Would you like a can of Dick? Does it matter if it’s spotted? Apparently, Brits of yesteryear used to go gaga for this “delicacy.” Today there are still plenty of folks who’ll pony up a few quid for Spotted Dick in a can!
The average person in the United States became familiar with the traditional British dessert, Spotted Dick thanks to a trip that humor columnist Dave Barry took in the early 90s. He recounted his experience of discovering the hilariously named pudding – among other quintessentially British foodstuffs. Fast forward to thirty years later, and the average American shopper can pick up a can of Heinz brand Spotted Dick from the imports aisle for about $6.
My British editor thinks that the Aunty’s Brand Spotted Dick is the superior of the two – but it’s more expensive and then you don’t get to enjoy the entirely British experience of eating complete meals from a can.
[Editorial Note: He’s 100% correct. The All-Day Breakfast in a can is a hearty and nutritious meal.]
Eating it from the can without any custard may not be the most enjoyable thing on the planet… [EN: You won’t find eating it in ANY capacity is going to be enjoyable, sunshine.]…but hey – look on the bright side…it’s microwaveable! Just take the sucker out of the can first.
[EN: Yes, otherwise you will anger it.]
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Just…What Is Spotted Dick?
Spotted Dick is a pudding that is traditionally made from mutton fat, or what is called suet.
Today, however, butter or lard is often substituted into the recipe instead. Molasses and corn syrup help to create the sticky sweetness of the pudding, while currents or raisins help to create the spots of the Dick. Without the fruit, you’d just be eating a Dick pudding, so any dried fruit – even dates – will help you create the spotted variety of Dick.
God, this isn’t getting any easier.
Although variations of the quote-unquote dessert have surely existed since the Middle Ages, the creation of Spotted Dick as a dish goes back to the mid-19th Century when steamed puddings were a popular and accessible sweet for all people of all stripes.
A century earlier the pudding cloth had been invented and many savory puddings were created using that sophisticated piece of culinary technology. It would still take 100 years to discover on a national level that sweet puddings could be made with the same stuff.
Go figure. The dish first showed up in Alexis Soyer’s The Modern Housewife or Ménagère, published in 1849, where a spotty, steamed suet pudding was given the name “Plum Bolster, or Spotted Dick.”
Lord knows why they didn’t stick with Plum Bolster. Well, a lot has changed since then. Nowadays, housewives can find their dicks in a can.
If you’ve got a can of Spotted Dick for yourself, you can steam the pudding inside the can. Just boil some water, stick the can of pudding in it, and let it boil for about 30 minutes. The result? A slightly crunchy outside, a warm and gooey inside, and enough calories that you could’ve eaten two hamburgers at McDonald’s and lost weight in comparison.
Some Brits love it, [EN: Most do not *shudders*] and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn’t hate it. The sweet, sticky mass is better than most fruit cakes I’ve had the misfortune to sample and the currants added a strangely attractive aesthetic to this truly ugly dessert.
See Related: Spaetzle Recipe
Why Is It Called “Dick?”
Because calling the pudding “Spotted Richard” sounded too royal![EN: *Slow…clap…*]
Setting aside the jokes, no one can really pinpoint one specific reason why this pudding has this name. Some say that it is actually a German name because “dick” in German means “thick” or “fat.”
There could be something to this, based on the fact that during the 19th Century, Britain was still importing its ruling monarchs from Germany. Queen Victoria and her husband, the Prince Consort Albert, were both super German! Thus, there was a strong affinity for a lot of German stuff in the Victorian era [EN: Ich Dien!].
Some believe it is just a reference to pop culture from the times, similar to calling a private investigator a “dick.” Others think that it’s an old regional term for “dough.”
The two most likely theories are that “dick” is just a bastardization of the word “pudding,” a word which is used in the UK (particularly Northern England) interchangeably with the word “dessert.”
Pudding? Puddink? Puddick? Dick? Yeah, I kinda see it…
Alternatively, it’s likely a mispronunciation or regional spin on the term “Spotted Dog” which is what this pudding is known as in Ireland.
Whatever the case may be when you can get your hands on a Spotted Dick and put some into your mouth. That sticky sweetness can be a memorable experience.
Want To Make Your Own Spotted Dick? Here’s a Recipe
Okay guys, take out your markers and write this quick recipe down if you want to try having your own traditional Spotted Dick. A lot of recipes for this dessert can be a little complicated, so please enjoy this streamlined version!
This easy traditional recipe makes 1 pudding.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar/brown sugar
- 1/3 cup dried currants/raisins
- 1/2 tablespoon citrus zest (orange zest is best but lemon zest is good too)
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons whole milk
- a pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Mix the dry ingredients first in a large mixing bowl. Gently whisk your wet ingredients in a small bowl, then add the wet ingredients to the large bowl.
Stir, then fold over until smooth – don’t beat the mixture because if you do, your Spotted Dick will become quite dense.
Put the mixture into a pudding basin/pudding mold (or small bowl that is oven-safe), cover with foil or greaseproof paper, and steam for 90 minutes.
When steamed, invert pudding basin/mold/bowl and transfer the pudding to a wide bowl or a rimmed plate. Serve warm with custard sauce. Eat with a spoon.
What To Eat With Your Spotted Dick
One can enjoy a wide variety of items with Spotted Dick, but the most common and traditional way is with Devon custard. You can up your can game even further by opting for Britain’s favorite canned custard brand, Ambrosia. Apparently, they used to have incredible TV commercials in the 90s – which I guess goes to show how mad Brits are for custard.
[EN: We are. And traditional Brits make custard from scratch with Bird’s Custard Powder.]
Importing British custard can be expensive, I know. It’s actually easier to find pre-made Crème Anglaise (a custard sauce that is the slightly pretentious French cousin to English custard) in supermarkets in the U.S.
If you don’t prefer custard, a simple icing can be placed on the pudding and eaten like a cake. Lemon syrup or a simple dusting of powdered sugar can also suffice. Heavy cream is also a good option for those who want to experience the flavor of the currants.
[EN: Try it with maple syrup, or (if you can get your hands on it) Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup.]
If you’re steaming the canned variety of Spotted Dick, be aware that the result from the can may turn out quite dry. Having some sort of sweet sauce to wash that stodgy mess down will help the experience immensely, even if it doesn’t really help the waistline.
Just know that a plain pudding is the work of the devil. [EN: Again, he’s not wrong].
If you’re brave enough to microwave your Spotted Dick, let us know your experience! Likewise, if there’s any other British food you think we should try, drop us a line.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.