Dessert, pudding or just afters.

You know you’ve got a lot of time on your hands when you start doing online quizzes. I never fare very well in the “How many of these places have you been to/ films watched/ books read?” type quiz, but this one was made for me.

A list of puddings / cakes follows. I did reeeally well. 33/40, though I have to admit most of them I ate while under 16 and at school. Happy memory. After a shaky start – I was not a great feeder pre teen – my appetite took off with the help of lunchtime netball and hockey practice at secondary school. I used to race in with my friend Susan and while I didn’t much like the first course, the meat often fatty and stringy, potatoes grey and lumpy, and the gravy was grim, I would demolish several servings of pudding. ( At that age only your mum makes decent gravy and her stew or roasties are unparalleled.) We once had sevenths of treacle pudding and custard. Plain greed but I worked it all off walking to and from school and lots of PE.

These days I rarely make puddings except when people come to dinner because I would just eat them. Mr Thompsononthehill doesn’t really do pud so it would fall to me to oblige. I could do this, though the seventh portion might defeat me. But in the interests of health and my waistline I refrain and we have yoghurt, fruit, and cake, sometimes. Very wholesome.

My repertoire is limited – there’s less margin for error with sweet stuff than savoury and a failure in the cake department is humiliating -so I’ve stuck to crumbles and sticky toffee pudding and artful constructions of shop bought meringue and cream and home grown soft fruit. But recently, down to the Bake Off effect, I have tried to extend my range. I made lemon and polenta cake and I’ve made passion fruit curd (pricey but delicious)  and filled a Victoria sponge with it and mascarpone cheese. It turned something rather dull and vicarage tea party-ish into a proper dessert. Note the transformation of that part of the meal in to dessert. When we were at school we called the midday meal, dinner.

“Are you pack lunches or dinners?”

An early version of the sorting hat for creating  friendship. And after the first course there was afters. Of course. What else?

These days dinner is in the evening, and I am a lady who lunches. It may be a cheese and  onion pasty from Greggs, that was Monday – not much cheese, lots of potato and a thick slice of onion in the centre which kept me company all afternoon. Tuesday was pulled pork in a bap with bbq sauce and bacon and cheese on top (excessive I know but it was freezing out and I was in Margate and had been looking at a bewildering collection of objects at the Turner Contemporary. The cafe was the appropriately named Fat Pig.

Wednesday was a Twirl from the Co op. I can’t remember why but rest assured I made up for it later.

Thursday, some homemade spiced carrot and lentil soup. Yum. Very easy, very healthy, and cheap. Full marks Mrs T.

Anyhow back to dessert. Much as I love eating them, I don’t relish making them. And Christmas looms with visions of steaming puddings which the family don’t much like nor have room for after the turkey, so I asked my cooking guru friend Sue and she told me about this which is what she serves as an alternative:

Great name Nigella, but gelatin??

I have been under the impression for forty years that working with gelatine is like handling dynamite. Fraught with difficulty and danger. It may have been beginner’s luck but it worked and indeed was easy. The demystification of gelatine. ( How many more things have I not tried because I believed I couldn’t do them? Plenty of blog material there.)

I served this to bookgroup and they loved it. Admittedly I did feel extravagant pouring a whole bottle of Chardonnay in a pan and gave a thought to my grandparents who will be turning in their graves – they who never did more than sip a sweet sherry. So roll on Christmas catering, and many more gelatine based desserts. Panacotta maybe or that brain thing which looked so unappealing but might taste nice.Great British Bake Off 2013: best bits (© BBC)

Maybe not.


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