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.