Solidarity Pudding

I took a long walk with a dear friend this morning and he commented that of all the words to crystallize the meaning of friendship, solidarity is perhaps the best. So this week’s post is an Ode to Solidarity. As Laurence J. Peter said so wisely, ‘you can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.’

I love the substantial, comforting heft of the word solidarity. The mere sound of it would protect against the coldest of winter winds and the bleakest of times, just like the best of friends.

So here is my Solidarity Pudding – a warming apple and almond confection – to be served to your closest allies and greatest defenders.

Solidarity Pudding

Serves 6 Friends

6 eating apples – Royal Gala are good for this

40g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

140g butter

120g caster sugar

2 eggs

120g ground almonds

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

Handful of flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Peel, core and slice the apples and mix with the soft brown sugar, the five spice powder and 20g of the butter, which you’ve melted. Place the fruit in a baking dish around 18 cm in diameter or similar.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add them gradually to the butter mixture, mixing thoroughly as you go. Stir the almonds and flour together and fold gently into the butter, sugar and eggs. Pour the mixture over the fruit, scatter the flaked almonds on top and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes or until golden brown. The pudding should still be a little gooey in the middle and served with cream.

Light the candles and eat your substantial, nourishing Solidarity Pudding while you laugh like drains about old times.

Don’t walk in front of me

I may not follow

Don’t walk behind me

I may not lead

Walk beside me

And just be my friend

Albert Camus

Rice pudding in stilettos

I’ve known how to make my Granny’s rice pudding forever. It was the first recipe I could recite by heart, not counting the Fried Bread Coated in Tomato Ketchup I created as a six year old to earn my Hostess Badge in the Brownies.

Granny hated being old enough to be called anything other than Peggy. So that’s how I always think of her. Peggy made a rice pudding most days, using a Pyrex bowl that was scoured and scratched with age, like a skating rink on a frenetic Friday night.

Into the misted bowl went 6 teaspoons of pudding rice, 6 teaspoons of sugar, 1 pint of full cream milk and a grating of nutmeg. The oven door was opened and the bowl filled with swirling white liquid disappeared inside. Two and a quarter hours later it emerged in triumph, a sweet, rich, creamy confection with the thinnest of brown, toasted tops. Rice pudding makes me think of home, steamed-up kitchen windows, laughing like a drain, dancing on the table and shocking pink lipstick … with a slightly mournful top note of past times.

Peggy’s recipe is still delicious and I often make it, but I’m going to give you a posher version in her honour. Peggy was glamorous, showy and full of fun. And she loved anything posh. She was a devotee of the eyebrow-pencil-down-the-back-of-the-legs alternative to unaffordable seamed nylon stockings. She had a collection of trompe-l’oeil polo neck jumpers that were nothing but a ribbed rollover neck, with a mini oblong flap attached front and back that she tucked into a patterned shirt – think prototype Versace. With so little to them, the fake jumpers were cheaper than their genuine rivals so she could afford to buy several colours.

To Peggy, the epitome of luxury was being able to do something ‘just for show’. So in her memory, here’s a rice pudding with glamour. A rice pudding in stilettos.

Posh Rice Pudding

Serves 4

6 teaspoons of pudding rice

6 teaspoons vanilla sugar

Half pint full cream milk

Half pint single cream

1 pinch saffron

Quarter cup sultanas soaked in quarter cup warm pudding wine or sweet sherry for an hour

Half cup unsalted pistachio nuts

Freshly grated nutmeg

Drain the sultanas and drink the sherry if you feel in the mood. Combine everything apart from the nutmeg and the nuts in an oven proof pudding bowl large enough to leave a one inch gap at the top.

Top with the finely grated nutmeg and then place in the oven for two and a quarter hours at 150 degrees C. The rice should be soft, but the mixture creamy rather than sticky.

As you serve it, finely grate another shower of nutmeg over each bowl and scatter a handful of crushed pistachio nuts on top.

Eat with your eyes closed while listening to Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable. This last part of the recipe is most important.

Polenta and pear crossover deluxe

Lemon polenta cake means it’s birthday time in our house. A sack of polenta has a solid heft; plump, sturdy and chirpily yellow. You could have a good pillow fight with a bag of polenta.

But, birthdays aside, sometimes a pudding is what you need. So this is my polenta cake/pear pudding crossover deluxe.

I’ve adapted the base of this recipe from the River Cafe’s lemon polenta cake. The original is a vast, delicious mattress of a cake; my version is less of a duvet, more of a blanket.

225g butter (If it’s unsalted, add a pinch of salt. If your butter is slightly salted, which mine always is, just omit the pinch)

225g vanilla sugar

225g ground almonds

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 eggs

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 2 lemons

115g polenta

1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix the butter and sugar thoroughly together. Stir in the almonds and vanilla extract and add the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the lemon juice and zest, along with the polenta and the baking powder. Pour the mixture into a buttered flan dish, about 10 inches in diameter. Peel, core and thinly slice the pears.

Poke the slices of pear into the polenta mixture, in two concentric circles.

Bake at 160 degrees C for about thirty minutes. The top should be a rich dark brown and the pears soft.

Enjoy for breakfast, lunch and tea – if you’re lucky, all on the same day.