Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bread Pudding On the High Seas

On board HMS Whimbrel, Dad was the messman for the Petty Officers Mess.  Probably regarded as a cushy number but it wasn’t, but he got the job because he was the oldest member of the crew.  The role of the messman on board a Royal Navy ship was normally to keep the mess clean and tidy, serve up the meals and to clear away afterward.  He collected the meals from the galley and carried to the Mess  and  served them up.
Whilst the POs were not on the same level as commissioned officers in the wardroom, none the less they expected to get a better class of food than the ratings. Presumably it was related to the fact that unlike ratings, mess bills were deducted from the Petty Officer's pay, so that they were well aware of the fact that they were paying for the meals.  Or it may just be that a world war would not end the usual class system in the Royal Navy.

Although I heard this story many times I did not fully understand how the episode of the bread pudding came about.  I think it had something to do with some grizzles from the Petty Officer about a particular dessert served up.  Not that the menu as such had anything to do with the messman, but being the sort of man that he was he probably decided off his own bat to do something about it and serve them bread pudding.

A bread pudding is not to be confused with bread and butter pudding, it is a different animal completely.  Presumably most people know what a bread and butter pudding is , made with slices of buttered bread in layers with dried fruit placed in a dish with an egg custard and then baked. ( How's that for a one line recipe?).  Anyway a bread pudding is completely different, being made with stale bread which is soaked in either water or milk and then squished into an amorphous mixture to which is added dried fruit, butter and sugar and mixed spices.  This is then baked very slowly until it is crisp on top.  If eaten hot it is like a steamed pudding, and if served with custard is perhaps like a poor mans Christmas pudding.  Left to get cold, however, it is different and is more like a fruit cake.

Anyway, somehow or other Dad got involved in making a bread pudding in the galley, presumably because the messman had a fair amount of spare time in between serving the meals to the various watches and clearing away before the next.  Not one to be sitting about, no doubt he spent a fair amount of the spare -time to nosing around to see what others were doing.

 Dad was fond of bread pudding and knew how to make them.  Bread pudding is a traditional Maltese dish called Budina tal hobz and as his mother was Maltese his liking probably stemmed from that.  Dad's version of the pudding is not strictly the Maltese way, perhaps he didn’t remember how his mother made them or he just developed his own recipe.

If you know what bread pudding is, then you may not understand that there are people who have never come across it, and so it was that when Dad introduced it into the Petty Officers Mess as a dessert one day, then he was surprised to find that not a single one of them had ever tasted it before.

Now a bit like the island of  Malta itself, you either love it or hate it and that was the response in the PO's Mess.
On another occasion the complaints were about the spotted dick coming from the galley.  If you have ever tasted catering style spotted dick you will no doubt appreciate the complaint.  “Like mother makes” it is not.  (Had better add here for those who don’t know,  “spotted dick” is a suet pudding with sultanas in)  Of course he was asked if he could produce a spotted dick in the galley for the Petty Officers Mess, which of course he could.  Unfortunately by this time he was becoming a little unpopular in the galley as it appeared that he was trying to upstage the cooks, which of course was not his intention.  In typical east end style he circumvented the antagonism by making two puddings, one for the POs and one for the cooks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Dad used to make bread pudding in a slightly different way to Dad Mac.
Now my bead pudding is relished by all who have tasted it. An Ozzie friend liked it so much that he insisted I gave the instructions to his wife who I might add is a much better cook than me