Biomakespace Forum

Nesselrode pudding

(Dean Madden) #1

I’m not sure if recipes are allowed here, but Christmas is approaching and people might like this recipe from Emma Darwin (Charles’s Mrs). Charles Darwin would probably have been served this as a special treat on his birthday. It is a less weighty alternative to Christmas pudding. (I might try devising some cocktails for the grand opening too – I’ve got a DNA one somewhere, where you precipitate DNA into ice-cold gin (It’s actually pectin, not DNA, but that’s another story…)

Nesselrode pudding was a Victorian ‘iced pudding’ (what we now call ice cream).
There are some photos of elaborate Nesselrodes here:

Genuine Nesselrode pudding is made with puréed chestnuts and maraschino (a liqueur flavoured with cherry stones, that tastes like almonds). This, however, is Emma Darwin’s cheaper recipe, which is remarkably clever, substituting brandy and ground almonds for the costly, imported sweet chestnuts and maraschino liqueur.


225 g dried fruit (e.g., Maraschino cherries, apricots, raisins), roughly chopped if large
175 ml brandy (you may use fruit juice instead, if you prefer an alcohol-free version)
half a vanilla pod
500 ml double cream
250 ml whole milk
6 medium-sized egg yolks
50 g sugar
30 g ground almonds


If the fruit includes whole cherries or very large raisins, chop them up. Pour the brandy over the fruit and leave it to soak overnight. Note: If you don’t want pink ice cream, keep the cherries separate from the other fruit at this stage (see Step 6).

Split open the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream. Add the outer part of the pod to the cream as well. Mix with the milk and bring it to boil in a saucepan, stirring continuously (don’t let it burn on the bottom). When it’s boiled, take it off the heat.

In a largish bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. When the mixture is white and creamy, beat in the ground almonds.

Discard the vanilla bean skins and pour the hot cream/milk onto the egg and sugar mixture, beating constantly.

Transfer the custard to a double boiler (or heat gently) and stirring constantly, heat until the custard thickens. This may take up to 10 minutes — it’s important not to let the custard boil. Note: How to tell when the custard has thickened sufficiently: you heat until it sticks to the back of a spoon held horizontally, and then draw a line through the custard on the spoon with a finger. If the line remains, the custard is ready.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the brandy and the fruit. Allow to cool, then refrigerate at 3–5 °C until cold (overnight is OK, but if you don’t want pink ice cream, leave out the cherries until the next, freezing, step).

Pour into an ice cream machine and follow the instructions with the machine (or alternatively, put the mixture in the freezer, taking it out to stir every four hours of so.

Note: Emma added the brandy and fruit only once the ice cream was partially frozen. This makes sense as too much alcohol will stop the mixture freezing, and Victorian methods may not have made the mixture cold enough to freeze hard.

((Alexander) James Phillips) #2

This is great! I’m cooking Christmas dinner this year so will definitely try this for then, might do a test trial earlier.

With the custard on the back of spoon. Do you turn the spoon horizontal and “custard up”, make the line with your finger and see if it remains in that position or do you turn the spoon custard down again?

Cheers Dean!

(Dean Madden) #3

Deleted incomplete post here.

(Dean Madden) #4

Here’s the DNA cocktail, which we devised for the 50th anniversary of the double helix (a long time ago, now). It was served at the Institute of Physics when their Rosalind Franklin lecture theatre was inaugurated, the botanic gardens in Edinburgh, The Wellcome Trust in London and countless other places. It was one of those daft ideas we came up with while trapped in the cocktail bar at Frankfurt airport, after running a course at EMBL.

We wish to suggest a recipe for a cocktail containing deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This drink has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.

By combining elements from Cambridge, London and the Americas, this red, white and blue drink pays tribute to all of those who worked on the double helix. A hint of pineapple juice helps to celebrate 50 years of what Francis Crick called ‘The Golden Helix’.


Equipment and materials


From England:

  • 8 frozen strawberries (about 65 g) – the variety ‘Cambridge Favourite’ is naturally the most appropriate.

  • London Dry Gin – the strongest you can find. This is necessary to precipitate the D.N.A. N.B. Chill this gin in the freezer for at least 2 hours before preparing the drink.

From the Americas:

  • 60 ml fresh pineapple juice. This must be fresh as protease activity is required to degrade the histones associated with the D.N.A.

  • Blue curaçao*.

  • Lime juice and icing sugar, to decorate.

Note: if it proves difficult to form distinct layers of liquids, dissolve a little sugar in the curaçao.

Also required:

  • A blender [1].

  • Large test tubes or boiling tubes, for serving.




  1. Moisten the rim of a large test tube with lime juice then dip the rim into icing sugar.

  2. Add about 10 ml* of blue curaçao to the tube.

  3. Tilt the tube then with great care, pour about 20 ml* of ice-cold gin down the side of the tube to form a layer above the blue curaçao.

  4. Blend the strawberries and pineapple juice for 10 seconds, then drop the purée on top of the gin. Wisps of strawberry D.N.A. will precipitate into the gin (see figure).

*adjust these volumes for smaller tubes.




Others have suggested (unpublished data) that thin helical twirls of lime peel may be used to decorate the rim of the tube. More enterprising drinkers have tried to recover the nucleic acid from the gin, using a swizzle stick. We are not aware of the details of the results of these investigations.

Most of the ‘D.N.A.’ in the gin is probably pectin, although the method described here is strikingly similar to the ‘Marmur preparation’ used by molecular biologists throughout the world to prepare D.N.A. [2].

It has not escaped our notice that this cocktail contains significant amounts of alcohol and should, therefore, be consumed only by adults and in moderation.

We are much indebted to Peter Finegold for suggesting that we create a cocktail to celebrate the anniversary.


National Centre for Biotechnology Education
The University of Reading




  1. A Waring blender, as used by Fred Hershey and Martha Chase, who in 1952 proved conclusively that DNA was the genetic material, seems an appropriate model. Hershey, A. D. and Chase, M. (1952) J. Gen. Physiol. 36 39-56.

  2. Marmur, J. (1961) J. Mol. Biol. 3 208-218.

(Dean Madden) #5

Yes, that wasn’t very clear, was it? Right. You put the spoon into the custard, then take the spoon out and flip it over so that the back of the spoon is facing you. If the custard is thick enough, a layer will stay stuck to the back of the spoon. Check whether it is ready by drawing a line through the custard on the back of the spoon with a finger. If the two halves stay apart, bingo, it’s ready.

The recipe came from: ‘Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe book’ by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway (2008) Glitterati Inc, New York. ISBN:978-0-9801557-0-3. The instructions above are my own version with practical hints based on experience, however.

(Jenny Molloy) #6

Thanks Dean - I am tempted to give this a try as well!
+1 for serving DNA cocktails on opening night! That idea could also be a good fundraiser event, it looks like Exploratorium in San Francisco do this as a Science of Cocktails evening.