St Nicholas Pudding
Nicholas was born into a wealthy family during the 3rd century in the village of Patara, which was then Greek but now lies in Turkey. A devout Christian, Nicholas lost his parents while young and, obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," he used all his wealth to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. While still a young man he was made a Bishop and was known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian persecuted the Christians and Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned. It is said that prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals. Nicholas died on December 6, in 343AD and is buried in Myra cathedral, where it is reputed that manna formed in his grave. This was said to have healing powers and led to the growth of devotion to Nicholas.
Sue reports the following about the Celebration of St Nicholas and the relevance of the pudding:
This ancient English recipe of a light fruity fresh plum pudding probably originated as part of the ‘Boy Bishop Celebration’ that were held on St Nicholas Day during the Middle Ages.
The life of a chorister at this time was harsh and severe. The daily routine was rigorous, food was not plentiful and punishments were frequent.
The election of a ‘Boy Bishop’ dressed in cope, mitre and carrying a Bishop’s crook, processing with his fellows, in colourful robes, around the candlelit cathedral, drew huge crowds. After the service, the boys would expect an enormous feast with wine.
Ingredients - serves 6
||2 eggs, lightly beaten
|4oz caster sugar
||1 teaspoon cinnamon
|2oz white breadcrumbs
||2 tablespoons golden syrup
|3oz self raising flour
||Zest and juice of one orange
|6oz plums, stoned
|6 plums or prunes stoned and halved for decoration
||2oz prunes, stoned and chopped (see note below*)
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the grated orange rind.
- Add the eggs gradually to the butter mixture.
- Sift the flour and mix with the breadcrumbs and fold into the mixture.
- Stir in the juice of the orange, the plums and prunes and the cinnamon.
- Butter a 2 pint pudding bowl and coat the bottom of the bowl with golden syrup.
- Arrange the halves of the 6 plums or prunes on top in a circle.
- Carefully spoon the pudding mixture into the bowl.
- Cover with baking parchment and foil and secure with string.
- Steam for 1½ - 2 hours.
- Serve with custard or ice-cream.
* Every year my Official Taster and I visit Dartmoor and take the opportunity to drop in to the Buckfast Abbey shop that offers up goodies made in monasteries from all over the world. I would highly recommend their ‘Pruneaux D’Agen Denoy Autes Tres Gros’ produced by Monastere Des Clarrisses in Nerac, France. These have to be the best prunes in the world!
My Official Taster and I tried this out and it got a definite thumbs up. I know there are lots of people who find Christmas Pudding too rich. This would make an excellent alternative.