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A totally arbitrary countdown of my top ten puddings, rated according to how much I'd start slavering if I thought one of these was coming my way. You'll notice a lack of the usual illustrations at the moment. That's because I'm setting myself a challenge, to make as many of these as possible, at least once. Success will be followed by a picture of the result, and a report on the medical progress of all who ate it.
So, here they are:-

10 Rice Pudding

I must admit rice pudding has the potential to be horribly unappetising. It walks a tightrope (I hope you now have a surreal mental image of a pudding on a high wire) between a creamy heaven, and a vomit-inducing lumpy gloop. I didn't care for it much when I was young, because I found it hard to appreciate it the way Mum often did it, cold and with a crispy caramel top though I made a point of getting as much of that as possible. And even more because of the way it was served up at school... I don't need to describe this, you've had that experience, haven't you? If you didn't, let me just mention... skin... think about it... A minor technical issue concerns jam. Obviously a matter of personal taste, though for some this is anathema. I sometimes drop a small dollop on top. It gives a little variety to the taste, and the texture as well.

9 Crumble

apple crumbleYes, crumble. Especially apple crumble, though I'd also go for pear crumble, and I wouldn't turn my nose up at rhubarb crumble provided it's cooked by someone who knows what they're doing. We used to get that all the time at school, and it wasn't until years later that I discovered that it could actually be very nice. Anyway, with apple crumble I like to spice it, sometimes with nutmeg, more often with cinnamon, but best of all with cloves. I love that taste. As for the apples, I use the traditional Bramleys, but Coxes are fine. I leave the skins on. Here's my first illustrated report:-
Not a good start! It wasn't bad, it was edible, but as you can see from the burnt state of some of the crumble, there was a minor mistake with the cooking time, or the way I made the mixture. Also, some of the apple chunks weren't as cooked as they could have been. But my guests were polite about it. Since I'd forced Hannah to cut up the apple, I could share the blame :)

8 Banana Fritters

Some would argue about this being a pudding, but in the broad English sense, it is, and also because it suits my desire to celebrate my favourite end of meal delights. Like most things deep fried, banana fritters are ideal freshly done and eaten immediately. I've enjoyed them with cream in the past but frankly you shouldn't, it only spoils them. But I've only rarely done them, because of the sheer mess they make of the kitchen, and the requirement for protective clothing. For what it's worth, I do half bananas for each fritter, and not so much batter that it becomes stodgy or fatty. Can be nice with syrup, or a small amount of cream.

7 Bread and Butter Pudding

Doesn't sound very attractive? No, that's what I used to think, at first. My problem was the concept of the use of old bread, and the little effort expended on making it edible, on the first few occasions I had it. At school probably. But done with love and care, bread and butter pudding turned out to be special and delicious. Seductively creamy - here's another one which really is much better off without cream on top. It's one of those puddings with a great variety of possible methods and ingredients. I've much enjoyed it made with brioche; and my favourite version is by my friend Pat, who makes it with panettone. And I think there may be some alcohol involved too. One personal quirk is that everybody expects fruit, raisins in particular, in some quantity, but I don't care for too much. Which I guess is why I go for the panettone version, which mainly features peel, which I like.

6 Pancakes

Another one demanding industrial scale cleaning for the kitchen afterwards. But delicious! Of course, pancakes come in many varieties, eg. French crêpes and galettes. I love those, and want to learn how to achieve that style. Mine tend to be somewhat thicker, and have in the past been indigestible. I had a thing for using wholemeal flour for everything, and persisted with this in ideological fashion until friends started refusing to co-operate when I served up these really heavy brown pancakes. No more. My preference is for the classic serving up with lemon and sugar or maybe syrup (maple or golden), and sometimes the famous crêpes suzette.

5 Christmas Pudding

These days I can barely eat it, a good one that is, what with it being so rich and filling. Just as well it only comes once a year. You will notice Mum gets invoked for quite a lot of these puddings. It's only natural, what with these sweet comforting things being associated with childhood. Christmas pudding is probably the iconic one for most people, and yes, Mum did indeed make her own. It had to be done some weeks in advance. She would tell us tales of certain ancient relatives who would make it months in advance, and hang it up in the larder to 'mature', no doubt creating new life in its primal soup. She used to hide coins in it - sixpences, and later on, shillings (inflation used to be remorseless) - but I think we were all grateful when she stopped. My teeth were in a bad enough state as it was. On Christmas Day, it was brought in with great ritual, the lights out and a purple flame rising from a brandy soaked sprig of holly on top. And then we chose from cream and brandy butter (which she also made herself), and ate what we could depending on how stuffed we were from the prodigious main turkey dish. Chris would lower the tone a bit by going to fetch one of those cream spray cans. No class! So: am I really going to make a Christmas pudding from scratch? My Mum's was good, but am I really capable of making a decent pudding when I've never done it before? Well, I'll just have to experiment. If I can find a decent recipe somewhere.

4 Baked Cheesecake

There'll be a lot of you only familiar with the thing you usually get served up with in average restaurants, a semi sloppy thing with jam on top. It's much the same as the product sold in packets. Well you can forget that. And keep it away from me. Baked cheesecake is the way it should be done, with genuine cheese and a minimum of flavourings. The best cheesecake I ever had was the baked Polish cheesecake offered by the delicatessen at the bottom of the road when I lived in Manchester. Wonder if they're still there... I've never made one myself, hence why I've put it in the list.
...Aha! As of Christmas 2007, I have made one! Not perfect, but good enough. It went down very well. Personally, it was a bit too sweet, but I'll try again. Especially since I forgot to take a picture. It had the same problem as the crumble above; my oven definitely isn't cooking evenly enough, despite being fan assisted.

3 Bakewell Pudding

First, I have to spell out the fact that this is not Bakewell Tart, in fact it's almost nothing to do with it except for sharing some of the ingredients and flavours. I won't be making it myself, because you can only get it in one of three establishments in the small Derbyshire town of Bakewell, who each jealously guard their recipe. You can buy a Bakewell pudding and take it home, but perfection is to eat it there, served up fresh and piping hot. What is it, exactly? My memory tells me it's vaguely like a pasty, using filo pastry, and inside there's that mysterious almondy... Hmm, it's been a while since I was in that part of Derbyshire. Looks like I'll have to get down there soon, then!

2 Eve's Pudding

Apples baked with sponge on top. Doesn't sound like anything special, does it? It's dead simple, and extremely easy to do; and no I don't spice it up to the extent I do the apple crumble, but I do use more sugar, dark sugar for preference. And I have it with lots of cream. It was a frequent treat during childhood, so there is that factor; but basically it's just a comforting and (very) filling pleasure.
I have made this a few times over the last year or so. But not brilliantly. I think the recipe I'm using doesn't produce enough sponge, for one thing. Easy to do, but a little trickier to make really well.


1 Hot Orange Soufflé

This is the best pudding in the whole world. I thought that when I was small, and have continued thinking it my whole life since. But despite many attempts to make it, I've never had complete success. My best efforts have produced an orange pudding, very tasty, but not an actual soufflé. And I can make soufflés. But this one is challenging, because of the orange (and lemon) juice I suppose. It's absolutely worth it, being a perfect combination of creamy and light, sweet, fruity and scrumptious. And I douse it with cream, which is risky, but works provided you're quick and then wolf it down straight away. Sure, this one is a diet wrecker. It was my Mum's pièce de resistance so as you can imagine apart from its own mouth watering virtues, there are many nostalgic reasons for my wanting to make it. Sadly, she left me with several copies of the recipe, featuring contradictory quantities. But it adds to the fun - making a proper hot orange soufflé will be my principal culinary challenge for now!

And by the summer of 2007, I'd essentially cracked the problem. It's more impressive on certain occasions than others, and you absolutely have to keep your eye on it for the main ten minute spell. But the main change was to ditch the processor and use a hand whisk. For me it's produced the best consistency of egg white, and hence a properly risen pudding. Appreciated by most people; though, interestingly, not so much by children. What's the lesson in that? Right, I'll try and remember my camera next time.

20 February 2006


...your puddings list appears to be somewhat lacking in chocolate.
Helen, 3 February 2008
Yes, this is very true! Er, what can I say... It's not deliberate... But why do I have to be defensive about this?? Why can't I be loud and proud?!! I simply don't go for chocolate. And when out for a meal, given a choice, I don't go for the chocolate option. Anyway, I've often thought that in some establishments, the chef has cynically reckoned that little culinary art is required, all they have to do is throw in chunks of the brown stuff and the chocoholics will be satisfied. I weaned myself off it a few years ago and the funny thing is, on the rare occasions I taste it these days, it doesn't do much for me. But I have no illusions about this dietary self-righteousness - just look at the puddings I've eulogised above - it's fairly obvious I am myself a slave to sponge, sugar, butter, cream...