“In many parts of the continent, as well as throughout Switzerland, it is customary to put layers of crumbs of bread and sliced apples, with sugar between, till the dish be as full as it will hold ; let the crumbs be the uppermost layer, then pour melted butter over it, and bake.”
Lady Maria Clutterbuck, What Shall We Have For Dinner? (new edition, 1852)
The book that this recipe is to be found in is sub-titled “Satisfactorily Answered by Numerous Bills of Fare For From Two to Eighteen Persons” and that’s mostly what the volume consists of: lists of dishes to be served up at dinner, depending on the number of diners.
For example, on page 39 we find:
FOR EIGHT OR TEN PERSONS.
Filleted Soles. Shrimp Sauce.
Boiled Beef. Roast Hare. Carrots. Potatoes.
Swiss Pudding. Macaroni.
[Aug. to Feb.]
It seems that Lady Maria Clutterbuck was head of a quite food-focused household. In the introduction to the new edition, we learn that her late husband Sir Jonas (God rest his soul) was a hearty eater, and that she credits her ability to satisfy his culinary appetites with the rarity of his visits to the Clubs and therefore the relative success of their marriage:
“The late Sir Jonas Clutterbuck had in addition to a host of other virtues a very good appetite and an excellent digestion ; to those endowments I was indebted though some years the junior of my revered husband for many hours of connubial happiness.
“Sir Jonas was not a gourmand although a man of great gastronomical experience. Richmond never saw him more than once a month and he was as rare a visitor to Blackwall and Greenwich. Of course he attended most of the corporation dinners as a matter of duty (having been elected alderman in 1839) and now and then partook of a turtle feast at some celebrated place in the city but these were only exceptions his general practice being to dine at home and I am consoled in believing that my attention to the requirements of his appetite secured me the possession of his esteem until the last.”
Mind you, I deliberately said seems because the above passage is actually a work of fiction. It turns out that “Lady Maria Clutterbuck” is widely believed to be the pseudonym of Catherine Dickens, wife of Charles Dickens. And, whilst the recipes contained in this new edition of What Shall We Have For Dinner? are thought to be a selection of Dickens family favourites curated by Catherine, it is generally accepted that it was actually Charles who penned the introduction. Lady Maria Clutterbuck was apparently a character in a play that the Dickens family put on one Christmas, as they often did, and Catherine was given the role of Lady Maria. Hence the assumption that she was the author of this particular volume.
Anyhow, all that aside, ‘Swiss pudding’ sounds rather good, doesn’t it? A sort of crumbly bread-and-butter affair, but with apples instead of raisins? I think I’d be on board with a gluten free version of that, especially if it was served up with properly thick and creamy custard.
How about you? Does this sort of pudding dish float your boat? Do let me know, via the comments.