There’s nothing better than being genuinely happy for a friend.
Almost a month ago I received a heavy parcel in the mail, it was Regula‘s new book. I knew it would have been a masterpiece, as I followed with excitement her two years of hard work and commitment, but I could not believe my eyes when Tommaso and I were leafing through its pages. Pride and Pudding is a sensitive, passionately researched, beautifully written, stunningly photographed, warm, witty book. Regula’s photos and writings are perfectly complemented by her husband Bruno‘s illustrations. They come as a package, as she said during her book launch in London two weeks ago.
It’s difficult to write an objective review of a book when the author is one of your best friends, when you have followed from afar all the steps of writing a book: the development of idea, the recipe testing, the nights spent writing and the days spent revising, the little personal successes she collected along the way, speeches, conferences, pottery discoveries, photos and hundreds of puddings made. You feel as you are part of the book, and for this reason you are beyond proud for the extremely positive acknowledgments she’s having both from public and academics.
Put in Regula’s words, Pride and pudding tells you a fascinating story, the story of Pudding, savoury and sweet, giving the original recipes and historical backgrounds to each and every one of them. Celebrating the chefs to kings and queens, and the cookery book authors of times gone by.
You learn well more than this. You learn how commitment and passion can produce a masterpiece. You learn interesting recipes, you discover facts and anecdotes about British history and, not less important, you have a collection of tempting recipes to try. They are authentic and true to their origins, a window open in a past time when there were no ovens, fridges, electric blenders. Regula opens your eyes on ingredients and techniques, giving you all the instruments to reproduce those recipes at home, to your satisfaction.
Poor Knights of Windsor
Leafing through the book, I was captured by the raspberry jam on top of the Poor Knights of Windsor, one of the first recipes of the Bread puddings chapter. Day-old white bread slices are first fried in clarified butter then dipped in egg yolks and fried again until golden, then served with whipped cream, raspberry compote and Sack sauce. A real treat to begin the day with a positive note.
The Bread puddings chapter is also one of the most interesting to me, as I belong to a culinary culture which worships bread: fresh, day-old or stale. So I found many references to actual recipes we still use nowadays.
Pain Pur-dew and Poor Knights of Windsor both origin from the same Latin recipe, a recipe for another sweet dish which can be found in Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria. Grandma fries slices of day-old bread, previously dipped in milk and beaten eggs, too. Though, for us this is a savoury recipe, not a sweet one, as we generously sprinkle salt on top of the bread. I make it often during cooking classes, especially when we are already frying meat, and everyone mentions how similar it is to the pain pur-dew.
More recipes I want to try
Sambocade. I’ve already walked next to my neighbour’s elderflower tree a few times, randomly checking if there were flowers ready to be stolen, I mean, borrowed. I’m dying to try this cheese-curd tart flavoured with elderflowers since Regula told me she was searching for them last year, when she was recipe testing the book. The cake is called sambocade after the latin word for elderflower, sambucus, which is very similar to the Italian word, sambuco.
Bakewell pudding. A few years ago Regula and I were in London and we decided to treat ourselves to a fabulous dinner. We chose a good restaurant in the City and when it came to the dessert she suggest we could share a bakewell pudding, as it is very traditional. She sounded just like when I suggest someone having cantucci and vinsanto for dessert after a Tuscan meal, so I trusted her. Now I’d love to make it again, especially as I can’t never have enough of raspberry jam.
Plum pudding, or Christmas pudding. Because, well, it’s for Christmas. According to tradition it should be made on ‘Stir-up Sunday’, the last Sunday before Advent. It was a family affair and so I would love it be, a new foreign tradition imported in my house, just like the first Christmas cake I made years ago. This year we spent part of the Christmas holidays together and Regula brought one of her Christmas puddings, to be enjoyed with a scoop of gelato, one of the best memories of our days together.
Cabbage pudding. As Regula wants it to be clear: not all puddings are dessert, while all desserts are puddings in the modern sense of the word. So this cabbage pudding is high on my list, as it reminds me involtini di verza, meatballs wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves and cooked in tomato sauce. Her pudding has also a very interesting spice kick with nutmeg, mace and black pepper, not to mention the sweet and tart addiction of barberries or cranberries.
This book is for…
Those who love everything Britain related (me), those who love a well researched book with lots of history and interesting facts, those who love a well photographed and illustrated book, those who want to live a comprehensive experience made of words, images and drawings, those who want to make a Christmas pudding by the book, those who love reading and not just cooking, those who want to discover the true origins of many famous recipes.
Buy it online on Amazon.
Read also Emiko’s review of Pride and Pudding and discover many parallels between historic British and Italian cuisine.