Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas Chique 2012 - The Old and the New, the Weird and the Wonderful: Pease Pudding and Persimmons

A quick trip to our local Morrisons supermarket turned out to be longer than expected due to the weird and wonderful new range of exotic fruits and vegetables they had on display. I couldn’t resist having a good look! Apparently Morrisons have been revamping their stores into new 'Fresh Format' stores complete with ice beds and misting technology to keep the fruits, vegetables and herbs fresh and hydrated. Although our local store hasn't been transformed yet it has benefitted from the new range of exotic oddities – including plumegranates (not a cross between a plum and a pomegranate but an almost-black skinned plum with deep scarlet flesh), graffiti aubergines, candy beetroot, dudhi, green mooli, plantain, turia, arbi, cassava and eddoes.

This is quite a change for Morrisons – when I used to shop 'up North' the most unusual item in my trolley from this store was Pease Pudding. Not that Pease Pudding is unusual in the North East – it's very popular - but it was unusual to me as I hadn't tasted it before. It's delicious. Pease Pudding is a very old dish and was once a staple on the British dinner table but fell out of favour in the 1900s. It's also known as Pease Pottage or Pease Porridge and the small village of Pease Pottage in Sussex takes its name from the dish.

Pease Pudding is made from soaked yellow split peas wrapped in a muslin bag dropped into a simmering pot with a hock of ham. The peas turn mushy and look a little bit like hummus. It can be eaten hot or cold and Pease Pudding is perfect with ham which makes it a useful addition to the Christmas table, especially if you haven't tried it before. Although it’s still very popular up North Pease Pudding is hard to find around here and if you'd like to make your own there is a recipe here.

Morrisons foray into exotic fruit and veg follows on from the news that UK sales of more unusual tropical fruits have soared as adventurous Britons develop a taste for new and more exotic groceries. Sales of persimmons - also known as Sharon fruit (named after the Sharon plain in Israel) - have for the first time overtaken sales of mangoes, while sales of pomegranates have rocketed by almost 30%.

Persimmons can vary in colour but the ones we normally see are orange and although they look a little like a tomato they are actually berries from the tree species Diospyros (meaning 'divine fruit' in Greek). The seedless fruit ripens to a sweet, jelly-like meat that remains encased inside a waxy, thin-skinned shell. The flavour is sweet and mild, a little similar to mango or pumpkin.

Originally native to China cultivars of the Persimmon have spread out across the globe and its fruit is thought to have reached European and American tables around 1800. In the USA Persimmon Pudding is a traditional American dessert a little like Christmas Pudding. 

In Indiana it is considered to be one of two local legendary dishes (the other being Sugar Cream Pie) and since 1946 they have held a Persimmon Festival every year. Persimmon Pudding is usually steamed or cooked in a bain-marie and is served with whipped cream or brandy butter. If you fancy trying it as an alternative to our British Christmas Pud the Mitchell Persimmon Festival website has the winning Persimmon Pudding recipes available here.



lostpastremembered said...

How nice to know pease pudding is back in fashion. I can vouch for persimmon pudding, it's terribly good with sour lemon sauce. I've been making it for years. What wine should be served with it, I wonder? The tartness is tough to pair with wine successfully.

Sue said...

Hi Deanna :-) I'd pair a dry sparkling wine with it - champagnes and cremants cope well with sweet and sour, even curry!