Delving into my Great Great Grandpa’s cookbook always takes some leaps of imagination: there are no pictures. There’s one drawing depicting a trussed chicken, but apart from that everything is just described, fairly simply, assuming quite a bit of technical skill on the part of the cook. Which is all well and good, but the layering of dishes - everything made with presentation in mind - can sometimes veer into fairly complex territory. There’s a ‘Diplomatic Pudding’ that sounds so complicated and involves several mystery moulds that I can’t get my head around it, and some of the savoury dishes sound bonkers - a Russian salad involving just about every ingredient imaginable, layered just so.
As it's the start of the year, I wanted to find something involving oranges. I was hoping for a simple (ha!) marmalade recipe, but instead found a pudding that sounded so extraordinary I just had to try it: “Oranges Meringued”. It’s a base of rice pudding, topped with fresh oranges and an orange syrup, and a lid of baked meringue. He also has a version with apples, but it’s the orange one I’ve chosen to make to keep things seasonal. It’s like nothing I’d ever heard of - rice pudding is one of my all time favourites, and meringues are a close second but together?! With fresh oranges in between? I was intrigued.
The recipe is pretty much as it sounds - make rice pudding, cut up oranges, make sugar syrup with rind of oranges to infuse, and make meringue for the top. The end result? Unusual. Let’s just say there’s a reason a classic meringue pie has a crunchy biscuity base - it holds it all together (crucially) and provides that much needed texture. Meringue pies are documented in recipe books from around Victor's time and even earlier, but always, always in a crust of some sort. Not swimming atop a pile of rice pudding… if I made this again I would put the whole lot - rice pudding included - inside a biscuity base. It’s too soft all around - the rice is squidgy, the oranges are juicy, the meringue is fluffy - and while all delicious separately, infused with orange at every turn, I was longing for some texture. Victor doesn’t seem to have shared my concerns though - he writes this recipe down three times in all, twice with orange and once with cooked apples - so it must’ve been a favourite.
1/2 pound of Patna Rice
4oz Caster Sugar plus a further couple of tablespoons
1 Pint of Milk
3 Eggs, yolks and whites separated
Take half a pound of rice and bring to the boil in a saucepan with a quart of water. Drain off the water and add a pink of milk, 4oz of caster sugar and the thin rind of a lemon. Put back on a gentle heat. When the rice has absorbed the milk let it go cold, when completely cold work in the egg yolks and set aside. Peel the thin rind off the oranges and make a thick syrup by boiling some sugar in water. Let the orange rinds infuse the syrup but not boil in it. Remove the pith from the oranges, core them ‘as apples’, take out the pips and cut in half (I sliced them a little more thinly than this). Arrange oranges in a layer on the rice, making a small wall with the rice around them. Pour syrup over the oranges. Beat the whites of the eggs and add a tablespoon of sugar until stiff and glossy. ‘Cover the dish with this froth’ and bake in a ‘slack’ oven (a low one) for twenty minutes.