Monday, July 19, 2010

Pudding, glorious puddings

You know how it is when the friendly waitperson offers the dessert menu – and everyone hesitates? No-one wants to be first to mutter, “Oh, go on then”, even if you are secretly hanging out for crème brulée or chocolate mud cake.
Or pudding.
Yay, pudding! Winter is the right, the only time of year to eat puddings in all their creamy, stodgy, comforting glory.
Naturally, the web is laden with them. It amazes me that cookbooks still sell in their thousands when all you have to do is Google “pudding” and a million recipes fill your screen.
Ah, but can you trust them? That’s the question. Which is why we do still want books and magazines full of recipes by our favourite cooks. And why we’ll never discard the yellowing, grease-spotted pages of our mothers’ recipe books.
My Mum’s Lemon Delicious Pudding is still my favourite, preferably scoffed with melting vanilla ice-cream. Others swoon at the thought of rice pudding, and bread-and-butter pudding. All sweet, soft and golden.
But puddings weren’t always like that. If you live in Labrador you might sometimes have a traditional ‘Jiggs Dinner’, a roast-meat Sunday feast that also includes salted beef, boiled veges and pease pudding. I had no idea what pease is and found it's hummus-like stuff made of split yellow peas, cooked with water, salt and spices and, sometimes, a bacon or ham joint.
It’s also known as Pease Pottage and there’s a Pease Pottage Village in Sussex - so-called because the locals used to feed pease pottage to convicts being transported from London to the South Coast.
Then there’s Scotland’s Red Pudding – which shows how keen the Scots are to exclude anything remotely green from their diet. You can get Red Pudding, a true artery clogger, only at chip shops. It’s a sausage-shaped lump of various ground meats, suet, spices, fat and colouring, dipped in thick batter and deed fried.
You can’t ignore Black Pudding or Blood Pudding, a sausage made from cooked blood and eaten all over the planet. And White Pudding, which is similar but contains no blood, though it may have brain matter instead. All of which is a vegetarian’s nightmare.
Turn then to a true sweet-pudding lover’s paradise – a British hotel devoted to after-dinner delights.
The Three Ways House Hotel in the Cotswolds hosts a weekly pudding club where members are expected to eat a full main course and then sample and vote on the delights of seven puddings. You can browse the club's “pudcasts”, contribute your own puddings to their “Wikipudia of Recipes”. You can even stay in one of their luxury pudding-themed rooms. The Spotted Dick and Custard Room, anyone? I'm not kidding. That's it at the top of this blog, complete with spotted bed cover.
The most famous pudding of all is the one trotted out at Christmas. If you’re keen to do a Christmas pud in the most traditional way, you can find Mrs Beeton’s recipe here at Jane Austen's World.
Actually, with all its suet and shredded carrot, it doesn’t sound too appetizing at all. I’m off to get lemons. Now, where did I put Mum’s recipe book?
This article also appears in the August issue of Next magazine, on the Webmistress page. Become a Next fan on Facebook, too. Look for Next Magazine NZ