Those of us who live in the climatic zones of Canberra and Katoomba are currently freezing their bloody tits off, and there’s nothing more warming than a very nice pudding. Here is a recipe that really hits the spot for winter. It tastes divine. It invokes memories of grandmotherly warmth (at least for those of us who had grandmothers who could cook. Mine couldn’t, so for me it invokes memories of wishing I had one of those other grandmothers. You know, the nice dainty ones, who could cook). It is quick and requires no special ingredients. And did I mention it tastes divine?
This has been adapted from the PWMU – short for the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union – Cookbook, first printed 1904 and reprinted at least 18 times in the interval between the first edition and this one, which dates from 1973, just before Presbyterians became Uniting Churchies.
This particular volume was pocketed when I cleaned out a blind poet’s house. I figured she wouldn’t notice it was gone. Now it’s subject to a custody battle because my ex says he was closer to the blind poet than I was and it came from his mother’s house anyway. I am, so far, resisting all entreaties to return it.
Part of the reason I love it because it shows how far we have come since the culinary dark ages that beset the country between 1788 and Margaret Fulton. It has ‘International Recipes’ – only one example from any country, ordered alphabetically, by country rather than recipe. ‘Savouries’, which might be called hors’ d’ouevres elsewhere, include Angels on Horseback, Curried Eggs, Devilled Kidneys, Scots Eggs and, completing the unholy circle, Devils on Horseback. It also contains recipes for Tripe and Onions, Boiled Fowl and Jugged Hare.
All this means it is a boon for anyone hunting traditional recipes. It’s got loads of good soup, sauce and stew recipes, which show a bit of French influence, as you would expect. It contains the recipes my beleaguered home economics teachers tried to impart to me back in my country childhood, which I never wrote down, even though I have never forgotten how good they tasted. I consult it most often when baking or preparing puddings. My faves are Golden Syrup Dumplings, Kiss Biscuits, and this one, which is, as I have noted, a bit of an adaptation.
Lemon Delicious Pudding
Single girls should know that the production of one of these desserts weakens the knees of red blooded males but they only take 10 minutes to put together and you can bake them while you eat the main and linger over the wine. All you require is some familiarity with bringing egg whites to a stiff peak, and folding things in gently (you see, this is a seductive pudding).
Firstly, get your oven nice and moderately warm – somewhere between 150 and 180 degrees, depending on the ferocity or otherwise of your beast. Get a soufflé or deep pie dish or bowl and butter it liberally.
Then grab your blender/food processor/mix master or, if you have neither, a spoon and bowl and cream together 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of butter. While you are doing that, take a lemon and grate all the rind off it. Chuck the rind in with the sugar and butter so it’s macerated (and smells divine). Then add ¼ cup of self-raising flour. Juice the lemon, and put all the juice in with the sugar mix and add a cup of milk – lite milk is fine.
Then carefully separate two eggs. Because I know many people are stumped by this instruction I shall explain. Crack the egg over a bowl just once and use your fingers to prize the shell in half, catching the yolk in one half. Tip the shell until the white falls into the bowl, and pass it into the other half as you need to. Be careful not to snag the yolk – your egg whites will never reach their peak (same goes for fat). Use a hand mixer to whip the egg whites sitting in your bowl until they form stiff peaks – the stiffer the better. Then add the yolks to the lemon mix. Here’s a picture, with the lemon mix safely in the blender. Note also wine bottle.
Now fold the blender mixture into the egg whites to lightly disperse the flour and flavourings through the whites. Do this using a spatula or something, so you don’t bash the air out of the egg whites. You don’t need to do any more than this.
Then pour it in the pie dish. You can sit the dish in a bowl of water, but I don’t think you have to. Bake it for about an hour and a half. The top will set, and you’ll have a nice saucy bottom, and it will look something like this – all the lemony goodness is under the crust.
Eat it whenever you feel like it – sometimes they sag as they cool but the point is they are not soufflés and remain delicious. You can refrigerate and reheat if there are leftovers (hah!). What you will find is it’s different every time you cook it, particularly if your oven is cantankerous. Shorter cooking times produce a white fluffy meringue with a nice brown crust and a tart sloppy sauce underneath – if that’s the way you really like them, cut the flour back to two tablespoons, as PWMU recommends. If you cook them longer you’ll get a cakey meringue, like a self-saucing pudding.
By the way, I fell in love with these puddings at Varuna, The Writers’ House, where the famed cook Sheila serves them. She uses limes, and they are inimitably macaroony.