Full steam ahead: Winter puddings (+recipes)

By Paul Jobin

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The origins of pudding may be simple, but what better way to provide good old wintry sustenance?

Pear Saxony pudding. Photo / Ian Jones
Pear Saxony pudding. Photo / Ian Jones

With another winter firmly under way and the woollies dug out of the wardrobe, it's time to turn our cooking attention to the hearty meals we shy away from in warmer months.

Now's the time to rug-up by the fire and indulge in tasty soups, casseroles and puddings.

The term "pudding" has an interesting history and actually harks back to the French passion for sausage-making. Early puddings were wrapped, like sausages, in an animal stomach lining, often with a maize or oatmeal base filled with savoury gravy or meat products.

If you think it all sounds a bit like like haggis, you'd be right. Haggis is one of the earliest forms of a steam pudding, traceable right back to Roman times.

The initial cooking method for any pudding was always to steam, as almost everything was cooked over or around a fire. Traditional hangi include steamed puddings like raupo bread, made with the pollen of the raupo plant and steamed in raupo leaves.

Kaanga pudding used grated maize and water to make a batter which was then sweetened with honey or sugar. It was then formed into cakes or rolls and steamed in the hangi wrapped in maize leaves.

The evolution of cooking techniques saw the use of suet pastry or crusts made in a muslin wrap. The idea of a pudding also expanded to include sweet dishes, using honey, fruit or spices. Puddings were the primary meal on Royal Naval ships in the 18th and 19th centuries as they were ideally suited to cooking with the limited facilities and rations of a galley.

US Civil War soldiers looking for additional rations would finely pound their hard-crusted biscuits or crackers, add whatever they could find in the way of raisins or a sweetener with some water and boil themselves up a digestible, if not sustaining, sweet pudding in their tin cups.

Today, of course, we have a range of easy solutions for serving a delicious and impressive pudding.

For the stove top, make sure you place a stand - try an empty tuna tin with the top and bottom cut out as a trivet - to raise the bottom of the pudding and ensure even cooking.

Another good tip is to add a marble or metal tin lid to the water. It will rattle as the water reduces - a good reminder to keep topping up the water while your pudding is cooking.

Light folding of dry ingredients and soaking of dried fruits will ensure a soft pudding packed with sustenance - and a proud smile.

Pear Saxony pudding
Boysenberry buttermilk pudding

- NZ Herald

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