Why British Puddings Are The Best
Date: 20-10-2017 published by Nick Baines
We don’t mess about when it comes to puddings in Great Britain. Come to dinner, and despite the global misconception that you’ll be served tough meat and over boiled veg, you know that dessert will be pretty epic.
America might be known for its penchant for extremes when it comes to sweet dishes, but we Brits have mastered the refinement needed to create an array of regional puddings that demonstrate by themselves, just how rich and diverse our food heritage actually is.
Steamed puddings are probably what we are best known for. Be it Sussex pond pudding, or a simple crowd pleaser like jam roly-poly. Suet-based mixtures have been steamed in pudding bowls for years and when done well, they produce a succulent, moist sponge that sits just the right side of claggy. Spotted dick will always get a snigger from the dinner table, but is undisputedly one of the best vehicles for custard, and as such, does a stonking trade during the early nippy months of autumn.
The fact is, many steamed puddings conjure up a certain nostalgia in people who remember them fondly from their school days. And nostalgia is an emotion intrinsically linked with food service. Heston Blumenthal has forged an impressive part of his career chasing gastronomic triggers of fond memories.
Treacle sponge is another menu-busting dessert, as is its close relative sticky toffee pudding. With both these puddings, it’s sometimes worth adhering to a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to loading with rich caramel flavours, as darker caramel notes in abundance can become a little abrasive on the palette.
Let’s not forget the crumble. Seasonal fruit stewed with sugar and subtle spices, before being baked beneath a rugged crust of flour, butter and sugar. Rhubarb is probably the crumble that screams Britain the loudest, but apples, pears, plums and damson all get their fair share of inclusion. The crumble is a dish that’s open for experimentation. Kitchens often stew the fruit with a more diverse range of ingredients to create more complexly flavoured fillings, such as rhubarb, strawberries and balsamic. Spices are also played with taking apple crumbles in a Middle Eastern direction.
The Bakewell pudding and Bakewell tart (which should not be confused when dining in the Peak District) are another example of regional ingenuity and exceptional flavour pairing, others claim it was the happy accident of a clumsy housekeeper.
Even trifle, when made properly and not garnished with Hundred & Thousands, is actually a pretty satisfying dessert. Grown-up versions are often made with strawberry and champagne jelly that’s been littered with fresh fruit, and sponge fingers that have been soaked in a good quality sherry.
Of course, it’d be criminal not to mention the Christmas pudding. Having been aged, so as to allow the fruit to hydrate and the booze to mellow, this deep flavoured pudding is the ultimate British showpiece. Thankfully, there has been a turn to lighter, more citrusy Christmas puddings as some of the overly boozy, dark, treacly numbers are what turned many away from this much loved Christmas icon.
Restaurants might be quick to list the chocolate lava cake, brownies and ice cream sundaes, but turning to these great British favourites isn’t necessarily stepping back in time. By taking these dishes in new directions, they can be equally at home on a Sunday evening down the British Legion, as they are from a service hatch window in Hackney.
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