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What is Figgy Pudding?

Hedgerow Berries

So bring us some figgy pudding….

Advent Calendar 10

We would love to bring you some but what is figgy pudding? The earliest reference to figgy pudding is from a recipe from the C14th. The recipe is for a dish called ‘Fygey’. This English recipe is quite exotic. Ground blanched almonds are added to quartered figs, wine, ground ginger and honey. All the ingredients are boiled together and then presented as a pudding.

This was a dish fit for kings, certainly not for the commoner. The figs, almonds and ginger were all imported. Perhaps the Crusaders were responsible for spreading the desire to have such tastes in their diet. It was a time when trade routes were expanding so such goods could have been imported from places such as Italy.

There was another pudding described. This was called Frumentry. This was a porridge dish of cracked wheat, milk and eggs which were mixed with spices and possibly meat was added. Some of the Frumentry recipes also include dried fruits and nuts.

The recipe for figgy pudding moves on.

As the centuries progressed so did the figgy pudding recipe. The fruits altered depending on what was available but raisins and figs seem to have been the staple fruit and nuts of different sorts. They were boiled in wine and then mixed with some sort of carbohydrate such as bread, to form the pudding.

In some of these variations fish or meat was also added so the pudding could be a sweet or savoury concoction. It was a way of preserving food in the Winter months and hung in a muslin bag for this purpose.

What is a figgy pudding recipe?

There are as many variations of the figgy pudding recipe as there are days in Advent but we made this version of a figgy Christmas pudding last year and it went down a treat. We did add a cupful of almonds and the grated zest of an orange but the figs made it a super moist pudding. From the BBC Goodfood recipe collection.


A Victorian figgy pudding.

There is no finer account of the Victorian figgy pudding than in Charles Dickens tale ‘A Christmas Carol’.

‘In she comes with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.’

The Victorians brought us the Christmas pudding as we know it today. However it was concocted from basically the same range of ingredients that went into figgy pudding minus the meat.

The pudding became a central part of the Christian celebration beginning with the day it gets made. ‘Stir up Sunday’ is the Sunday before Advent and although the name suggests otherwise, the stir up part comes from the Bible.

 The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Puddings made on this day were considered to receive God’s blessing and imparted to all who ate it.