Join The Pudding Club
Gill Holcombe is passionate about feeding her kids good food. She grew up before the culture of convenience food took hold - and knows how to cook. Having brought up three children on her own for over ten years, she says the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and has three fit, healthy teenagers with loads of energy - and no fillings in their teeth.
Pudding as an everyday thing fell out of fashion years ago, which is hardly surprising when we’re obsessed with healthy eating, more women than ever are out at work and you can already buy everything from profiteroles to pavlova in the supermarket.
But it can’t be right that the nation who gave the world spotted dick and treacle tart (not to mention apple pie, which is English whatever they think in America) should give up homemade puddings altogether and settle for a gloomy future of frozen lemon meringue pie, so if you think you haven’t got time for puddings, think again. Plenty of desserts take only a minimal amount of time and effort, and there’s nothing like the promise of something sweet for getting kids to dutifully eat more of the things you really want them to have first.
Having said that, desserts and puddings, or whatever you want to call them, aren’t necessarily an unhealthy option either, especially when they contain a lot of fruit, and as a truly satisfying comfort food they do a lot less damage to your diet than a family-sized bar of chocolate or a bag of doughnuts.
Try and make puddings a part of your life; even once a week is better than never. Your family and friends will love you for it.
Pour evaporated milk (Carnation) over fresh and tinned fruit puddings as a cheap and easy alternative to cream or custard.
Buy golden syrup and maple syrup in plastic bottles for easy squeezing.
Cool jelly quickly by adding slightly less cold water to the melted jelly and popping 2 or 3 ice cubes in.
Make sour cream by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a small carton (5 floz/150 ml) of single cream.
Make chocolate custard simply by mixing 1 oz (25 g) of chocolate into warm custard, readymade or instant; or melt the chocolate in the microwave first and stir it in.
A basic short crust pastry is all you’ll ever need for most pies and flans; add 1 level tablespoon of caster or icing sugar to make it slightly sweeter – and replace half the quantity of fat with lard, which gives the pastry more of a melt-in-the-mouth quality, if you want to. The quantities given below make enough pastry to line a shallow, loose-bottomed 8” (15cm) flan tin.
SHORT CRUST PASTRY:
6 oz (150 g) plain flour
3 oz (75 g) butter or margarine (or 1 1/2 oz [33 g] each of butter and lard)
1 heaped tbsp caster sugar (or icing sugar)
4 tbsp cold water (approx)
- 1.Sift the flour into a very large mixing bowl and rub in the butter or margarine in small pieces until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- 2.Stir in the sugar, make a well in the centre, then add the water or milk, gradually incorporating the flour by pinching the mixture together with the fingers of one hand. Knead the pastry inside the bowl for a minute to make a firm, smooth dough.
- 3.Wrap the dough in foil or a double layer of clingfilm and chill in the fridge for half an hour before turning the dough onto a floured surface and rolling it out to fit the lightly greased flan tin, or pie dish.
- 4.Prick the pastry with a fork several times before adding the filling. If the pastry case is to be baked ‘blind’ – i.e. on its own so the filling can be added when the pastry is cold – cover with a circle of greaseproof paper then weigh the paper down with a handful of dried beans, lentils or rice.
- 5.Bake in the oven, Gas Mark 4 (180°C) for 10–15 minutes. (Remove dried beans and greaseproof paper and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes to crisp the pastry.)
If you also have an irrational fear of recipes containing gelatine, these are the cheesecakes for you...
If you can’t find the exact quantities of cherries and cream cheese mentioned here, get the nearest sizes up, and if the cherries aren’t pitted, remove the stones yourself by making a little cut down one side of the fruit with a sharp knife and gently squeezing the stone out.
An even easier option is to buy a tin of cherry pie filling, mix half with the beaten cream cheese and spread the remainder over the top of the cheesecake, thinning it with a little fruit juice first, if need be.
FOR THE BISCUIT BASE:
8 large digestive biscuits, crushed by hand
2 oz (50 g) butter
FOR THE CHEESECAKE:
15 oz (425 g) tin of black cherries in heavy syrup
1 rounded tbsp cornflour
1 heaped tbsp sugar (white or soft brown)
2 tbsp Amaretto (or similar liqueur)
1/2 lb (300 g) tub of soft cream cheese
- 1.Lightly grease a round, loose-bottomed cake tin, approx 6”/7” (12 cm)
- 2.Make the biscuit base by melting the butter in a saucepan and adding the crushed digestives. (You can make biscuit crumbs in a food processor, but it only takes a minute to crush the biscuits up in a large bowl using your thumbs or a china mug.)
- 3.Press the biscuit mixture into the prepared tin and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- 4.Separate the cherries from the syrup and cut the cherries in half.
- 5.Pour the syrup into a saucepan with the liqueur, add the cornflour and stir quickly and constantly over a medium heat for a few minutes until the syrup becomes thick and smooth, like a gel.
- 6.Remove the pan from the heat, add the cherries and mix together.
- 7.To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth (only takes a few seconds with a wooden spoon), then add half the cherries and blend with the beaten cream cheese.
- 8.Spread the filling over the chilled biscuit base and top with the remainder of the cherries.
- 9.Chill for at least an hour and serve with single cream.
This cheesecake works well with a pastry or a biscuit base (use a readymade sweet pastry flan case if you don’t have time to make one) and, needless to say, you can use any flavour jelly with a mixture of whatever tinned and fresh fruit you like.
1 lemon jelly
1/2 lb (300 g) tub of soft cream cheese
2 tbsp crème fraiche
8 large digestive biscuits
2 oz (50 g) butter
- 1.Put the jelly in a measuring jug with 1/2 pint (250 ml) of boiling water and stir for a few minutes until dissolved. Don’t top up with cold water in the usual way; add 2 or 3 ice cubes to cool the jelly down quickly, then leave it to stand for 20–30 minutes. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any ice; just leave the jelly to stand in a cool place for the same amount of time.)
- 2.Put the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl with the cool jelly and crème fraiche and beat it all together with an electric hand whisk for half a minute until smooth.
- 3.Spread the filling evenly over the base and leave to set in the fridge for at least an hour.
- 4.Decorate the top of the cheesecake with thin slices of strawberry, kiwi fruit and tinned peaches – or whatever else you fancy.
Not a footballer’s wife, Cheshire Tart is actually a baked cheesecake; very rich, cheap, and easy to make...but still not a gelatine leaf in sight.
FOR THE BASE:
8 large digestive biscuits
4 ginger biscuits
1/2 tsp ginger
3 oz (75 g) butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
FOR THE FILLING:
1/2 lb (300 g) tub of soft cream cheese
4 oz (100 g) Cheshire Cheese, finely grated
3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp natural yoghurt or crème fraiche
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1.Make the biscuit base in the usual way; crushing the biscuits by hand, then mixing thoroughly with the melted butter and golden syrup.
- 2.Lightly grease and base-line a loose-bottomed 6”/7” (12 cm) cake tin and press the biscuit mixture into the tin.
- 3.Separate the eggs into two large mixing bowls and add the grated Cheshire cheese, cream cheese, yoghurt or crème fraiche, sugar and lemon juice to the bowl with the egg yolks.
- 4.First whisk the egg whites (with an electric hand whisk) until they stand up in peaks and all the bubbles have disappeared; then whisk together the ingredients in the second bowl.
- 5.Gently fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture until the ingredients are combined, then pour the mixture onto the biscuit base and bake in a cool oven, Gas Mark 2 (150°C) for 45 minutes–1 hour, until the top is firm and set and slightly golden.
- 6.Allow the cheesecake to cool in the tin for about an hour, then run a sharp knife around the edge and carefully lift it out.
- 7.Dust the top of the cheesecake with icing sugar and serve with fresh fruit and single cream.
You could say baked apples are a quick-fix pudding; they take no more than five minutes to prepare and you can put them in the oven as you’re taking the main course out, so they’ll be ready to eat straight after dinner. (They also make a nice change for a weekend breakfast with yoghurt and honey or crème fraiche.)
If you haven’t got an apple corer, remove the centre of the apples by putting them on a hard, flat surface and pushing a sharp knife through each one four times in a square shape around the stalk, making sure you go right to the bottom every time; then turn the apple over and repeat the process from the other end. Now use your thumb to push the core out.
(Stick two or three cloves into the apple and remove after cooking, for extra flavour.)
1 large Bramley cooking apple per person with:
sultanas or mixed fruit with mixed spice and brown sugar or chopped dried apricots with golden syrup and cinnamon or dried cranberries and caster sugar.
- 1.Wash the apples, remove the cores and score a line all the way around each apple, halfway down and about 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep.
- 2.Mix the fruit with the sugar and spices in a small bowl.
- 3.Place the apples in an ovenproof dish and stuff with as much of the fruit as you can get in the middle of each apple, scattering whatever’s left over around the base.
- 4.Cover loosely with foil and bake in a moderate oven, Gas Mark 4 (180°C) for about 40 minutes, or until the apples are just soft. Remove the cloves and serve with cream, crème fraiche, evaporated milk or custard.
To me, crumbles are the perfect alternative to pies, because you get the same amount of satisfaction and enjoyment from making and eating them for less than half the effort – brilliant.
Instead of rhubarb use a similar quantity of apples, or apples and blackberries, or a combination of apples and tinned fruit – cherries, mixed summer fruits or apricots, for example – and add mixed spice, cinnamon or ground cloves, according to taste. (But unlike some people whose secret is safe with me, I haven’t got the cheek to make an apple crumble with tinned apples and put cloves in it...)
As for the crumble mixture; add a couple of tablespoons of porridge oats or crunched-up cornflakes, or a smaller spoonful of ground almonds or desiccated coconut if you want to jazz it up a bit.
2 lb (1 kg) rhubarb
8 heaped tbsp plain flour
4 oz (100 g) butter
Sugar: Demerara, soft brown, or white
1 rounded tsp ginger
- 1.Top and tail the rhubarb, wash and cut into inch-long (2 cm) pieces.
- 2.Put the rhubarb in a saucepan with the ginger, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a very little cold water and a modest dollop of golden syrup.
- 3.Simmer gently over a very low heat until the rhubarb is soft and the liquid syrupy (around 20 minutes), then transfer to a deep-sided ovenproof dish.
- 4.Make the crumble topping by sifting the flour into a large bowl, then adding the butter in small pieces and rubbing in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- 5.Stir another couple of tablespoons of sugar into the crumble mixture; loosely cover the fruit with the crumble without pressing it down too hard, and bake in the oven, Gas Mark 5 (190°C) for about 20 minutes, until the topping is slightly golden.
POOR MAN’S APPLE PIE
1 1/2 lb (750 g) English eating apples
- 1.Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and put a layer of fruit across the bottom of a medium-sized ovenproof dish.
- 2.Add a layer of cornflakes, then sprinkle over 1 dessert spoonful of sugar and dot with a few small pieces of butter.
- 3.Add another layer of apple followed by the same amount of sugar and butter, building up the layers as described above until you run out of fruit.
- 4.Bake in a moderate oven, Gas Mark 4 (180°C) for about 20 minutes, until the apple is soft.
JIMMY YOUNG TRIFLE
Jimmy Young had a hugely popular ‘Listener’s Recipe’ spot on his BBC radio show for more years than most of us can remember, which is where my mum got the idea for this banana and orange trifle (originally supplied by Mrs Audrey Hurst from Bramley in Surrey), known for ever afterwards in our house as Jimmy Young Trifle.
It’s especially good if you like the idea of trifle but can’t stand cold custard.
1 small tin of mandarin segments
2 small bananas
1 orange jelly
1/2 pint (250 ml) boiling water
1 swiss roll or an angel cake
1/4 pint (125 ml) evaporated milk
- 1.Put the jelly in a measuring jug with 1/2 pint (250 ml) of boiling water, stir until dissolved then add the juice from the mandarin segments, and 2 or 3 ice cubes if you have them, to make the jelly up to just 3/4 pint (375 ml). Allow to cool for about 10 minutes while you arrange the pieces of cake (or a packet of trifle sponges) in a large glass bowl with the mandarin segments and chopped bananas.
- 2.Pour 1/2 pint (250 ml) of the cool jelly over the sponge and fruit and refrigerate.
- 3.Leave the remaining 1/4 pint (125 ml) of jelly to cool completely – say another 5 minutes – then add 1/4 (125 ml) pint of evaporated milk to the jug and whisk by hand for a couple of minutes until frothy. (The level of liquid in the jug should now be near the 3/4 pint (375 ml) mark.)
- 4.Carefully pour the milk jelly over the trifle and return to the fridge to set for a couple of hours. Serve the trifle as it is, or finish it off with whipped cream and decorate with fruit or grated chocolate.
BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING
10 slices of medium or thinly sliced white bread, crusts removed
3 egg yolks
Vanilla essence, few drops
3–4 heaped tbsp caster sugar
1/2 pint (250 ml) milk
Small carton of single cream
1/2 mug of sultanas
- 1.Remove crusts, lightly butter the bread on both sides, then cut the slices in half diagonally and arrange them in an ovenproof dish (preferably Pyrex).
- 2.Wash and dry the sultanas and sprinkle over the bread.
- 3.Warm the milk and single cream together in a saucepan while you beat the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla essence in a bowl, then whisk in the warm milk and cream.
- 4.Pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread and sultanas and gently press down with a fork or a potato masher before leaving the pudding to soak for up to half an hour (no less than 10 minutes).
- 5.Cover the dish with foil and place in a large roasting tin half-filled with hot water (make sure there’s at least 1 inch (2 cm) between the level of water and the top of the dish) and bake in the oven, Gas Mark 4 (180°C) for about 45 minutes.
- 6.Remove the foil and allow the bread & butter pudding to cool for about 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar. Serve with thick cream.
This is no match for Ben & Jerry’s, but it’s still pretty good – especially compared with the cheapest toxic supermarket own-brand stuff – and can be made (almost) as easily without a proper ice-cream making machine.
Make it around the same time as the bread & butter pudding (see above) and you’ll be able to use up the leftover egg whites. (The really lazy way is to crush up four or five meringue nests to use instead of egg whites.)
14 oz (425 g) carton of ready-made custard
1/2 lb (225 g) of fresh raspberries
1/2 a large (500 g) carton of natural yoghurt
1 small carton of double cream (approx 125 ml)
3 egg whites (or 4–5 meringue nests)
- 1.Briefly blend the raspberries to a rough puree or squash them up a bit with a spoon.
- 2.Whip the double cream in a large mixing bowl for a minute until it starts to thicken, but is still quite loose and sloppy, then stir in the custard and raspberries, mixing well to spread the fruit around and add colour.
- 3.Add the crushed meringue nests, or whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl and fold them into the mixture.
- 4.Transfer the ice-cream into the largest-size freezer bag (or a 2 litre lunch box) and put it in the freezer for about 45 minutes.
- 5.After 45 minutes, take the ice-cream out (stand the freezer bag in a bowl to give it some support) then stir the ice-cream with a metal spoon, or whisk it for a few seconds on the lowest setting before returning to the freezer.
- 6.After an hour, take the ice-cream out again and repeat STEP 5; breaking the ice-cream up to prevent ice crystals forming.
- 7.Repeat this process three or four times – which is why it’s better to start making the ice-cream in the morning – then leave the ice-cream in the freezer, taking it out to soften up a bit about half an hour before serving.