Dock Pudding, West Yorkshire

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Dock pudding is something of a misnomer: it is not made with the common dock leaf of nettle-sting association, but with bistort, which has the alternative name Passion dock, referring to the time of year it appears.
The dish is one unlikely to appeal to modern tastes, but in times past would have been of immense value in the hungry gap, the period in early spring when the winter stores were ending and the new season's growth of cultivated vegetables not yet ready for harvest. The ingredients vary from one maker to the next, but a dock pudding should contain bistort, nettles, and any alliums available - wild garlic would have been an authentic hedgerow food of the poor when dock pudding was needed - and oatmeal to bulk it out. These days the pudding is more likely to contain onion or spring onions than wild garlic.
The small town of Mytholmroyd in the Calder Valley - where poet Ted Hughes was born - hosts the World Dock Pudding Championships every April or May, begun in 1971 to keep the regional speciality alive.
For people who had been living on salt pork, beans and bread over the winter the vibrant green (at least when it begins cooking) of the dock pudding and the minerals and vitamins it contained would have been a life enhancer and life saver. In modern times it is a curiosity, though some in the Calder Valley still claim to eat it regularly.
The leaves in the pudding are washed then stripped from their stalks before being fried gently in butter (historically they were far more likely to have been boiled) for a quarter of an hour or more with the onion. The oatmeal is then added and the frying continued for another 20 minutes or so, carefully stirred about the pan to prevent catching, and well seasoned when it is finishing cooking. The cooked pudding is nowadays eaten with bacon or egg. As it tends to be made in large quantities unused portions are often re-heated in the same pan as the bacon they accompany.

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