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In Praise of Pudding

December 20, 2010


Pudding is a great word. As a Midlander, I have a particular affection for words with nice dumpy “u” sounds in the middle. “Pudding” sounds so much friendlier than the more middle class equivalents: “dessert” or “sweet”. (I actually remember being disappointed in early life to discover that the “sweet trolley” in a restaurants wasn’t a trolley loaded up with fizzy cola bottles and sherbet dib-dabs).

 Pudding to me (and most speakers of British English, I think)  is still the generic term for “something sweet eaten after the main meal” .

I feel like the word “pudding” with it’s fat Derbyshire-accented middle, definitely suggests something equally dumpy and basic – a nice big stodgy carb-laden comforting portion of something .

These are the kind of foods we’re a bit afraid of these days.  Everyone’s scared of carbs, nobody wants a big portion of anything, no-one eats wheat or sugar, and apparently we’re all supposed to be eating more raw food as well, rather than big piles of steaming slop.

Something that was once a regular feature after every family meal is now sadly quite rare. Of course, in the past, when everyone had much more physical outdoorsy jobs – this kind of food was a little bit more appropriate – people needed all those carbs, sugar and fat to keep them going, and if you’d been out in the cold all day, as opposed to sitting in a heated office, a big portion of steaming sticky toffee pudding was probably just the thing.

Also, maybe people just don’t have the energy, after worrying about the main meal, to think about making a pudding as well. If you want something sweet, it’s easier (and less fattening) to reach for a Muller Light.

But  surely there are still enough people suffering from custard-based nostalgia to ensure a future for the pudding.

 If it’s a Sunday afternoon in the depths of winter and you’ve been out sledging, or building the world’s biggest snowman – there’s a very easy, very cupboard surprise pudding you can make with minimum stress, virtually no forethought, and very little time.

Enter the crumble. It’s kind of like a pie, but for lazy people who can’t be arsed to make pastry.

When I proposed making this at my friends house for a party, she got rather stressed about the prospect (I’m not sure why, maybe because it sounded messy, or just like a lot of effort for little reward), but we were all pleased with the results – a very girly sweet, pink, brandy laced crumble perfect for accompanying red wine and a Twilight based board game (Yes, I know I am nearly thirty, but is admiring pictures of teenage werewolves really wrong in some way?).

The main “recipe” you need is for the crumble topping (and even that is adaptable), the filling can be pretty much anything you want.

Keep it simple by just pouring a load of slightly mashed up fresh berries into a dish before adding a topping, or get a bit more fancy by making a sauce as I did below. Add, subtract and substitute ingredients as you see fit, or do something completely different. It’s quite difficult to end up with anything truly inedible when it comes to crumble – although it’s tempting to see how far you can go with the principle. I’m considering trying a chocolate mousse crumble at some point. 

Basic Crumble Recipe, for the topping (these quantities will fill a tray about the size of a sheet of A4 paper, so make more or less as you need)

75g flour (any kind)

75g butter or butter-like spread

75g sugar

75g oats

use your fingers to rub the flour and oats into the butter until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs

Mix in the sugar, with your hands or a spoon.

That’s it. I also like to add cinnamon or other spices to mine, at the same time as the sugar. You can also add any kind of ground nuts, vanilla sugar – whatever you fancy really, just keep it fairly dry. If you want to make a savoury crumble (to fill with vegetables in a sauce, for example), just leave out the sugar and increase the quantities of everything else by 25g.

Then you spread this mixture, as thick or as thin as you like, over your filling, and bake in the oven at about 200C for 20 minutes.

Girly Crumble Filling

As I said, you can use anything you want, but in case you were curious about this…

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbs flour

some sweet-ish apples, peeled and diced

some tins or jars of raspberries in juice


more cinnamon

Put all the ingredients except the brandy in a pan (no need to add extra water, and you may need to drain some of the liquid off if the raspberries have a lot of juice. Save it for something else). Cook over medium heat until the apples are nice and tender (test with a fork). Add as much brandy as you like before pouring into the dish and covering with the crumble topping.

 If you’re a custard fan (hate to be a heretic, but I prefer cream) – it goes pretty well with any crumble – except the savoury one, that would be disgusting – you could make your own, but the powdered stuff is usually pretty adequate.

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