A Semi-Scottish Pudding

There are distinctly Scottish references in Whistler’s Mother’s cookbook, reminding us that she came of a Scottish family, and that Whistler still had aunts living in Scotland. When he was designing a menu this personal element emerges occasionally. Scotch broth, for instance, appears as ‘Potage écossais’ on 11 June 1877, and ‘Purée à l’Ecossaise’ on 6 December. ‘Pouding’ à l’Écossaise’ (Scotch pudding) was served several times: once on 29 January 1877 when the artist Matthew Robinson Elden and Rev. Frederick Kill Harford, Minor Canon of Westminster Abbey, a poet and hymn writer, were the proposed guests. On 2 July it rounded off a ten-course meal, so elaborate that one wonders how anyone could possibly have had room for pudding.

And then on 12 October 1877 it was served for a rather more intimate dinner with friends and family: Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, diplomat, Secretary of the Office of Works, and collector; Charles Samuel Keene, etcher, cartoonist and illustrator; Charles Augustus (‘Owl’) Howell, entrepreneur; and William McNeill Whistler, physician, Whistler’s brother.


Potage aux tomates –

Merluche farin au four – 

Côtelettes de mouton – purée de navets –   

Poulet, sauce blanche –     

Pouding à l’Ecossaise –        

Petite patisserie –

Thus the menu consists of tomato soup, oven-baked dried cod, mutton cutlets, puréed turnips, chicken, white sauce, Scottish pudding, little pastries and coffee. Both the neeps and the pudding sound a distinctly Scottish note.

RECIPE: Pouding à l’Ecossaise

Now my family agrees that this implies a boiled pudding, possibly a ‘Cloutie Dumpling’, but it seems highly unlikely that this would have worked as part of a six course meal. A more refined but almost equally rich version is suggested by Escoffier, ‘Pouding au Pain à l’Ecossaise’ (translated as ‘Scotch Bread Pudding’, but as usual that sounds more enticing in French) and this I adapted.


Set the oven at 200 degrees C.

Butter a budding bowl and sprinkle it with breadcrumbs.

Boil a kettle of water. Now you are ready for the action.


Bring 1 litre (5/4 pint or 2 1/4 US cups) boiled milk just to the boil.

Sweeten it with 250g (4 ½ oz) sugar. (I keep a vanilla pod in the sugar, which provides sufficient vanilla flavour).

Soak 150 g (5 ½ oz) white breadcrumbs in the warm milk.

Either sieve this or (as I did) use the squisher to reduce it to a puree, not for too long : it might turn into glue.


Peel and finely chop an apple, or prepare a cup of another fruit (fresh raspberries are good). I added a few red-currants, and squeezed a wedge of lemon over it to stop the apple browning.


Separate three egg yolks from the whites.

With a fork, beat together 3 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs.

Mix the eggs and the fruit into the bread mixture.


Carefully fold in 2 stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the pudding bowl. Cover it with well-buttered greaseproof paper. Spread a clean but old (not your best napkin) cotton cloth over the top, tie it firmly round the rim of the bowl with string. Hoist the corners of the cloth over the top out of the way.

Cook in a bain-marie in the oven. That is: fill the baking dish to a height of about 3 inches with boiling water. Please do not scald yourself. Place the bowl in the baking dish and put it in the oven. Bake/steam for two hours.

Take it out, inspect to make sure it is done (you can stab it with a skewer, which should emerge clean if the pudding is done). Run a sharp knife round the edge. Carefully place a serving dish over the top and up-end it. Hopefully it pops out neatly.

Serve with redcurrant sauce: I brought a cup-full of red currants, just covered in water, to the boil, and stirred in a couple of spoonfuls of sugar until it dissolved. You could add a glug of framboise (I think that is what is meant by ‘raspberry flavoured Redcurrant Sauce’).

The result? Delicious, remarkably delicate in taste, nicely set off by the sharper sauce.



Whistler Menu, 29th January 1877, 11th June 1877, 2nd July 1877, 12th October 1877, 6th December 1877, http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/correspondence/ #6923, 6896,  6925, 6932, 6948

For all other sources please see the Bibliography.


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I am an artist and art historian, and my research is focussed on the work and life of James McNeill Whistler. Based in the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, I am Director of the Whistler Paintings and Etchings Projects. These blogs are informal, and, I hope, interesting and even quirky discussions of individual works and events related to Whistler.

One thought on “A Semi-Scottish Pudding”

  1. That sounds and looks amazing! Although ‘hopefully it pops out neatly’ lacks conviction – but the final slice is terribly elegant!


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