Today was a grand day in the village of Long Buckby- the Annual Buckby Feast! Despite this apparently going on for the last 100 years, I only really became aware of it when the challenge to make the traditional “Feas Pudn” was posted through my door- a challenge I quickly accepted.
The making of the Feas Pudn carries with it a strict set of guidelines. Here’s a copy of the lark that was posted…
BUCKBY FEAS PUDN- HISTORY AND HINTS
No, it’s not a typo! We’ve reverted back to the original name in old Buckby language! Feas Pudn is an old country recipe made by country people with ingredients found in houses or specially bought for the Buckby Feast. People would return home for the celebrations and eat as much pudding as was offered while visiting family and friends!
Here are some helpful hints (and a bit of history) to help you make your Feas Pudn.
- BREAD – was proper bread. Our sliced cotton woolly type didn’t exist, thank goodness, and will NOT get a successful result. Adams white or brown, or any homemade white or brown will be suitable.
- SUET – vegetable or reduced fat did not exist. Please use beef suet (other fats are not suitable).
- DRIED FRUIT – currants, sultanas, raisins (these were called dark sultanas as distinct from light ones). Glace cherries did not exist- DO NOT USE THEM
- CANDIED PEEL – Was homemade- orange and lemon. Ready prepared is quite suitable.
- EGGS – Were not size graded so medium or large can be used. Too large or too small are not a good idea! Hens eggs, duck eggs etc- as you please!
- MILK – Was full fat but using semi-skimmed does not affect the recipe, using skimmed however might!
- MIXED SPICE – Use basic cake spice and/or nutmeg. Please be generous with it as the taste should be noticeable. Many other spices were not available then.
- SUGAR – Can be white or light brown.
- The bread should be torn or rubbed by hand. No one had processors, though coarse graters were sometimes used. It is soaked overnight in milk/water and must look very well wetted!
- The mixture will be very runny and lumpy when all the ingredients are mixed in before baking.
- The Pudn was cooked in eartenware bowls, 2 – 2 1/2 pint size kept especially for the purpose and used only at Feast Times. If you have something like this, use it. Failing this, an oblong Pyrex dish, a lasagne dish, a roasting tin or even a thick 8″ diameter tin would do. Pudding basins are NOT to be used. Whatever the container you use, grease it very well. It can be lined with greaseproof paper as well, as this helps when turning out the pudding.
People took their puddings to be cooked overnight at the bakehouses- the Co-op in Church Street, Palmers in King Street, or Bob Clarke’s in Brington Road. This was done after the bread had been baked and the oven was still hot but embers starting to cool. This was still being done at the end of the 1940s.
Well, needless to say, after that delightful little read, I was ready for action! Step one. Bread…
In the context of this recipe, I’m pleased to tell you that I am pretty bad at baking bread! I’ve come close a few times thanks to Paul Hollywood’s recipe walk-through, but all in all I just end up with a block of stodge. So, I had no issue with the prospect of this being smushed up into milk and water and thrown into an ancient pudding!
But damn it… If it didn’t come out not awful…
So, I had to go through this heartbreaking ordeal:
According to the instruction, I was to give this a good squeeze and leave it overnight. So that’s exactly what I did! This is also where sneaky-addition number 1 came into play- I added a table spoon of duck fat to the squishing for extra richness. Immediate confidence. I’m pretty sure I can win this thing.
This seems like a good time to share the remaining Feas Pudn instructions as delivered!
- Small 14oz unsliced bread loaf
- 1 pint of milk and water mixed together (I assume they mean half and half)
- 10 oz currents
- 5oz raisins
- 3oz sultanas
- 1oz mixed candied peel, finely chopped
- 4oz light brown sugar
- 4oz shredded beef suet
- 3 eggs (or 4 small ones)
- Heaped teaspoon of mixed spice
- Heaped teaspoon of grated or ground nutmeg
Electric fan oven- 130 for approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours, then 5 hours at 120
Gas- mark 3 – 4 for approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours, then 5 hours on 1 – 2
Adjust based on your knowledge of your oven!
1. Remove all crusts from the bread and slice as thinly as possible. Tear the bread into pieces and rub smaller by hand. Place in a mixing bowl, pour over the milk and water and squeeze gently by hand so that all the bread is wet. Cover and leave overnight. Check.
2. Squeeze out surplus liquid by hand the next morning.
Now, this point in the Pudn making clashed perfectly with the day I cooked a Sunday roast for my grandparents! I successfully roped The Expert Pudding Maker, my Grandma, in to help me!
3. Mix in all the other ingredients, adding the eggs last (this can be done with clean hands). The mixture will be sloppy! If you have not greased or lined your dish do it now- the mixture will not take any harm.
At this step, I was immediately offered genius guidance by The Expert Pudding Maker. Grandma instructed to mix all the dry ingredients together first, in order to make sure they are evenly distributed, and to do so with a handful of flour so they don’t all stick together. It’s also just generally easier, I’m assured, just to get everything together in this way. So that’s what we proceeded to do! First up was the dried fruit.
I managed to get a bag of all the above mentioned dried fruit AND candied peel mixed together, totalling the exact amount detailed in the recipe! It even had a couple of extra treats in there, such as dried cranberries and apricot. This isn’t cheating, it’s just good time management.
After this, in went the brown sugar and suet, mixed spice and nutmeg. I also decided to add some finely diced Pink Lady apples, which I felt would add a little extra sweetness and also work well against the spices. This isn’t cheating, it’s Recipe Enhancement.
Ok, now it’s time to add the goop! So add your bread sludge and fold in. Next, the eggs. As I went to chuck these in, I was politely and patiently reminded to whisk them first. After finding a small bowl to whisk them in, I was politely and patiently asked where the jug was for whisking. Eventually it became evident that this was just one of those jobs for The Expert.
The final eggy ingredient was added to the mix and stirred with vigour
After thoroughly greasing the perfect baking dish for the pudding (selected, as I know it will give a fine curve- thinking like a winner) it was the appropriate point to return to the provided instructions.
4. Pour the mixture into the dish and place a piece of greased greaseproof parchment on top before covering with foil. Place on the prepared baking tray- what?? What prepared baking tray?!
Upon reviewing the notes, I see now a baking tray is mentioned under the “equipment” list (Baking tray- either a heavy one or one with a brown paper layer). I successfully ignored this! Feel completely entitled to do the same.
5. Cook on a fairly low shelf in the oven as described above. Have a peep at the pudn before lowering the temperature to check all is ok.
6. When you’re satisfied that your pudn is a good darkish brown, remove the dish onto a cool baking tray and leave overnight to become cold.
Shortly after the pudn went in the oven, I decided my Grandma was free to leave, and that I would take on the job in full capacity from here. Good thing too, as it took a lot longer to cook than the instructions dictated! 2 1/2 hours longer! In fact, it all darkened perfectly (to my relief), but I had some trouble with this one stubborn spot in the middle not playing by the rules. Eventually, at 1am, my patience became as exhausted as the rest of me. I removed the foil and greaseproof paper from the top, increased the oven to 150 and cooked for a further 30 minutes. 1:30am saw this pudding in ship shape and smelling delicious! I hurried it to the coldest room in the house, praying I wouldn’t fail to adhere to the rule screaming out at me from the page
YOUR PUDN MUST NOT STILL BE HOT WHEN TAKEN TO THE COMPETITION! YOUR PUDN MUST BE COLD!
Hot pudn or cold, I also knew I was up against some serious talent in this village, and if I want to win, I was going to have to pull out the big guns… Home made family recipe cream should sort that out! A fine way to pass the time while waiting for a pudn to take its sweet time cooking…
The next morning, I hurried to the aforementioned cold room and was relieved to find a nice cold pudn waiting there for me. Which, at long last, brought me to the final step.
7. Turn out, upside down, and sprinkle liberally with sugar.
Following the final instruction of delivering the Pudn to Roger’s Butchers between 11:00 and 11:30 (no earlier, no later!) I left the house sharply at 11am and tottered round. I felt immediately in the spirit of things when I stepped inside, impressed with the amount of entrants and receiving a considerable amount of intrigue to the homemade cream!
The event itself started a 1pm, so a little after that I headed back out to see what the feast had to offer. I was impressed with some of the delicious food options! The Parish Church (where my Sister and Iain were married) baked some outstanding chocolate chip cookies! I hinted heavily for the recipe but… No avail. There was also a nice selection of hot savoury stuff, including a hog roast resulting in a fiiiine sandwich, and a hearty selection of Thai!
There was also a choir, and a Long Buckby museum where I was rekindled with an old friend I haven’t seen since I was about 7 years old! I was sorry to learn his story, but pleased to see he was doing well for himself.
Other attractions included magic, Punch and Judy, plenty of bits-and-bobs sales and a great number of the usual games of the fair. I named the teddy! Sebastian. Haven’t heard back yet.
Finally, after days of hard work and hours of waiting, the winner of the Feas Pudn competition was announced.
So obsessed with the competition of fellow ladies of the village, I never stopped to consider the power of a sweet Gentleman!
Giles (the winner) cooked a pudding so fantastically superior, there wasn’t a crumb left just an hour into the event! He earned that yellow ribbon and fine wizard’s gown.
But, I’m content. I had great fun making this with my Grandma! And there’s plenty left too! And I even got to say the words “more cream, Vicar?” in a genuine context! I also asked for feedback from the judge (“lacking in spice”, apparently) so I’m going to keep these notes for next time and… well… Just watch out, Giles.
For next year’s Buckby Feast, I won’t be in the country so I’ll be sending The Expert in solo. You’ve all been warned.
Have a go yourself next time! Find the original recipe here.