Food historian C. Anne Wilson identifies the first trace of a recipe for an ancestor of Christmas pudding in this early 15th century recipe taken from a medieval manuscript in the Library of the Royal Society, reproduced here at Leeds in A collection of ordinances and regulations published by the Society of Antiquaries in 1790 and called ‘Stewet Beef to Potage’.
The recipe calls for chunks of beef seethed in water and a lot of wine with minced onion, herbs, bread for thickening, red colouring agent (‘saunders’ or sandalwood), seasonings of cloves, cinnamon (‘canel’), mace and raisings (‘raisynges’) and currants (‘corance’).
The recipe was not associated with Christmas at this period.
William Rabisha was the first to call this porridge a Christmas dish in The whole Body of cookery dissected, published in 1673. At this stage it was most often spiked with alcohol (claret or sack) and made in advance to be stored in earthenware pots.
Writing in 1726, Cesar de Saussare remarked that ‘everyone from the King to the artisan eats soup and Christmas pies. The soup is called Christmas porridge, and is a dish few foreigners find to their taste’.