I hope Martha had a pleasant visit again, and that you and my mother could eat your beef-pudding. ~ Jane Austen, March 2, 1814
Puddings, in British parlance, are both a specific type of dish made by wrapping the ingredients in linen or placing them in a pan and boiling until baked (cooked, steamed – what’s the right language for a cake you boil??), but the term also refers more generally to the dessert course of a meal. Some of us might have heard Luna Lovegood of the Harry Potter series express a hope that there would be pudding at the banquet. This was not referring to what Americans consider pudding – a thicker type of custard often made from some kind of powdered substance that comes in a box. Instead, she was expressing a general hope for sweets.
Interestingly, in Austen’s era, dessert dishes often mixed sweet and savory ingredients, such as Jane’s reference to a beef-pudding. We can’t know for sure, but it’s possible, she was referring to a dessert similar to spotted dick, which uses beef suet as a binding agent.
Now, for me, I have always been intrigued by this dish, especially the concept of using meat flavors in a sweet. Therefore, I decided my first foray into the cooking realm of Jane Austen’s world would be this particular dish, an iconic British dessert. (and yes, the 13 year old boy inside me also got a big laugh; what can I say, he has a very British sense of humor)
It will not generally be my practice to double-up on posts about one recipe or topic, but in this case, I found my attempts to make a spotted dick dessert thwarted when my local grocery store carried neither a pudding pan in the size I needed (only large bundt cake pans), nor suet to be found anywhere. As I stopped in the middle of the canned meat and boullion section, I did a quick google search on the possibility of finding suet in American grocery stores and learned that its largely only available via a butcher. However, I also learned that I can purchase British suet from amazon, along with the proper sized pudding pan.
Therefore, standby for spotted dick.