A Very English Pudding 1

Figgy Dowdy(or Figgy Pudding).

Having made a reasonable post-WW2 bacon and onion roly-poly a la my Nan recently I’m going further back in time  to the eighteenth century to attempt to make the wonderfully named Figgy Dowdy.

The Figgy Dowdy, described by James Martin as ‘a rib-sticking dessert for hearty appetites’, was originally made on ships in the eighteenth century and contains a healthy glug of the sailor’s favourite tipple, rum.

In Patrick O’Brian’s novel Post Captain, published in 1972, the crew described how the pudding was made onboard ship:

‘We take ship’s biscuit, put it in a stout canvas bag –’ said Jack.

‘Pound it with a marlin-spike for half an hour –’ said Pullings.

‘Add bits of pork fat, plums, figs, rum, currants,’ said Parker.

‘Send it to the galley, and serve it up with bosun’s grog,’ said Macdonald.

Using a wooden spoon instead of a marlin spike (although that might be interesting) I’m going to use a version of the recipe that doesn’t use either pork fat or ship’s biscuit (aka hardtack) and is cooked in a shirt sleeve rather than the canvas bag employed by O’Brian’s sailors. It’s pretty close to that published by Mrs Beeton in 1861 for Victorian cooks so should taste reasonably authentic. Using the shirt sleeve will make for some rather interesting photos.

So, enough of the chatter, time to get on with it.

Stage 1: Fruit soaking in grog overnight.


2. The mix.


3. The loaf, ready for wrapping.

Pud 2

4. And finally after the foil, the shirt sleeve


5. Into the pot to steam for two hours


6. The finished pudding

FD finished

My tasters said it was like a cross between a Spotted Dick and Bread Pudding and, no thanks, they could only manage one small slice at a time. It’s easy to see why it was popular with hungry seamen; it would certainly have filled them up on those long voyages. My husband said he was glad he didn’t have to climb up to the crow’s nest with all that stodge weighing him down. Hmm … I do hope that was directed at the pudding and not my cooking.

James Martin’s recipe can be found here. A more authentic version using pork fat and hardtack can be found here and the great Mrs Beeton’s recipe can be found here:

Next time: Folkestone Pudding Pies


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