Our speckledy hen is called 'Queen Mab' and she, along with the rest of our small flock, lives in our little patch of woodland where they roam free among the trees. They spend their days wandering through the bluebells, Queen Anne's Lace and wild garlic a-scritching and a-scratching, doing all the things which hens are supposed to do. Lucky girls!
Queen Mab variously known, and written about, as 'Queen of the Fairies' 'The Fairies' Midwife'. Shakespeare has her in Romeo and Juliet and she features in other literature and poetry.
Fairy Queen, or speckledy hen, she is quite a character and I was excited to be making a pudding which bears her name.
A quick read of the recipe revealed that Queen Mab Pudding is basically one of those good old English custard puddings. To make it fit for the Fairy Queen Mab it is studded with jewel-like pieces of angelica and dried cherries and served with a ruby red sauce.
There are many recipes for it but the one I used was found in one of my old handwritten recipe books.
So, in this unknown cook's words:
Queen Mab Pudding (Cold)
1 1/2 pints new milk
4 oz lump sugar
1/2 teaspoonful of vanilla flavouring (extract)
1 oz gelatine soaked for an hour previously in 1/2 gill cold water
Put all ingredients into a saucepan together and stir with a whisk until it boils. Have ready the yolks of 5 eggs beaten with a wooden spoon. Let the milk just cease boiling and pour it over the eggs and put all into the saucepan again and warm it, to thicken a little. Chop up some pieces of angelica and dried cherries to put it to the custard. Have ready a mould rubbed with salad oil, and lay at the top about 4 pieces of angelica, then pour in the custard and let it go cold. When cold turn it out and pour over it the sauce as follows.
1 oz lump sugar
1/2 gill cold water
1 tablespoonful of red jam, warm all together in a pan, let it go cold and pour over the pudding.
It was quick and easy to make, a cool and delicious custard pudding.
The first time I made it I had to use shop-bought eggs, they were organic and free-range, so I thought they would be the best substitute for our own home-grown ones.
A couple of weeks later when I made it again, I used eggs from our own hens, who enjoy a daily bunch of spinach as one of their treats. The difference in colour was amazing - the resulting custard base was much richer and more yellow.
I had run out of red jam to make the sauce, so I simply poured a little cream over it and a scattering of fresh raspberries again. It worked very well.
It was fun exploring that particular recipe but I don't think it will be necessary to make it again, delicious as it was.