Zermatt mountain restaurants: style meets substance

February 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Zermatt’s mountain restaurants are legendary and looking at the view from the balcony of Chez Vrony in the hamlet of Findeln you can see why. We were in Zermatt for the busy February half term holiday week so making some key lunchtime bookings well in advance was an important part of my holiday planning.

Our first lunch was at Chez Vrony is a Zermatt institution run by Vrony Julen, daughter of one of one of Zermatt’s long established families. The food is delicious, the service is both charming and almost fearsomely efficient. Our New Zealand nephew Simon’s jaw dropped visibly as we were shown to our stunning balcony table and seated on cosy benches strewn with sheepskins. He later admitted it was a far cry from his usual eating experience in the ski fields of New Zealand where lunch means a snatched pot noodle in a utilitarian shed.

Chez Vrony caters for both hearty and more ladylike appetites. I chose the Salad Vrony, an elegant supercharged version of a chicken Caesar salad:

The salad followed by a double espresso was more than enough to set me up for the afternoon’s skiing but nephew Simon and son George were both still hungry after rösti and risotto respectively and chose the apple fritters for pudding. Needless to say, these disappeared in a flash:

Later in the week we made the obligatory hop-over the Theodul Pass into the Italian village of Cervinia. When in Italy, it has to be polenta, in this case Polenta Valdostana smothered with butter and molten cheese. As my Milanese friend Matteo said recently “no self-respecting Italian would ever eat pasta in the mountains: it has to be polenta”. Polenta is incredibly filling and has amazing heat-retentive properties. Lunch kept us going for the rest of the afternoon without any need for coffee and cake.

In general, Cervinia’s mountain restaurants don’t quite live up to the standards set by its Swiss cousin Zermatt. We ate our polenta at a decent enough self-service place at the foot of the Colle inferiore delle Cime Bianche chairlift on the Valtournenche side of the resort. Though the polenta was good, the place itself was nothing to write home about.

Ski Club Rep Paul Ubysz, a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to local knowledge of Zermatt and Cervinia had recommended to us the Resto-Grill Les Clochards accessible from Piste 5 on the Plan Maison side of the resort. I see that there are rave reviews for a Swedish run place called L’Etoile though I wonder if reviewers are star-struck by the lovely team of blonde waitresses. Take your pick…

We are keen skiers so some days lunch was a picnic in the snow with supplementary coffee and cake later in the day. The spectacularly situated Gandegg Hut accessible from the high Theodul glacier ski runs is a perfect place to warm up and refuel. They serve generous portions of home-made apple cake:

The restaurant at Stafel accessible from the red run down to the village from the Schwarzsee area is a similarly good place to linger. They serve excellent warming soups and their home made tarts look extremely inviting:

Finally, I couldn’t leave German-speaking Switzerland without at least one plate of rösti. My favourite is the classic combination of rösti with ham and fried eggs. They serve up a storming version at the Restaurant Blatten on the lower slopes of the Schwarzsee ski area:

Blatten is another restaurant in the Chez Vrony mould: family run (by Leander and Simone Taugwalder); combines rustic charm with super-efficient service and attention to detail; delicious food for a range of appetites. The interior is cosy and wood-panelled and there is a sunny terrace outside:

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Here are they key details to tap into your mobile phone before you go:

Contact details

Chez Vrony

Tel +41 27 967 25 52

http://www.chezvrony.ch/

Gandegg Hütte

Tel +41 79 607 8868 (hut keeper’s mobile)

Restaurant Stafel

Tel +41 27 967 30 62

Restaurant Blatten

Tel +41 27 967 20 96

If you’v eaten in Zermatt or Cervinia recently, I’d love to hear your experiences. Please send me a comment.

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Two very different dining experiences in Zermatt

February 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Two very different dining experiences during a recent ski holiday in Zermatt, Switzerland.

First, the Stockhorn Grill which I first visited some 20 years ago and is still going strong. It’s a meat lover’s paradise with the speciality being various cuts of meat spit-roast over an open fire. Be warned that you need to order the whole chicken in advance as it requires an hour’s cooking time. Here’s a picture of the open-plan cooking area, the fire flickering theatrically in the dimmed light of the restaurant.

The Stockhorn formula is simple but extremely effective- salad to start, then your chosen meat which is served with generous quantities of potato gratin or chips/French fries (one has to be careful with fried potato terminology to avoid being served with a bowl of what we in the UK would call crisps!). I chose the venison fillet cooked medium rare with potato gratin. Absolutely delicious served with a bottle of full-bodied Swiss Rhône red wine colourfully named “Sang de l’Enfer”, literally “Hell’s Blood” which wasn’t hellish in the slightest. The meal was simple and robust, no need for pudding to follow. It’s a tried and tested formula which is still packing the guests in – the queue for a table was out of the door as we left the restaurant.

Our next choice was Sonnmatten, a restaurant attached to a boutique hotel in the hamlet of Winkelmatten, an appetite-enhancing 15 minute walk upwards from the centre of Zermatt.

The chef at Sonnmatten is Marco Drynda, originally from Swabia in Germany. Drynda has recently stepped-up to his first head chef position after several years as number 2 to Alain Kuster at the Mirabeau in Zermatt.

The restaurant and bar décor is delightful, bringing off the trick of looking both clean and modern yet warm and cosy at the same time. We were hungry and asked to be shown straight to our table – matt black walnut with crisp white linen napkins, no-fuss stainless steel cutlery and generously proportioned wineglasses. The young service team led by host René Foster were dressed discreetly all in black and were charming and efficient. We sipped a glass of prosecco and went through the menu. Our fellow guests were either German or Swiss German and exuded an air of understated good taste. We’d finally escaped the crowd of Brits who flock to Zermatt at this time of year. So far so good.

Starters took a little time to arrive but were worth waiting for. I’d chosen a simple pumpkin soup which was well flavoured, silky textured and delicious.

Sadly, main courses took an absolute age to turn up. The restaurant though small was quite busy and from the animated discussions the waiting staff were having it was evident that the kitchen was having problems getting the food out in time. This was a shame as it marred an otherwise very satisfactory evening.

When my chosen main course of braised veal cheek finally turned up, it was generously proportioned, sticky and unctuous. It was almost too intense and meaty if that’s possible.

I should mention the wine list – lots of interesting Swiss wines as well as the usual French bottles. We chose a local Humagne Rouge – a cigar boxy red.

After two big-flavoured courses, pudding wasn’t an option for me even though the choice was enticing. My son George chose a plate of apple desserts pictured below. These disappeared in a matter of seconds!

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There’s a lot to like about Sonnmatten. I love the chef’s modern take on German and Swiss classic dishes and ingredients and the restaurant makes a stylish alternative to the glitzy big name restaurants attached to the 5 star hotels in downtown Zermatt. If only the kitchen could resolve its timing issues…

Contact details

Restaurant Sonnmatten
96 Winkelmattenweg
CH3920 Zermatt

Telephone +41 27 967 3030

http://www.sonnmatten.ch/page.php?rubID=1&lan=en

Stockhorn Restaurant and Grill
CH 3920 Zermatt

Telephone +41 27 967 1747

http://www.grill-stockhorn.ch/

Antigua & Barbuda breakfast

February 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have never been to Antigua so this was a virtual voyage of discovery for me. Fancifully, I see the whole Caribbean archipelago as the curved vertebrae of some fantastic fossil creature.  At the top there is Cuba, next the island of Hispaniola comprising Haiti and the Dominican Republic, then Puerto Rico.  The remaining islands dwindle in size curving gracefully towards the South American mainland coast.  Antigua is one of the tiny vertebrae at the base of the spine slotting in not far below Puerto Rico.

The island’s name was given to it by Christopher Columbus in 1493 in honour of the Santa Maria La Antigua (St Mary the Ancient) church in Seville.  The British occupied the island from 1632 and soon established a lucrative sugar trade based on slavery.  Nelson established a naval dockyard there in 1725.  Antigua remained under British control until 1981 and it remains part of the Commonwealth.

Based on a quick web search for information and pictures, Antigua is clearly now reliant on tourism and is chock full of expensive hotels catering mainly for a US clientele.  I settled on the Carlisle Hotel “situated on the unspoilt south coast of Antigua overlooking one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean”.  It is one of just four hotels collectively forming the of the Campbell Gray group of four hotels. Other group members are One Aldwych and Dukes in London and rather oddly, a gaff in Beirut.

Back to the Carlisle. From the hotel’s “Indigo on the Beach”  breakfast menu I picked out the following dishes with a bit of local colour:

Fresh-cut tropical fruit
Crispy bacon, avocado, fried plantains, two eggs any-way
Banana bread

Coffee and mango juice to drink

A visit to the lively “Strawberry Garden” fruit and vegetable stall in Manchester’s Arndale market provided plantains, bananas, mangos and avocadoes.

Whilst I’m on the subject, what a disaster area the Arndale Market is! It’s indoors, partly underground, and nail bars rub shoulders with food stalls resulting in a strange aroma which is an unholy combination of salt cod and acetone.

I recall that various council officials visited Barcelona’s Boqueria market to gain inspiration for the Arndale market revamp a few years back. Clearly they either suffered from a lack of imagination or else failed to put into practice what they saw.  However there are a handful of stalls which buck the mainly dismal trend, Strawberry Garden being one and the fantastic looking but unimaginatively named “Direct Fish” fishmongers popular with Chinese and Caribbean cooks being the other.

Plantains can easily be mistaken for bananas but this comparison shot show the differences.  Plantains are super-sized, a bit more fibrous and even when ripe rather more green than a banana.

Fried for a couple of minutes each side in hot oil they morph from soft, sallow slices into a crispy, golden-brown starchy mouthfuls of heaven.  A great addition to breakfast.

Just the banana bread to bake and we’re ready to go.

There are hundreds of banana bread recipes out there. One  which I use regularly is  Gary Rhodes’ recipe which is really more of a sticky cake than a bread.  Bill Granger has a gorgeous breakfast recipe for chocolate and banana loaf which is heavenly if made with grated unsweetened dark chocolate.  I found one recipe on the web which purported to be authentically Caribbean and had a delicious flavour  from the inclusion of Muscovado sugar and grated nutmeg but the texture was not good – too crumbly.

The banana bread recipe which I can recommend comes from the ever-reliable Four Seasons cookbook by Margaret Costa.  I’ve swapped her caster sugar for Muscovado and added a handful of chopped walnuts and a flavouring of grated nutmeg to pick up on the best points of the Caribbean recipe.

Recipe for banana bread

Adapted from Margaret Costa

Ingredients

2 oz (55g) butter
4 oz (115g) Muscovado sugar
1 egg
2 large or 3 small ripe bananas mashed with a fork to as smooth a pulp as you can manage
8 oz self raising flour
handful chopped walnuts (about 2 oz I would guess)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and banana pulp. Add, alternately, the flour sifted with the salt and nutmeg and the yoghurt. Fold in the chopped walnuts.  Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake for an hour at 180 degrees C (350 degrees F; gas mark 4).

Slice thickly and spread with butter if you like.

In the depths of a UK winter, after a breakfast like this, you can imagine being wafted away to the warm Caribbean overlooking that beautiful bay from the Carlisle hotel terrace….

Dalemain marmalade competition 2010

February 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

We wait with bated breath this morning for the results of this year’s “Grand Prix of Marmalade” held at Dalemain, a country house and estate near Penrith in Cumbria.

http://www.marmaladefestival.com/competition.html

Marmalade is a man-thing in our household.  Much as I enjoy marmalade, it’s my husband Tim and our two sons who insist on its presence at the breakfast table.  It’s become part of our annual ritual that Tim tracks down Seville oranges every January, painstakingly shreds the tough peel and produces 6 or so gleaming jars of marmalade that generally last us through until August.  Then it’s back to the Tiptree or Frank Cooper’s to get us through the rest of th year.

We discovered the Dalemain marmalade festival during a tour of the house and gardens during the summer.  It seemed entirely natural that the right category to enter would be the “man-made” one (name self-explanatory).

Here is Tim carefully scraping pulp and pips from the juiced Seville oranges into a piece of muslin.  These are a rich source of pectin and will give the marmalade the right set.

Here are the prepared oranges ready for the first boiling stage. This fills the house with delicious orange aromas brightening up the depths of winter. You can see the little muslin bag containing pips and pith tied to the preserving pan handle.

Here is the selected jar ready for despatch to Dalemain:

I must say the marmalade was very good this year, the aromatic and with just about the perfect set – not too runny, not rubber-solid.  Tim’s fate is in the hands of those tough Women’s Institute judges now who’ll make their decision later this morning.  Let’s see what happens…

Recipe for Seville orange marmalade

This is the recipe that Tim uses for consistently reliable results.  It’s from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.

Ingredients

2 lb (900g) Seville oranges
1 lemon
4 lb (1.8kg) preserving sugar (ie the large crystal kind, NOT the one with added pectin) or granulated sugar
4 pints (2.25 litres) water

Measure the water into the preserving pan.  Cut the oranges and lemon in half and squeeze out the juice. Add the juice to the water and place the pips and bits of pith clinging to the squeezer onto a square of muslin.

Cut the orange peel (not the lemon peel) into quarters with a sharp knife, then cut each quarter into thinnish shreds.  As you cut, add the shreds to the water and any further pips of pith to the muslin. The pips and pith contain the all-important  pectin to set the marmalade so be diligent at this stage and don’t just chuck it away.

Tie up the piece of muslin to form a little bag and tie this to the handle of the pan so that the bag is suspended in the water. Bring the liquid up to simmering point and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours or so until the peel is completely soft. Test by pressing and/or biting it.

Remove the bag of pips and set aside to cool. Add the warmed sugar to the pan and stir it occasionally over a low heat until it dissolves. Increase the heat, and squeeze the bag of pips over the pan to extract as much jelly-like pectin as you can, scraping it off.  Stir to mix thoroughly.

Once the mixture reaches a fast boil, start timing. After 15 minutes test for a set by spooning a teaspoon of marmalade onto a saucer cooled in your freezer. You have the right set if, once the mixture has cooled for a minute it has a crinkly skin. If it’s not reached setting point, boil for another 5 minutes and test again. Keep doing this until setting-point is reached.  This can take some time depending on your particular batch of oranges.

Once setting-point is reached, remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any excess scum at this stage.  Leave the marmalade to settle for 20 minutes. This resting will ensure the peel is evenly distributed in the jar when you come to pot.

While you wait, warm your cleaned, rinsed and dried jars (6  1lb jars or their equivalent) in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.

Pour the marmalade with the aid of a metal jam funnel or ladle into the jars.  Top each with a waxed disc and seal with a lid immediately.  Label when cool.

Valentine’s day dinner at home

February 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

The thought of going out to a restaurant next weekend to spend the evening eating overpriced indifferent food sitting amidst heart-shaped helium balloons, wilting red roses and pink napery fills me with dread.  Far better to put together a special meal for two at home instead.

Food for a Valentine’s day dinner should go easy on the garlic and other strong flavours.  It needs to be light and delicious and look pretty on the plate. It shouldn’t require too much last minute preparation as who wants to sit down next to a cook spattered with fat from flash-frying a steak?

What I plan to prepare for a main course is a koulibiac of salmon, the version given in Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons cookery book.  This has a delicious light crispy crust of yeast-raised dough rather than the more usual puff pastry.  This is not a quick dish as the dough needs to be started the day before you plan to eat the koulibiac. It is not difficult to prepare and the various elements can all be done well ahead of time.  Slip it into the oven as you sit down for your first course and it will be ready 20 minutes later.  With it, I would serve a bowl of sour cream to act as a simple sauce, some steamed spinach simply dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and perhaps one or two baby potatoes.

To start, I will prepare a carpaccio of beef, following the simple instructions (one can hardly call them a recipe) in Alastair Little’s book “Keep it Simple”. My local butcher sells beautiful beef from locally reared grass fed animals which is just right for this dish.  The truffle oil in the dressing is appropriate for Valentine’s Day  as truffles are known for their aphrodisiac qualities. A simple first course with lots of delicious savoury flavours to tempt the appetite.

For pudding, there are various options.  My favourite cheese of the moment is a buttery Ossau Iraty from the Basque country.  A wedge of this with a tiny perfect bunch of grapes and a glass of dessert wine would be one way to finish the meal.  Or perhaps slices of perfectly ripe mango mixed with passionfruit pulp, the whole brought to life by a spritz of lime juice.  Or maybe only a little something sweet will do.  I have a weakness for white chocolate, white Toblerone if I can get my hands on it, otherwise plain old Milky Bar buttons. I think I might whip up a white chocolate mousse using the recipe from Frances Bissell’s book Entertaining.  Served in dainty white ramekins together with a spoonful of sharp fruit compôte and a crisp biscuit, it should bring the meal to a stylish and satisfying conclusion.

Recipe for carpaccio of beef

From Alastair Little’s lovely book “Keep It Simple” published in 1993 but still fresh and relevant today.  A piece of beef the size specified in the recipe will serve 4-6 people so use what you need for dinner for two and eat the rest for lunch the next day.

Ingredients

1lb (450g) piece of beef fillet from the tail end

about 1/4 pint (150 ml) olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish the dish

Handful of rocket leaves
2 oz (50g) best quality parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons truffled olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the beef into a neat shape if necessary.  Brush all over with olive oil. Preheat a ridged grill pan to very hot. Lay the fillet on the grilling pan and give it 60 seconds on each side, including the two cut ends (6 sides in all), turning it with tongs.  Immediately refresh by dipping the seared beef into iced water for a few seconds, then pat dry with paper towels.  Season all over with salt and pepper, wrap tightly in cling film, place on a plate and refrigerate for several hours.  In fact the beef can be kept for several days like this in the refrigerator.

When ready to eat, remove the meat from the fridge. Wash the rocket and spin it dry. Put it into a bowl, pour over the oil, vinegar and seasoning and toss to coat each leaf. Mound a pile of gleaming leaves onto each plate.

Carve the beef into thickish slices at an angle of 30 degrees.  Distribute on top of the rocket.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave generous curls of Parmesan cheese over the top.

Recipe for koulibiac of salmon

From the Four Seasons Cookery Book by Margaret Costa.  First published in 1970, another book that’s stood the test of time. A great source of inspiration for the occasional instances when you can’t think what to cook. Somewhat surprisingly, you can buy fresh yeast at your nearest in-store Sainsbury’s bakery, maybe other supermarkets too, but I haven’t yet needed to go further afield. The recipe makes 6-8 portions, but it’s a good-tempered dish so take what you need and eat the rest cold or warmed through the next day.

For the pastry

2 oz (55g) butter
8 oz (225g) plain flour
pinch of salt
3/4 oz (20g) fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 small eggs
4 tablespoons (60 ml) lukewarm milk

For the filling

3 oz (85g) long grain rice
fish, vegetable or chicken stock
2oz (55g) butter
1 medium onion or two small shallots, thinly sliced
3oz (85 g) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1lb (450g) salmon fillet
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
3 dessertspoons (30ml) freshly chopped parsley (or mixture of chopped soft fresh herbs such as basil, chervil and tarragon)

Melted butter; fine dry breadcrumbs

First make the pastry.  Cream the butter.  Sift the flour and salt into a warmed basin. Cream the yeast with the sugar and when it looks frothy, add the well beaten eggs and the lukewarm milk. Mix into the flour, adding more lukewarm milk as necessary to make a soft paste. Beat thoroughly with your hand and finally work the creamed butter into the mixture. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes. Then leave the dough in a polythene bag in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, start by making the filling. Cover the rice with exactly twice its volume of cold stock. Let it come to the boil, cover and turn off the heat or remove to a cooler part of the stove. In 15-20 minutes, all the liquid should be absorbed and the rice cooked through, with the grains firm and separate.

Skin the salmon, wrap in foil and bake in a 180 degree C oven for 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Melt the butter and cook the onion or shallot in it until soft and transparent. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minuted longer. Mix in the rice and stir in the coarsely flaked cooked salmon. Mix together thoroughly, then stir in the sliced hard-boiled eggs and the herbs. Season well.

Now divide the pastry in half and roll each piece into a rectangle 12 by 8 inches (30 by 20 cm).  Put one onto a greased baking sheet and cover it with the cooled filling to within an inch (2.5cm) of the sides. Dampen the edges. Take the second rectangle and place on top of the first.  Press the edges together then make crosswise slashes at 3/4 inch (2cm) intervals to make a lattice-work effect. Knock up the edges with the back of a knife and leave the koulibiac in a warm place for 1/2 hour to prove.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with fine dry breadcrumbs. Bake in a hot oven 230 degrees C, 450 degrees F, gas mark 8 for about 20 minutes. Pour a little melted butter into the koulibiac through the slits and let it cool just a little before serving.

Recipe for white chocolate mousse

From Entertaining by Frances Bissell.  A book filled with lovely ideas if only one had the time, and the lifestyle. After all, how often is one called upon to prepare a picnic to be eaten on an island reached from a small boat departing from Hong Kong harbour? Don’t attempt this recipe unless you have an electric whisk to deal with the heavy duty work of beating egg whites and hot sugar syrup together. This quantity is enough to fill 8 small ramekins so plenty left for a treat another day.

Ingredients

7oz (200g) white chocolate, either buttons or bar broken into pieces
1 oz (25g) golden caster sugar
2 fl oz (50ml) water
2 egg whites, beaten until the soft peak stage
7 fl oz whipping or double cream, softly whipped
optional: 1 teaspoon chocolate or vanilla extract or a little grated orange zest

Break the white chocolate into pieces (not necessary if you are using buttons), place in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of hot water to melt very gently.

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and boil until the firm ball stage (124 degrees C if you have a sugar thermometer). Pour the hot syrup in a thin stream over the beaten egg whites whilst simultaneously whisking furiously to incorporate the syrup before it sets.  Carry on whisking until the mixture is cold.

Incorporate a little of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate.  Blend the chocolate into the egg whites, then add the rest of the cream and your chosen flavouring if using.  Use a light touch and a large metal spoon being careful not to knock all the air out of the mixture. Spoon into ramekins immediately and chill until set.

Proper Puddings

February 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last week’s Radio 4 Food Programme was devoted to one of my favourite things, British puddings.  The programme was a joy to listen to, almost as good as eating the puddings themselves.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00q9k53

I was pleased to hear Jane Grigson’s English Food quoted, and also to have my previous assertion about the origins of Sticky Toffee Pudding corroborated. You can read about it in  my post https://rhubarbfool.co.uk/2009/08/08/return-to-the-home-of-sticky-toffee-pudding-8-august-2009/

Mary Norwak, author of “English Puddings Sweet and Savoury” was featured on the programme.  I’d heard of her books but never before heard her interviewed.  I’m afraid she was rather a disappointment.  She came across as rather distant and snooty and her comments on trifle made me quite angry. We all have our differing views as to what should go into a trifle, but surely this is a matter of personal preference.  As far as I’m concerned, if you like it, put it in. Mrs Norwak has no right to look down on anyone else simply because of what they like to put in their trifle.  I didn’t feel inclined to buy her book after listening to her.

Nevertheless, still inspired by the programme as a whole, I thought I would give the recipes for two of our favourite traditional puddings at home, Guards’ Pudding from Margaret Costa’s classic Four Seasons Cookbook, and Lemon Layer Pudding (which is sometimes also referred to as Lemon surprise Pudding or Delicious Pudding).  This particular version is from the Good Housekeeping cookery book – a comprehensive and reliable cook book let down by a terrible index – try finding apple crumble and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s listed idiosyncratically under F for fruit (but not under A for apple, C for crumble or even P for pudding).

The list of ingredients for Guards’ Pudding is unprepossessing – brown breadcrumbs, bicarb, jam, sugar, butter and egg (no flour).  As the pudding steams, a marvellous alchemy takes place and the end result is moist, light and delicious. I think it’s best served with proper custard. You can buy really good ready prepared egg custard now from Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose to name but three supermarkets.  This is a great help for the busy cook preparing Sunday dinner which is the preferred meal of the week for a pudding.

Culinary alchemy of a different kind results in the lemon layer pudding mixture separating into a light sponge and lemon sauce after being gently baked in a water bath.

Here’s the pudding fresh out of the oven luxuriating in its hot water bath:

And here is a picture showing the  pool of lemon sauce that magically appears during baking.  All it needs now is a spoonful of extra thick single cream to set off all  that lovely lemony sharpness.

Recipe for Guards’ Pudding

From The Four Seasons Cookery Book by Margaret Costa.  Serves 4.

Ingredients

4 oz (115g) butter
4 oz (115g) soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raspberry or strawberry jam
4 oz (115g) fresh brown breadcrumbs (some crust left on is OK)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
butter for pudding basin

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, and blend in the jam. At this point, the mixture will be a disgusting pink colour but don’t worry. Add the breadcrumbs, the beaten eggs and the bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a very little warm water. Mix well, turn into a buttered pudding basin and steam for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours. Set the basin in the lowest possible oven for a few minutes before turning out and then, if you can wait, let it stand a minute or two longer to firm it.

Recipe for Lemon Layer Pudding

This recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.  Serves 4.

Ingredients

grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
2 oz (50g) softened butter
4 oz (100g) golden caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 oz (5og) self raising flour
1/2 pint (300ml) milk

Grease a 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity ovenproof dish.  A white porcelain soufflé dish looks clean and elegant if you have one. Cream together the lemon rind, butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks one by one, then the flour, continuing to beat well to combine. Whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Fold a tablespoon or so of the whisked egg whites together with the lemon juice and a little of the milk into the mixture.  Continue in this way with the milk and egg white until it is all incorporated into the mix.  It will look like a cake mix which has gone badly wrong at this stage – runny and curdled.  Don’t worry, this is how it’s meant to look. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, then stand the dish in a shallow tin of cold water (a roasting tin is ideal) and bake in the oven at 180 degrees C (350 degrees F or gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown, set and spongy.

If you have any traditional British pudding recipes you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you – please send me a reply.

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