English Puddings: Sweet and Savoury
by Mary Norwak
The slow decline of this dish can be traced in the thoughts of three of England's most delightful writers. Chaucer in 'The Canterbury Tales' described the Cook's disability:
"But great harm was it, as it seemed to me,
That on his shin a sore wound had he;
For blankemange he made with the beste"
and the loss to the Pilgrims was obviously a sad one. By the nineteenth century Richard Surtees, a keen observer of fashionable customs through his character Mr Jorrocks, noted the innocent hostess "who never listened for the answer for the blancmange having landed with the loss only of a corner tower, for it was in the castellated style of confectionery, she was now all anxiety to see what sort of a savoury omelette her drunkard jobcook would furnish."
The even keener observers George and Weedon Grossmith probably expressed everybody's feelings on the last gasp of a debased sweetmeat in 'The Diary of a Nobody':
"In spite of my instructions, that blancmange was brought up again for supper. To make matters worse, there had been an attempt to disguise if, by placing it in a glass dish with jam around it. Carrie asked Lupin if he would have some, and he replied 'No second-hand goods for me, thank you'. I told Carrie, when we were alone, that if the blancmange were placed on the table again I should walk out of the house."
• Grated rind of 1 lemon
• 1 pint (600 ml) milk
• 2 oz (50 g) sugar
• 2 oz (50 g) ground almonds
• 1½ oz (40 g) gelatine
• 2 tablespoons water
• 3/4 pint (450 ml) double cream
• 3 fl oz (75 ml) brandy
Put the grated lemon rind and milk into a pan and leave to stand for 1 hour so that the flavour of lemon infuses the milk. Add the sugar and ground almonds and bring to the boil. Simmer and stir for 10 minutes, then cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, stir the gelatine into the water in a cup. Stand the cup in a pan of hot water and stir while heating gently until the gelatine is syrupy. Remove from the heat, cool and stir into the milk. Keep stirring until the mixture is almost cold, and then stir in the cream. Stir in the brandy and pour into a mould.
When cold, turn out and decorate with flowers, either fresh or crystallised.