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So What is a Pudding?

Let us first take a look at what we categorise as puddings today. Although the term ‘pudding’ has become synonymous with dessert in Britain, not all puddings are desserts, while all desserts are puddings in the modern sense of the word.

Boiled and steamed puddings

Early puddings were sausage-type dishes which were usually boiled, then often smoked, or roasted. They were either made with meat, blood or entirely from rice, spelt or other grains stuffed into some kind of intestine or cloth bag. These puddings were always flavoured
in one way or another, either using herbs or spices. Later, candied fruits, fortified wines and liqueurs were added and the puddings nearly all lost their meat content. Steaming them in a basin or mould became the favoured method over boiling, when the technique was developed. Today’s steamed puddings are usually made of a sponge cake batter, or a rich fruitcake batter and are made either in large pudding moulds, or small individual ones. Savoury versions still exist under the name haggis, blood pudding and white pudding. Dumplings are also puddings.

Baked puddings

Baked puddings are those in which the pudding mixture is placed in either a bowl or tray, which is sometimes prepared with a layer of pastry, making it more of a tart or a pie. Today, most tarts and pies are considered ‘pudding’ as they fit into the dessert category. They are of course all baked.

Bread puddings

Bread puddings are made by including bread – stale or fresh – as a primary ingredient. Some previously named types of pudding can also contain breadcrumbs, but that doesn’t make
them bread puddings. In a bread pudding, the bread is usually, but not always, left whole
and often acts like a crust encasing some kind of cream or egg mixture or fruit. Bread puddings are often baked.

Batter puddings

These are made by making a light pancake-type batter which is then baked or fried in butter or fat. These can be Yorkshire puddings, but also fritters.

Milk puddings

The sweet and delicately flavoured puddings made with animal milk, almond or oat milk include creams, custards and ice creams.


These are sweet puddings set with either vegetable or grain starches, or animal-derived gelatine. They are often boldly coloured and shaped in a mould for dramatic effect. They can encase fruit and in medieval times they often encased meat or fish, much like aspic, although they are no longer known as jellies.

An extract from Pride and Pudding (Murdoch Books, £20)
By Regula Ysewijn

Culinary author and historian
Illustration by Bruno Vergauwen

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