Having a reputation for being a good cook and baker, I often take requests. Recently, I received one from my friend Barbara. It would seem that Barbara's father spent many a delightful year in English boarding schools. As a child, she remembered that he spoke fondly of of a favorite pudding, spotted dick. Recently a friend mentioned spotted dick and Barbara thought it would be an excellent birthday gift for him and she enlisted my help.
Here is a bit of Spotted Dick history...
Now we all know the British speak a form of English often known as "the Queen's English" which varies from American English. One big variation is the use of the word "pudding." For Americans "pudding" is that stuff we get from Bill Cosby and Jello. For the Brits a "pudding" or "pud" is a synonymous with our word, "dessert." So when a Brit tells you they have a lovely pudding, it might be a cake, or cookie or ice cream or spotted dick.
A spotted dick is a steamed suet pudding, studded with currants and boiled in a cloth.
The first true recipe for spotted dick can be found in 1850 in Alexis Soyer's, The Modern Housewife. However, identical recipes for the dish can be found as far back as the late 1600's.
The spotted part of the dish is easy see since it is "spotted" throughout with currants.
The "dick" is much debated. Some linguists believe that the word "dick" was a colloquial term for "pudding" at least four hundred years ago. Some feel it is a corruption of the word "pudding" which was oft pronounced "puddick" and thus, "dick." "Dick" was also used to mean a hard cheese and also a leather apron, among other uses. No one knows how "dick" became slang for "penis" but it seems to have originated around 1890 with the British army possibly because a riding whip was called a "dick" and the handle bore a resemblance to the male member. So it would seem that spotted dick didn't start to garner giggles until nearly a half-century after Soyer first published his recipe.
I set out to find an authentic recipe and I looked no farther than that bastion of English history, Upstairs, Downstairs. I knew that Mrs. Bridges would know better than anyone how to make a spotted dick. She did not disappoint and soon I had my recipe. Mrs Bridges notes that,
"Recently, the pudding has been accorded middle-class airs with raisins and sultana set in a light sponge."
She would not recognize such a confection as a true English spotted dick. After considerable boiling, the spotted dick is served with a bit of custard. For Barbara's present, I included a couple of cans of Devon Custard as I am a fine baker but not the best custard maker.
By all accounts, the present was a huge hit and yes, every dick joke out there was made. I heard they actually ate it, smothered in custard like perfect boarding school fare.