Before leaving on my England trip, I came upon a list of the most beautiful villages in England. Remarkably, quite a few of them were on my route. Bibury was the first I visited and it won my heart. Now I knew this list was solid gold (or at least whoever wrote it had similar tastes to mine). Then there was Lacock… also a perfect gem of a village. Chipping Campden was the last one I stopped at and, true to the advertising, it was a beautiful village filled with the nicest people and lovely places to stay. How can you not want to visit a place where stone fences have no hard corners so sheep (the source of the wealth for the town as it was for Bibury) wouldn’t snag their fleece as they were taken from place to place (the term wool gathering comes from picking up snagged wool--you look like you are noodling around when you are in fact gleaning!)?The word Chipping comes from the old English Ceping that means market and true to its name, leading citizen Baptist Hick’s 1627 Market Hall takes pride of place in the center of town.
The city was a hub for the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century. You can certainly see the effect the village would have, it is an omphalos of that style.
There are so many perfectly preserved buildings… everything from the 16th century market in the center of town to the 15th century church and all the thatched roof houses (the thatch being improbably thick and luxuriant with fancy crown tops in a style particular to the area – my great regret was that I was driving and couldn’t take photos of these extraordinary thatched roofs!).
This was a healthy, wealthy and vivid little town that never lost its charm. Its most prosperous citizen, 16th century silk merchant Sir Baptist Hicks, built many important structures that dot the town, even though his own 1613 house was destroyed during the Civil War in 1645 (to keep the revolutionaries from staying there). What remains on the estate, the 2 Jacobean Banqueting houses and 2 ‘pepperpot” lodges at the entry gate, have been restored and are extraordinary. You can even book a night’s stay in one of them through the National Trust! Ivan Day at Historic Food did a spectacular recreation of a table as it might have appeared during the heyday of the house using period cookbooks (did I mention he is a master in antique techniques and teaches courses during the year on the subject at his place in the Lake District that I can't wait to take!!!).
The other thing that this gorgeous little village has nearby is The Three Ways House Hotel.
The Pudding Club was created twenty-five years ago at this hotel in 1985. The idea of the club was to “prevent the demise of the traditional great British pudding.” What began as a charming notion has spawned a cookbook, The Pudding Club Book: Luscious Recipes from the Pudding Club and even sells 6 ready-made puddings under the Pudding Club label (available at markets in Britain) .
The hotel hosts Pudding Club events, tastings and dinners and its rooms now have pudding names like “The Spotted Dick and Custard Room” (ahem!) where you can stay when you are in Chipping Campden. I missed it when I was there this summer, (it is slightly out of town) but look forward to giving it a try next time I am there since the place looks like fun and the restaurant gets high marks.
One of the puddings on the Pudding Club site is called Blackberry Exeter. I loved the idea of apples and blackberries with my favorite custard sauce. Served warm, it had a luscious, melting texture and the golden scented pool of cool custard flavored with rose geranium and madeira was a delicious complement. The one thing I learned is that the inside shrinks a bit and it’s a good idea to have extra blackberries to fill up the spaces if you are particular about the presentation. I also found that you should try to make the sides as even as possible and take care that there is enough pastry at the bottom so it doesn’t collapse when you un-mold it. May I add it's also great reheated in the microwave!!
Blackberry Exeter with Custard Sauce from the Pudding Club
2 C self-raising flour (2 c flour plus 1 ½ t. baking soda) I used 1 ½ c white and ½ c whole wheat
½ c shredded or grated suet ( or 1/2 c butter or vegetable shortening if you would like added in small bits)
a pinch of salt
2 T milk
Water to mix (around ½ c)
1 cup chopped apple
1 cup blackberries
2 T maple syrup
3 c bread crumbs
3 T butter
¼ c honey
¼ t. nutmeg
Mix suet with the flour and add enough water to make a stiff dough make 2 pieces, 2/3 for bottom and 1/3 for top and chill. Roll out and line a greased 1.1 liter (6 c.) pudding basin. Try to make it as even as possible leaving the edges flopping over the edge of the bowl.
For the filling, combine the breadcrumbs, butter and honey and nutmeg. Combine the fruit and maple syrup and put ½ into the basin, then add half the bread crumbs and then the rest of the fruit and the rest of the crumbs. Put the lid on the basin and close it up as well as you can … wetting the edges for the best adhesion.
Take a piece of parchment and creating a fold in the center (and squaring the rectangle to make it stronger), cover the dish. Put a piece of aluminum foil over that. Using a rubber band, secure the parchment and foil as snugly as possible. Place the pudding in a pot of boiling water with a rack at the bottom ( or crumpled foil), the water going about 2/3 up the bowl and steam at a low simmer for 2-3 hours) The pastry will not be soggy but firm… kind of amazing!
My Favorite Custard Sauce
2 c milk (to make it richer, 1 ½ c milk and ½ c cream)
4 egg yolks, beaten
¼ c sugar
1 or 2 rose geranium leaves (optional)
½ t vanilla
2 T maple syrup
2 T Madeira (Rare Wine Co. Savannah Verdelho)
Warm the milk, beat the yolks and sugar till golden and add the hot milk to temper the yolks and put back in the pan with the geranium leaves over a low flame or a double boiler for 8-10 minutes. Strain. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and Madeira or Scotch and serve with the pudding.
Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!
Also, I wanted to tell you about my friend Tracy Nasca's Cookbook. It was made for a good cause and the profits go to Sleep Research. Do stop by and give the Pay It Forward/Talk About Sleep Cookbook a look. Many people involved in the field donated precious family recipes that are sure to please.
Go HERE to order