Have you ever heard of dock pudding? I hadn’t until this year. It’s a pudding – if you can call it that – that’s very particular to our neck of the woods and this time of year.
It’s a local, Calder Valley dish made of dock leaves, nettles, spring onions and oats – and is traditionally fried in bacon fat. The name ‘dock pudding’ is pretty misleading, not only is it not what you’d consider a pudding, it’s made using Persicaria bistorta. More commonly known as bistort, common bistort, European bistort, meadow bistort, gentle dock or passion dock.
It does however, grow alongside what we commonly know as dock – Rumex obtusifolius – or bitter dock, broad-leaved dock, bluntleaf dock, dock leaf or butter dock. Bistort is quite a bit smaller than dock. I’ve included a photo I took to help you identify the difference. If you’re still not sure about it, wait until June or July when bistort is in bloom. You can’t miss its pretty pink flowers shaped like cotton buds.
There’s a World Dock Pudding Championship founded in 1971 and held annually in Mytholmroyd. It took place just last weekend. During the Second World War, William Brooke Joyce, the last man to be hanged in Britain for treason, mistakenly believed that the people of Yorkshire were starving due to food rationing and were resorting to eating grass. In fact, they were simply enjoying their dock pudding!
I used the recipe from A Yorkshire Cookbook by Mary Hanson Moore and used a metal ring to mould them into perfect rounds. I had mine as a vegetarian option; served on a hash brown with runny egg sitting atop that. Justin had his served with the crispy bacon and egg – his dock pudding fried in bacon fat. We can honestly say that it was really delicious in both dishes. Justin had it again with a full English breakfast and says that in addition to the bacon and egg, it combines well with all other options like sausage, mushroom, tomato, potatoes, fried bread and toast. Dock pudding is a real winner – not only is it naturally foraged, very healthy and virtually cost free – the flavour really enhances dishes. As said, it’s great with breakfast ingredients, but could be used for all manner of other starter dishes and light lunches – or as a main course accompaniment.
- 1 quart snakeweed leaves
- 1pint young nettle tops
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 handful oatmeal
- small knob of butter
- bacon fat
- Clean and remove the thick stalks from the docks and nettles and boil with the onions in a little water until tender
- Add some seasoning and sprinkle in the oatmeal
- Boil again for 10 minutes, stirring all the time
- Add the butter
- Leave overnight
- Next day, fry large spoonfuls of the mixture in hot bacon fat and serve with bacon
- Don't forget to wear protective gloves when picking the stinging nettles and make sure you forage in a place where dogs aren't able to cock their leg!