At last! An excuse to make a proper pudding. They don’t come along often. It seems just a bit too piggy and extravagant to spend the time making an enormous confection in the absence of a proper occasion and a big audience (well, bigger than just the two of us) – although frankly I can think of few things I’d rather do with my time. These opportunities must be grabbed with both (oven-gloved) hands whenever they appear, which is how, with an extra mouth to feed on Friday night, I ended up making a Queen of Puddings.
When it comes to desserts at least, I’m a traditional sort of woman. I like a hot pudding, involving some combination of sponge, jam, and custard (preferably all three). St John Bread and Wine does a fantastic line in these. With this in mind, I treated myself to a copy of Good Old-Fashioned Puddings earlier this year, and was desperate to try it out. Having tried a delicious Queen of Puddings on the dessert board at The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland last year, I set about creating my own. No sponge involved, sadly, but a bottom layer of a breadcrumb-thickened custard (sounds unappetising, but it really is lovely), baked in a bain-marie and then topped with a layer of jam. I was lucky enough to have a jar of homemade apple and plum jam at my disposal, with which I replaced the traditional raspberry; lemon curd could also be used, I imagine. On top of the jam, I piled soft meringue, ready to be baked until golden. (As you’ll see in the photo, mine went a little too far the other side of ‘golden’. Still yummy though, I think.)
Since we were too greedy to wait for it to cool down, the layers didn’t stay as separate as one might have hoped, for our first helping at least. Those ye olde types certainly knew how to design a pudding though, didn’t they? The sweet jam works a treat against the blander background of the custard, finished off with that light, sugary meringue topping.
But I wouldn’t want you to think that I invite people round just for dessert… there was preamble! (Almost entirely courtesy of my boyfriend, I must admit.) Paul, Claire and I being greedy types, we decided to make the various other courses one at a time, so that we didn’t have to starve for hours waiting to be fed. We started with sherry, Paul’s homemade sourdough, and a selection of cheeses: Lincolnshire Poacher; Moody’s Rosary Ash goat’s cheese; and some lovely manchego with the obligatory membrillo.
There followed Valentine Warner’s fruitalia – a deep Turkish frittata-style eggy cake, filled with broad beans, feta and mint – a potato salad (with an oily dressing rather than a mayonnaise one, due to the high egg content of the rest of the meal), and a downsized take on Jamie Oliver’s pea crostini. Using yet more homemade sourdough, Paul rubbed toasted slices with garlic, drizzled them with oil, then topped them with a mixture of bashed up raw peas (straight from the pod), feta and olive oil, before finishing with mozzarella and pea shoots.
How anyone had room for pudding, I know not. It must have been yet another case of the ‘pudding-tummy’ phenomenon.