Try George Orwell’s Recipe for Christmas Pudding, from His Essay “British Cookery” (1945)


British cook­ing has been the butt of many jokes, and seri­ous thought-pieces have been devot­ed to “why British food was so bad for so long.” While that arti­cle blames WWI for the decline of Eng­lish Cui­sine, the stig­ma long pre­cedes the 20th cen­tu­ry. In his unpub­lished essay “British Cook­ery,” for exam­ple, George Orwell opens with a quote from Voltaire, who wrote that Britain has “a hun­dred reli­gions and only one sauce.” This, Orwell writes, “was untrue” and “is equal­ly untrue today.” His “today” was 1945, before the best British cui­sine was Indi­an. And though he does defend his country’s cook­ing, and did so in anoth­er essay pub­lished that year in the Evening Stan­dard, Orwell also makes some crit­i­cal com­ments that con­firm some of the stereo­types, call­ing the British diet “a sim­ple, rather heavy, per­haps slight­ly bar­barous diet” and writ­ing: “Cheap restau­rants in Britain are almost invari­ably bad, while in expen­sive restau­rants the cook­ery is almost always French, or imi­ta­tion French.”


The essay is an exhaus­tive sur­vey of the British palate of the time, and it con­cludes with some of Orwell’s own recipes for sweets, includ­ing trea­cle tart, orange mar­malade, plum cake, and, last­ly, Christ­mas pud­ding. You can see the stained type­script of the last two recipes above, and read the full tran­script of Orwell’s “British Cook­ery” here (the recipes are at the end). Hav­ing no expe­ri­ence with the strange world of British sweets and pies, I’ll have to take The Guardian’s Alex Renton’s word when he tells us that “the Orwell Christ­mas pud­ding is noth­ing rad­i­cal.” Nonethe­less, I’m tempt­ed to try this recipe more than any of the oth­ers Ren­ton men­tions, even if I may not get my hands on real suet or sul­tanas. Read a tran­script of Orwell’s Christ­mas pud­ding recipe below.



1 lb each of cur­rants, sul­tanas & raisins

2 ounces sweet almonds

1 ounces sweet almonds

1 ounces bit­ter almonds

4 ounces mixed peel

½ lb brown sug­ar

½ lb flour

¼ lb bread­crumbs

½ tea­spoon­ful salt

½ tea­spoon­ful grat­ed nut­meg

¼ tea­spoon­ful pow­dered cin­na­mon

6 ounces suet

The rind and juice of 1 lemon

5 eggs

A lit­tle milk

1/8 of a pint of brandy, or a lit­tle beer

 Method. Wash the fruit. Chop the suet, shred and chop the peel, stone and chop the raisins, blanch and chop the almonds. Pre­pare the bread­crumbs. Sift the spices and salt into the flour. Mix all the dry ingre­di­ents into a basin. Heat the eggs, mix them with the lemon juice and the oth­er liq­uids. Add to the dry ingre­di­ents and stir well. If the mix­ture is too stiff, add a lit­tle more milk. Allow the mix­ture to stand for a few hours in a cov­ered basin. Then mix well again and place in well-greased basins of about 8 inch­es diam­e­ter. Cov­er with rounds of greased paper. Then tie the tops of the basins over the floured cloths if the pud­dings are to be boiled, or with thick greased paper if they are to be steamed. Boil or steam for 5 or 6 hours. On the day when the pud­ding is to be eat­en, re-heat it by steam­ing it for 3 hours. When serv­ing, pour a large spoon­ful of warm brandy over it and set fire to it.

In Britain it is unusu­al to mix into each pud­ding one or two small coins, tiny chi­na dolls or sil­ver charms which are sup­posed to bring luck.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Orwell and Dou­glas Adams Explain How to Make a Prop­er Cup of Tea

The Recipes of Icon­ic Authors: Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Roald Dahl, the Mar­quis de Sade & More

Pre­pare Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s Per­son­al, Hand­writ­ten Turkey-and-Stuff­ing Recipe on Thanks­giv­ing

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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