Food; Lumpy Custard and Sponge: No Wonder Our Puddings Have an Image Problem

By Skidelsky, William | New Statesman (1996), December 6, 2004 | Go to article overview

Food; Lumpy Custard and Sponge: No Wonder Our Puddings Have an Image Problem


Skidelsky, William, New Statesman (1996)


One reason not to be wholly despondent about the onset of winter is that it provides an excuse to increase one's consumption of what must surely be one of the most underrated types of food: the English pudding. I use the word "underrated" advisedly. Although there has been a marked renewal of interest in British cooking in recent years, we seem reluctant to acknowledge our rich heritage of desserts. The reason for this, I suspect, is the near-irreparable damage done to them over the years by school chefs. So many childhoods have been blighted by lumpy custard, spotted dick and chocolate sponge pudding. Is it any wonder that our puddings have an image problem?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Yet, as Mary Norwak points out in her book English Puddings (just reissued by Grub Street Press), we were once famous for our desserts. In the 17th and 18th centuries, our puddings were the envy of Europe. Even the French had a sneaking admiration for things such as custard (creme anglaise to them), trifle and plum pudding. What people admired most about our sweets was their variety. What a shame that today we rarely stray beyond a few favourites. Below, I offer the recipe for my all-time favourite, Sussex pond pudding. This quintessentially English dish is a steamed pudding made using suet. It would be a pity if this puts people off, because Sussex pond pudding is a glorious thing. The suet is used to make a pastry, which encases a filling of butter, brown sugar and whole lemon. …

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