Pud, pud, and more pud…
I do love a bit of baking – and I definitely love puddings, of pretty much all descriptions – so I’m as happy as a pig in salted caramel you-know-what with the publication of Puddings, a new book devoted entirely to the noble art of the pud.
Johnny Shepherd, sweet-toothed baking genius behind The Pudding Stop in St Albans (not been there? You must) has brought together all his best recipes in his very first cookbook. And it’s a doozie.
It’s a proper old fashioned celebration of the best of British puddings – or desserts if you want to get all fancy. There’s a focus on the puds you’ll remember from childhood, but brought gloriously up to date, and on using seasonal British produce – rhubarb, bilberries, apples, quinces, and so on.
And – in a sugary contribution to the Europe debate – he even makes the daring claim that it was an English cook, not a French chef, who invented crème brûlée. Not that we’ve anything against French chefs, of course… And ‘burnt cream’ probably doesn’t sound quite as appetising.
I’ve had a go at a couple of the recipes in the book. (I know, the things I’ll do in the name of research…) I tried the mincemeat tart from ‘Festive’ chapter – crisp pastry, a layer of caramelised mincemeat, a layer of clementine-flavoured marscapone, and a topping of almonds and demerara – which was delicious (even though my eldest refused to eat more than a couple of mouthfuls on the grounds that it as ‘too Christmassy’ – his loss, for sure, and the rest of the family’s enthusiastic gain).
Then I had a go at the lemon polenta squares – one of the various gluten-free options among the recipes – which are dense and squidgy with a ridiculously lemony syrup on top. They are amazing and had Mr C making some very contented noises as we scoffed them with a cuppa.
I’ve got a load of other pages marked to try – the ‘Chocolate’ chapter alone should see me through months of baking – and there are some great fruity ones, too, for when there are berries and apples and rhubarb in season. There’s a proper English trifle recipe – making your own sponge, jelly and custard, then assembling it with a whipped-cream dome on top.
And the recipes are clearly written, they’re not using all sorts of ingredients, and the ones I’ve tried have worked our perfectly – which says more about the recipe than it does about my cooking… I used his shortcrust pastry recipe for the tart I made, and for some jam tarts, and it’s probably the best pastry I’ve ever made. Seriously.
One of the things I like in particular was the comment in the introduction that yes, puddings are full of sugar and cream and all that, but they’re treats – and that making your own means you’re avoiding all the preservatives and other nasties that mass-produced puds have to put in there to extend their shelf life. This way, you know what’s going in, without having to peer at the small print.
There’s a real joy, too, throughout the book. It’s a celebration, an ode to the pleasure and comfort that a good pud can provide. Whether it’s a dense and delicious steamed chocolate pud, a light and creamy posset, or a Sunday-lunch plum crumble, there’s something home about puddings, isn’t there?
Puddings is out today, and you can pick it up on Amazon. Or – and this is definitely the better option – you can pop into The Pudding Stop, and treat yourself to a copy along with something sticky and delicious at the same time. Or, if you’re near St Albans station, the Pudmobile has copies available, too, alongside their takeaway treats.