Dickens' books: a feast of English food

Anyone who takes pleasure in English food as well as in the writings of Charles Dickens has perhaps noticed his many references to food. There is the description in ''David Copperfield'' of Mr. Dick's partiality for gingerbread, and the mention of Mrs. Bagnet's Boiled Pork from ''Bleak House.''

It might be fun to serve an English meal or dish during February, because Dickens's birthday was on Feb. 7, 1812.

Samuel Pickwick, founder of the Pickwick Club and a naive and benevolent elderly gentleman, traveled about frequently with his fellow club members. Undoubtedly Mr. Pickwick and his peers sat down to many dinners that included Yorkshire Pudding.

To enjoy both beef and pudding at their best, prepare the batter for the pudding when the meat goes into the oven. Allowing the batter to stand makes it light and airy. Yorkshire Pudding 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup milk 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons hot fat from roast beef

In a bowl, mix flour, milk, eggs, and salt together until blended. Use either your hand beater or whisk for this. When batter is smooth, let it stand until roast is removed from oven. Allow roast to stand for 30 minutes before carving.

Pour 3 tablespoons of fat from the roast into a 9-inch pie plate, then add pudding batter.

Bake in oven preheated to 425 degrees F. 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top. Cut into wedges and serve at once with roast.

Aunt Betsey Trotwood, who grew quite fond of her nephew, David Copperfield, would have undoubtedly served cream scones. They came originally from Scotland and Ireland, but the English changed the shape, making them round. Currant Cream Scones 1/3 cup margarine, butter, or shortening 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons sugar 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 egg, beaten 1/2 cup currants, dried 4 to 6 tablespoons cream 1 egg, beaten

Using two knives and a medium-size bowl, cut margarine into flour until crumbly. Still using knives to cut, add sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in beaten egg and currants. Add cream gradually until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.

Use a lightly floured board and knead dough about 12 times. With a well-floured rolling pin, roll it out to 1/2-inch thickness.

Cut into shapes with a 2-inch floured cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Makes 10 to 12 scones. Brush each with beaten egg.

Bake at 400 degrees F. 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at once on a warm plate. Scones are best enjoyed split open, with plenty of butter. Strawberry jam and a generous spoonful of clotted cream are traditional and delicious additions.

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