Pease Pudding: a Northern delicacy
Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot nine days old,
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot nine days old.
And that’s the real question – do you have your pease pudding hot or cold? Perhaps I should elaborate for those of you who aren’t familiar with this delicacy.
You’ve probably heard the rhyme or vaguely remember a line from Food, Glorious Food, so you might be under the impression that pease pudding is one of those olde worlde foods which faded into obscurity ages ago, along with lamprey pie and gruel – but you’d be mistaken! In the North East, pease pudding is a hugely popular dish.
The first thing we have to clear up is this: pease pudding is NOT mushy peas. You wouldn’t combine pease pudding with fish and chips any more than you’d put mushy peas in a sandwich – yuck.
Pease pudding is a pale yellow colour and a lot smoother than its mushy counterpart. It’s made by soaking yellow split peas in ham stock and has a creamy, subtle flavour. If you’re lucky enough to find proper pease pudding then it also has little chunks of ham in it.
Every good Geordie will have eaten it at some point in his or her life (if you’re a Geordie reading this and haven’t then sort yourself out), and most of us eat as much as we can. It’s the kind of thing that your Grandma always has in her fridge. And the kind of thing that all the local butchers sell in big slabs, like an upturned terrine. Usually, they’ll cut a bit off and give it to you in a bag or plastic tub.
Let’s get back to the most important question – hot or cold? I’ve always eaten it cold as a spread in a ham sandwich (which is an absolute treat), but was surprised to learn that many of my friends and family also eat it hot. Apparently it’s very nice hot with saveloys (a type of pork sausage straight out of an Oliver! song) or you can put it in a saveloy sandwich.
The best pease pudding sandwiches come in a stottie – a traditional Geordie treat in its own right. The stottie cake is a big bread disc with a dimple in the middle which you cut into triangular slices for your sarnies. Now, I know many UK regions each have a bread roll which doesn’t really differ from area to area – baps, barms, muffins, buns, oven bottoms – but the stottie is different. It’s a very heavy, dense bread which is satisfyingly chewy and very filling. And perfect with pease pudding.
Ham and pease pudding sandwiches are the sort of reminder of home that many exiled Northerners miss – whenever my Auntie (who now lives in Shropshire) comes home she always takes a tub back with her. Since I moved to Manchester I’ve started doing the same, though as you can see from the photos I’ve had to substitute a barm for the stottie. However, I can confirm that it still tastes lush (Geordie translation = beautiful). I hope I’ve convinced you that pease pudding is worth trying, and if that’s so then I’ve included a recipe from a friend. Remember to try it hot and cold!
Pease Pudding Recipe
- Place a ham hock in your biggest pan, cover with cold water and slowly bring to the boil. Once it’s come to the boil, take it off the heat and pour away some of the water; this will get rid of some of the saltiness from the ham.
- Wash about 300g yellow split peas thoroughly in cold water then leave overnight (in fresh water).
- Next morning, bring the ham stock back up to boil, add a small diced onion and one clove of garlic, then all the yellow split peas. Turn down the heat, cover with a lid and simmer away for about one hour.
- Using a hand blender, blitz to a rich pulp, add a few knobs of butter, mix all together then place into covered ovenware dishes and bake in the oven for approximately 30 mins.
- Take out of the oven, fluff mixture through with a fork, then let it set. When cool, transfer into small dishes.
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