“The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star,” wrote the renowned gastronome Brillat-Savarin.
He has a point but speaking from personal experience there is nothing quite like discovering a ‘new’ food writer. Following on from my review of the Best of Jane Grigson, Anne Dolamore of Grub Street had an inkling that I would like English Puddings by Mary Norwak, who until I received this book was entirely unknown to me.
What is the essence of the book?
This book explores the heritage of the quintessential English pudding in its sweet and savoury guise. Covering 16 chapters it charts the provenance of different types of pudding from tipsy cakes and trifles to dumplings and everything in between. Each chapter starts with a potted history of a genre of pudding followed by several recipes displaying a variation within each theme.
About the author
“There can be few country kitchens without at least one fruit-stained Mary Norwak on their shelves,” stated The Telegraph in it’s obituary of this food writer, who died in 2010. However, I’m a little ashamed to say that I am not one of them. I was even more aghast when I discovered that she lived very close to where my parents live in Essex. During her life time she published over 100 cookery books, on topics like preserving, and was the cookery editor for Farmer’s Weekly for 13 years. She also had a keen interest in the social history of eating and cooking which is reflected in English Puddings, by all accounts her most successful publication so it’s good to see it back in print again.
Who will like it?
If you’ve ever wondered what a Bedfordshire Clanger is or how the Half Pay Pudding got its name then you’ll love this book. I don’t think you need a sweet tooth to enjoy this book (it also includes savoury recipes) but it’s a handy thing to have if you want to expand your repertoire of desserts.
Who won’t like it?
Weight conscious folks who like to torture themselves with pictures of calorie filled delights. English Puddings only contains delicious descriptions and there are no obligatory food porn shots found in other cookery books.
What do I like about the book?
I’ve taken real pleasure in reading rather than cooking from this book. Mary’s introductions to the recipes are insightful, interesting and fluid making the recipes themselves seem almost superfluous. The sheer variety of puddings in this book is quite astounding.
What do I dislike about the book?
At the risk of showing my age I found the print a little small.
Would I cook from it?
Where can you buy it?
English Puddings: Sweet & Savoury by Mary Norwak is published by Grub Street (£14.99)