Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding - Happy birthday to me ...

Here we are again, the day I look forward to the most during the year ... my birthday.
It's the day when I am queen, when I am allowed to wear a crown of flowers and walk around in my widest petticoat no matter where I'm going even if it is a farm or going on a clifftop walk on my favourite Sussex coastal path.
Today - I bloom - like fiery red flower in a colorless world.

It's a big birthday this year -29- for the second time. Some part of me wanted to do a big party, another part just wanted it to blow over. I decided on a last minute posh afternoon tea at Kensington palace with my friends Sassy and Jo when we were gathered in London for Bruno's exhibition.
I had a special dress, made by my friend Jo, you might remember her from her Hotpot recipe a few months ago. Jo designs and produces beautiful bespoke wedding and special occasion gowns and after months of working on the design together it was ready to flaunt when we went for our Afternoon tea.

I call it my England dress, it shows the story behind my love for this country and its ways in an illustration Bruno designed and Jo embroidered onto the dress. I felt tears coming to my eyes when she revealed the dress... Aren't I a lucky lady ...
Jo's craft-wo-manship is exquisite, the detail is amazing. Her brodeuse captured Bruno's every line, flower and every tiny apple. The dress is all kinds of perfect and if you know me -being a perfectionist- I hardly ever find things perfect...
It is a special feeling when a friend makes you a dress, it will never feel completely mine, it will always be hers as well. 
Thank you darling Jo, for making me the most special dress in the world x Thank you my dear friend Sassy for taking these pictures as a keepsake to remember  x

A few of you were eager to see my dress so if you aren't interested in a girl running around in a red dress feeding swans and getting attacked by squirrels - scroll all the way down for a good pudding!

Earlier this week I posted my recipe for Hot Cross Buns, while testing the recipe I had mountains of buns leftover and I didn't want to waste them so I froze them. Now I use the buns to make my Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding. I guaranty you that a Bread and Butter Pudding has never tasted better! As the Hot Cross Buns contains spices and currants already, there is no need to add more.
Enjoy lovely people x  

Hot Cross Buns through Paganism, Christianity and Superstition.

The tradition of baking bread marked with a cross is linked to paganism as well as Christianity. The pagan Saxons would bake cross buns at the beginning of spring in honour of the goddess Eostre - most likely being the origin of the name Easter. The cross represented the rebirth of the world after winter and the four quarters of the moon, as well as the four seasons and the wheel of life.

The Christians saw the Crucifixion in the cross bun and, as with many other pre-Christian traditions, replaced their pagan meaning with a Christian one - the resurrection of Christ at Easter.

According to Elizabeth David, it wasn't until Tudor times that it was permanently linked to Christian celebrations. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the London Clerk of Markets issued a decree forbidding the sale of spiced buns except at burials, at Christmas or on Good Friday.

The first recorded reference to ‘hot’ cross buns was in ‘Poor Robin’s Almanac’ in the early 1700s:

‘Good Friday come this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns.’
This satirical rhyme was also probably the inspiration of the commonly known street vendors cry:
‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns!
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!’

The Widows Son. Copyright Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive - posted with permission

A century later the belief behind the hot cross bun starts to get a superstitious rather than a religious meaning.

Wheaten Soda Bread with Stout Beer, Oats and Molasses for St-Patrick's day

A lucky shamrock scarf for your bread, to keep your hands flour-free. It's been years since I crocheted!

I was asked by Honest Cooking online food magazine to share a St-Patrick's day recipe with them. I've never been in Ireland so therefore St-Patrick's day is something I only know from visiting the Irish pubs that used to be plenty in Antwerp. The day would be advertised on the pubs blackboards weeks in advance offering live music and a Paddy's special menu. When the day finally came, the Irish folk living in Antwerp and the Irish sailors who were docked at Antwerp port with their ships would gather at the pubs to enjoy a pint and a meal, you would hear the traditional Irish folk music from behind the corner along with loud and often drunken sing-alongs. In Antwerp you most certainly knew when it was St-Patrick's day … But as the Irish pubs started to disappear, the St-Patrick's day celebrations and the taste of Irish food went with them. 

Wheaten Stout Beer, Oats and Molasses

Poverty and oysters ... Beef, stout and oyster pie

As Dickens' Sam Weller remarks in the Pickwick papers: 
'Poverty and oysters always seem to go together'.

Oysters have been savoured in Britain since Roman times. Shells have been found at many archaeological sites, with the Roman fort and Amphitheatre in Richborough as the most symbolically important one, and stretching as far north as Hadrian’s and the Antonine walls. Before the Romans came, the Britons regarded shellfish as something to eat when there was no fish or meat to be had. The little molluscs weren't sought after until the Romans started to farm them and even export them live to Rome, where they were considered a delicacy.

When the Romans withdrew and the Saxons invaded in the 5th century, so a rich culinary culture disappeared, which included the oyster farming. It would take centuries for the oyster to become popular again and the first recorded appearance is to be found in a 14th century cookery manuscript by the Master Chef of King Richard II.  

Throughout the Medieval period the church imposed a number of days where one should eat fish rather than meat. In fact, for a third of the year, eating meat was forbidden. Therefore the mixing of fish and meat in dishes only became popular later in the 16th century and an early 17th century cookbook gives the recipe for roasting mutton with oysters.