Amara’s resurrection of Cleopatra’s pudding

I’ve met Amara a few times at a mutual friend’s book launches and birthday party. Amara has an ease of elegance, a great wit and a relaxed demeanour and she’s also one of the smartest cookies I’ve met; she’s a post-doc researching the history of archaeology.

And it’s fascinating, the real life stuff Indiana Jones is made of.

Amara striking a thoroughly modern Cleopatra pose
Amara striking a thoroughly modern Cleopatra pose

This recipe is the result of one of Amara’s pieces of research. I’ve condensed and tweaked it for here, but I really encourage you to read ‘A book, a pudding and a party’ on Amara’s blog readingroomnotes.com

The resurrection of Cleopatra pudding starts with a book called ‘Days in Attica’, published in 1914. The author is Ellen Sophia Bosanquet and it details her travels and daily life in Athens. It’s here where Amara came across a passing reference to ‘Cleopatra Pudding’.

Bosanquet uses the pud to trumpet the spirit of innovation her Athenian cook uses in the face of (understandable) ignorance of British cuisine.

If I order ‘Cleopatra pudding’ the cook will set to work to make what he imagines ‘Cleopatra pudding’ ought to be rather than confess he has never met with it.

Amara became determined to find out what ‘Cleopatra pudding’ was and to resurrect it for a party she was hosting in its honour.

The internet came up trumps with ‘The Week’s Best Recipe prize winners’ on page 36 of the Australian Women’s Weekly for 12 January 1935. One of the recipes submitted, awarded a consolation prize of 2/6, was for Cleopatra pudding.

Here’s the six-serving recipe, courtesy of Miss M Reynolds of New South Wales (1935) with Amara’s suggestion incorporated.

Music to listen to while preparing this dish: ‘Justified and ancient’ by The KLF featuring Tammy Wynette

Ingredients

  • 1 cup desiccated coconut (Amara suggests adding another 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1.5 cups of McVitie’s Digestive biccies, crumbed (try to make large crumbs rather than small)
  • 1 pint full milk
  • 1.5 cups stewed apples, not too moist (stew to your own preference). The recipe suggests stewed peaches or apricots as alternatives.
  • 2-3 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C
  2. Mix together your coconut, biscuit crumbs and sugar.
  3. Warm your milk and add your butter to it and add to your crumb mix.
  4. Beat the egg yolks and add to your crumb mix.
  5. In a buttered pie dish pour half the crumb mix, then layer the apple on top, then layer the remainder of the crumb mix over the stewed fruit.
  6. Bake for about one hour.
  7. Whip the egg whites with the caster sugar till you get stiff peaks and place on top of the pudding.
  8. Return to the oven un the topping is a golden brown.

If you have leftovers, eat while delving deeper into Amara’s blog. There’s treasure in it and these are a few of the entries I love:

In detail: the page from Australian Women’s Weekly from 1935 that shows the recipe for Cleopatra pudding.
In detail: the page from Australian Women’s Weekly from 1935 that shows the recipe for Cleopatra pudding.

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