MRS. DARWIN'S NESSELRODE PUDDING
If there were charts for puddings as there are for popular songs then Black Forest Gateau, Baked Alaska and Tiramisu would have topped them in their different times. Nesselrode pudding must have been similarly fashionable for several decades in the nineteenth century.
Nesselrode himself was a Russian statesman active during the Napoleonic wars, present at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) and a signatory, in 1856, of the Paris peace agreement after the Crimean war. He was a great survivor! In the course of his long career he had many dealings with that other wily statesman, Talleyrand. For a time the great French chef, Antonin Careme, worked for Talleyrand and indeed went with him to Vienna in 1814 —so perhaps it was there that he created the pudding and paid Nesselrode the compliment of naming it after him.
Both Eliza Acton and Mrs Beeton give a recipe for Nesselrode pudding in their books and both attribute it to Careme — though neither admits to having made it. Obviously his name gave the recipe a certain cachet. Careme, also chef for a time to the Prince Regent, was famous for his elaborate and ambitious creations and, indeed, the pudding described by the English ladies is very demanding.
Sweetened and pureed chestnuts, a rich custard, fruit soaked in maraschino, an Italian meringue mixture, all frozen and moulded into exotic shapes at different times, meant this pudding was not for the inexperienced or single-handed cook. Fortunately, for present purposes, Emma’s version is a much simplified one. A small quantity of ground almonds is substituted for ‘40 best Spanish chestnuts’ and twelve egg yolks become six. What we have here is a rich ice cream with dried fruit and a glass of brandy to make it special.
• 1 pint double cream
• 1/2 pint milk
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/2 vanilla pod
• 2 ounces sugar
• 1 ounce ground almonds
• 8 ounces dried fruit, chopped small
• 1 wine glass brandy (the original recipe suggests maraschino; you could use any fruit liqueur if you prefer)
If your dried fruit includes glace cherries, large raisins, etc., chop them into smaller pieces. Pour the glass of brandy over them and leave to soak overnight.
Split open the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the tiny seeds into the cream along with the pieces of pod. Bring cream and milk to the boil.
Beat egg yolks with the sugar. When nice and creamy beat in the ground almonds. Discard the vanilla pod pieces and pour the hot cream and milk onto the egg yolk mixture. Beat well.
Transfer the custard to a double boiler and, stirring all the time, cook over a medium heat until the custard thickens. Have patience, it may take ten minutes or more and it is important not to let it boil. Remove it from the heat, add the brandy and fruit and give it a good stir.
Leave the custard to cool. Refrigerate.
When thoroughly chilled pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you do not have a machine put the mixture into a suitable container and freeze for a couple of hours. When the ice cream begins to harden round the edges give it a good stir and freeze again. For a really creamy consistency you might need to repeat this.
The ice cream will need to soften in a refrigerator for some time before serving. For just how long will depend on your container and the temperature of your refrigerator — 30 minutes or longer.
Recipe from Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated
by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway (Glitterati Inc., November 2008, $35.00/hardcover)