Historic Recipe: Steamed Fish Pudding (1920)

Source: A Year’s Dinners; 365 Seasonal Dinners with Instructions for cooking by May Little (c.1920)

Fish in a pudding? You heard me right.

This is actually a recipe I tried some time ago and never quite got around to writing up. This is mostly because I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing.

So let’s just deal in the facts of the recipe, shall we? And then we can take it from there

1 breakfastcupful cold fish
1 teacupful bread crumbs
1 teaspoonful parsley
1 teaspoon anchovy essence
1 egg
salt and pepper
white sauce

Chop the fish. Add the parsley, bread crumbs, essence and egg. Season well and add a little milk if necessary. Put the mixture into a greased basin or mould. Steam for 1 hour. Turn out and served coated with white sauce.

Now my first question was what on earth is this breakfastcupful business and how is it different from a teacupful? Turns out it’s about half a pint, a teacupful, a quarter of a pint, presumably because you need a greater quantity of caffeine at breakfast than teatime.

I used frozen white fish which I defrosted and chopped up, I added the other ingredients as instructed, although I did swap fish sauce for anchovy essence. I had no idea if milk was necessary as the recipe was not clear on what I should be seeking to achieve, so I added a little for luck. I packed the whole lot into a buttered metal pudding dish, covered with foil and tied it up, then steamed it in a big stock pot. The result turned out of the dish in a satisfying fashion and looked quite impressive, although sort of pallid, particularly when I served it with the suggested white sauce.

So what was it like?  I don’t know where to start. The closest I can get is like a gloopy fish-based stodge, with more stodge on top. It wasn’t unpleasant, but nor was it entirely pleasant. It was just sort of meh. Fish-flavoured meh.

Suggested alterations: I’m not convinced that this was worth the effort

Final verdict: I mean, it’s fish. In a pudding. I’m not sure that’s somewhere fish should be.


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