Dining with Duke Humphrey

If I told you I would be, tonight, dining with Duke Humphrey would you be impressed?

But who is Duke Humphrey?

He’s mentioned in Charles Dickens’ novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1842)

“One Diggory Chuzzlewit was in the habit of perpetually dining with Duke Humphrey” 

And it appears that the expression ‘dining with Duke Humphrey’ is a euphemism for poverty with a peculiar history. You may like to read more detail below from 

Newspaper cutting

And if dining with Duke Humphrey doesn’t suit, perhaps try supping with Sir Thomas Gresham?

Though little coin thy purposeless pocket line,
Yet with great company, thou are take up;
For often with Duke Humphrey thou does dine,
And often with Sir Thomas Gresham sup. 

Quodlibet (Epigram on a Loaf) by Hayden (1628) 

Bubble-and-squeak, Shepherd’s fritters, Mother’s supper and Fitchett pie have all been described as dishes for hard times.

They all appear in the intriguingly named Dining with Duke Humphrey chapter of an old cookery book from the 1970s I stumbled on when trying to clear one of my many bookshelves. Country Cooking from Elizabeth Ray. Highly recommended.

The recipe below I have adapted from the book and you may like to try it for yourself. As Devon born I found it hard to resist. The nackerjack in the recipe is a Devon name for a savoury dumpling, sometimes called natterjack too which is a toad. Perhaps named because the dumpling shape resembles a toad. I will allow you to judge that for yourself.

Leeky Stew with Nackerjack

Wash one leek and cut it into cork-shaped lengths, peel and quarter 175g of potatoes and roughly chop 175g of bacon. Put all into an oven-proof dish and cover it with 450ml of chicken or beef stock (a stock cube in water is fine).

Generously season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish and then cook in an oven at 200 degrees celsius for an hour.

In a bowl sift 110g of plain flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and add half a teaspoon of salt and 50g of shredded suet. Add enough water to make a soft dough. Pat into one dumpling 2.5 cm thick, in the form of a toad if you please.

Place it on top of your stew and bake uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes until the dumpling is cooked.

Do you have a favourite dish for hard times? I’d love to know, do write in the comments and tell me.