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Oatmeal & onion pudding

Mashed potatoes are more traditionally British and equally good, but oatmeal and onion pudding which, Elisabeth Ayrton tells us, traditionally was served with pork or goose, may be even better. Mrs. Ayrton identifies it as generic “savoury pudding,” which is unhelpful for purposes of retrieval from her excellent Cookery of England (London 1974); otherwise her recipe is faultless. She explains that this pudding was “[m]ade on the big farms of Cumberland and Northumberland in the nineteenth century, as the farmers’ ancestors had made it for generations. It sometimes had prunes or raisins in it.” (Cookery 299) The pudding is easy to make. At least eight servings.

Onions-3 cups milk
-1 cup oatmeal
-1 cup breadcrumbs
-2 beaten eggs
-1 cup flour (3 oz by weight)
-1 cup shredded suet (¼ lb)
-1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
-1 teaspoon fresh, or ½ teaspoon rubbed, sage
-1 teaspoon fresh, or ¾ teaspoon dried, thyme
-about 2 cups minced onion
-1 teaspoon salt
-¾ teaspoon pepper
-unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350°

  1. Scald the milk and pour it over the oatmeal and breadcrumbs: Let the mixture cool.
  2. Stir the suet, herbs, salt and pepper into the flour.
  3. Stir the eggs into the cooled oatmeal mixture, then add the seasoned flour and mix everything together.
  4. Grease a 9 inch pieplate at least an inch deep with the butter, pour in the batter and bake the pudding just until a toothpick comes clean from the center, usually about an hour.

More notes:

- This dish is suitable for vegetarians if you substitute Atora vegetarian ‘suet’ for the real thing. It works surprisingly well and is available at expat shops in the United States, like Myers of Keswick in New York. Some bigger supermarkets also carry it, often in the mistitled ‘Irish’ section, and it is universally available in the UK.

- We frequently prefer dried thyme and rubbed sage to their fresh counterparts, but not here; the fresh herbs brighten this rich pudding. Preserved herbs are not at all bad here, however, just not as good. Never, ever, even think about using dried parsley unless you like the taste and texture of sawdust.

- The pudding reheats well and makes a nice lunch, with or without some onion gravy left over from your roast pork.

- On the pudding front, Neal offers another dish of British ancestry, modified by southern conditions, without describing it as such. It is liver pudding, it appears adjacent to the roast pork recipe in Southern Cooking, and it is excellent. The Editor likes Neal’s introduction to the dish too much not to share it:

“Liver pudding is a dish that one has to be born to. What I mean is that it never appears on restaurant menus, nor is it likely to be served outside the family. Some might say it is too low a dish, too much an economy item to be served to a guest when one can afford more elegant fare, but I suspect it is just too good to waste on anyone who might fail to appreciate its gusto.... [T]his recipe yields a correspondent to the finest French charcuterie.” (Southern Food 96)

- You will need a loaf pan and a bigger pan in which it fits so that you can build a bain-marie.