much, then popped in the oven for about 40 mins!

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