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.

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

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.


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.


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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