When writing about The Seven Good Things of Sussex, I am often moved to contemplate what other toothsome delights and Sussex recipes our county had to offer, both then and now. First on the list comes our famous South Down’s lamb or mutton, in the past our puddings and pies, and now our wines, beers, and cheeses.
Cooks of Sussex
One of my favourite books inherited from my mother and published in the year of my birth is the Sussex Recipe Book by MK Samuelson (Countrylife 1937). Mrs Samuelson came from Steyning but her contributors came from all over the county (and even from Kent) which created a collection of recipes that date back to the 17th century. Many of these come from Philadelphia Shoebridge’s Booke of 1707. She was a sort of genteel housekeeper who was probably in charge of the kitchens, still room (a room in a large house used by the housekeeper for the storage of preserves, cakes, and liqueurs and the preparation of tea and coffee), and kitchen garden at Buckhurst Park at Withyham (an English country house and landscaped park in East Sussex and the seat of William Sackville, 11th Earl De La Warr).
The book also includes recipes from The Countess of Kent’s Book (1671) and from Edward Shoosmith. His family lived for many years at a small moated manor house called Claverham at Chalvington, near Lewes but members of his family contributed recipes from all over Sussex. Another contributor and pioneering Sussex chef William Verral, chef-patron of the White Hart in Lewes in the mid-18th century. French-trained, he was before his time, going out to prepare banquets in the houses of the local nobility and gentry. And when the Prince Regent was at the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, he used to employ as a chef the great Careme, held by some to be the founder of Haute Cuisine.
One of the things that the true man of Sussex, whose basic diet was very simple, really rejoiced in was his pudding. These varied hugely, from the Sussex Drip Pudding (a suet-based sheet cooked like a Yorkshire Pudding under the meat joint and soaked in gravy) Hogs Pudding, and the basic Sussex Pudding which was more like a Spotted Dick. The most famous of all, however, was the Sussex Pond Pudding. This was made by filling the cavity of a steamed suet pudding with butter, brown sugar. All Sussex puddings were steamed in a cloth (rather than a basin) and the Pond Pudding was very rich and later modified in the late 20th century by the Ann family (who developed Drusillas Zoo near Alfriston and produced traditional “Sussex Fare” at the nearby Sussex Ox at Milton Street). They introduced into the “Pond” a whole scored lemon, which eventually burst into the pond and became known as Lemon Bomb which my children knew and loved well.
The area between Lewes and Pevensey was quite fruitful for Sussex recipes: Besides Edward Shoosmith’s recipes, the late 20th century gave us the Hungry Monk at Jevington which gave us tempting recipes in several useful little cookbooks but was also responsible for introducing into England, via Sussex, the first recipe for Banoffi Pie. And it was from this region that Sussex created not only puddings but pies! In fact, one could say of the Sussex cook, that if they couldn’t make a pudding out of it, then they’d make a pie and the Sussex Recipe Book has recipes for pies made from partridge, larks, sparrows, and of course wheatears.
Contributed by Peter Benner
If you’re tempted to try a true Sussex recipe, have a look at: