In 1868, the lady calling herself Auld Wife was living in German Station (now Nundah)– a town that had grown up around a Lutheran Mission established by German settlers. Either in response to a published query, or of her own initiative, she wrote to The Queenslander newspaper with a recipe for a pudding, stating: “Result— fit for a king.” She wasn’t wrong!
The pudding uses cornmeal, and is part of a trend in the 1850s and 60s towards using this as a substitution for wheat which was very expensive at the time. With this trend came a strong American influence in cooking, as the settlers in the older colony had used maize for a much longer time.
Auld Wife’s recipe, which produces a gooey pudding topped with baked custard, includes many touches that speak of a well-worn recipe from an experienced home cook. Measurements are approximate; eggs are optional; and the cooking vessel is described only as “a dish”.
So grease a baking dish, turn on your oven, and cook side-by-side with your fellow home cook across the gap of 140 years.
Her original recipe in all its glory reads as follows:
GOOD THINGS FROM MAIZE MEAL.
AULD WIFE. German Station, June 20.
SIR: I hope that the enclosed recipe will prove an addition to the many good things which can be made from maize. My addition is in the form of a pudding, which is made of say a pint of meal, a cupful of molasses, a small bit of butter or dripping, and two eggs, if such are handy. Nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and salt, one or more according to taste. Put all in a dish, then pour on a quart of boiling milk, stir together, put in the oven in a well-greased tin. Just before putting the dish in the oven, add about a cup of cold water. Result— fit for a king.
GOOD THINGS FROM MAIZE MEAL. (1868, June 27). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), p. 9.
275ml (1/2 pint) milk
80g (3 oz.) polenta
4 tablespoons molasses or treacle
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch of salt
70ml (2 fl. oz.) cold water
10 minutes prep, 40 minutes cooking
4 generous and self-contained dessert serves (no ice-cream or custard necessary!)
Preheat the oven to 180.
Put the milk in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
Grease a small oven-safe dish (approximately 20 cm/ 8 inches).
Mix all other ingredients, apart from the water, in a bowl.
While stirring the mixture pour in the milk in a steady stream. Stir until all of the ingredients are well combined. Don’t be alarmed that the mixture is still a liquid with polenta rattling around in it – it will all come together in the oven!
Pour the mixture into the greased dish.
Tip the cold water on top, without stirring, and put immediately into the oven.
Bake at 180 for 40 minutes.
The end product is a dark sweet skin on top of about a centimetre of deliciously wobbly baked custard, over a dense pudding layer.
Serve warm, as the pudding becomes denser as it cools.
Thanks, Auld Wife!