Grated cheese is baked with eggs, cayenne and nutmeg into a comforting savoury pudding which knocks a souffle’s preciousness into a cocked hat.
The recipe is as simple to make as Esther Copley made it sound in her early-Victorian Housekeeper’s Guide: “Half a pound of cheese grated, butter two ounces, four eggs, a little cayenne and nutmeg. Butter a dish and bake twenty minutes.”
Esther did not waste her words but then she had a lot on. She was a remarkable woman. Having been widowed with five children under 10 years old, she went on to build a successful and diverse career writing about household management, avoiding cholera and abolishing slavery… whilst also penning many of the sermons for her alcoholic Anglican-minister second husband.
Baked cheese pudding (for four)
225g cheese – Cheddar or Lancashire are good here
55g butter – melted
quarter tsp cayenne pepper
quarter tsp grated nutmeg
2 spring onions – finely chopped
4 ramekins – greased
Preheat oven to 190C
1. Grate the cheese into a mixing bowl. Separate the eggs so that the yolks join the cheese and the whites goes into another – scrupulously clean – bowl. Add to the cheese and yolks the cayenne, nutmeg, and seasoning. Mix together.
2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold them into the cheese mixture and divide between the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden. Serve straight away with the spring onions scattered over.
I like to have hunks of bread alongside for the unctuous cheesey deliciousness to be scooped onto. And if the puddings sink do not be downhearted – they’re not souffles, after all.