Last week we cooked dinner for our visiting Canadian friends, for dessert Rob and I thought we’d try a pudding we hadn’t cooked in a while. A steamed quince jelly pudding. It may be old-fashioned but it is a doddle to make really, empty a cup (or if you’re like me the whole jar) of quince jelly into the bottom of a pudding basin, then make a sponge batter in the mix master and pour it over the top. Butter the lid and pop it into a pot of boiling water. Leave it happily bubbling for 2 hours, a perfect dinner party dessert.
There is a certain degree of theatre to the unveiling of the pudding. We always like to do it in front of the table. I always get a little nervous just before we take the lid off, only because the progress of the pudding is hidden from view, so I was happy to see the golden sponge had risen right up to the lid. Rob slowly inverted it onto the serving plate then started the pudding strip tease, gently easing the basin up; at first there is a trickle of the glistening ruby red jelly, then it cascades down the side of the domed sponge (if you are lucky it stays on the plate!) We served it with just churned homemade vanilla ice cream; in my opinion few desserts can beat that first mouthful of moist tender crumbed pudding with its readymade quince jelly sauce and melting creamy ice cream.
It was certainly appreciated around the dinner table last week. But my Catholic upbringing compels me to confess my first attempt at the same pudding. A few years ago I offered to cook a Father’s day lunch at my parents’ house. I knew he loved steamed puddings so decided to cook one. After preparing the batter I looked around for a pudding basin. No metal or ceramic basins could be seen – hmm, then I spied a Tupperware container in the perfect shape of a pudding. I’m not sure why I didn’t think more carefully about this choice of vessel, but I poured the jelly in the base covered it with the batter popped on the lid and then placed it carefully in the pot of boiling water. Feeling smug with how organised I was, I washed up then thought I’d just check the pudding. No surprises here – the plastic lid was rapidly melting into my pudding. Panicking I grabbed a tea towel and started trying to extract the basin, of course in the midst of this the steam burnt my exposed arms and reacting to the pain I managed to drop the basin onto the floor, the batter, jelly and melted plastic quickly spreading across the floor, looking up from this mess I saw that I had dropped the tea towel onto the hotplate and it had caught fire! After muttering some loud expletives, I set about tidying up the whole disastrous mess. Needless to say Dad got to eat Valhalla ice-cream with homemade chocolate sauce for Father’s Day and I invested in a real pudding basin the next week!