From Ngaire’s journal 11th June 1950
Butter and petrol rationing ended last Monday (on the King’s Birthday). Butter is now 2/- per lb but I do not mind, as I shall now be able to do all my own baking. For the past 8 years I have bought a tremendous amount of cake for morning and afternoon tea for the men, which has been expensive.’
I am rapidly coming to realise that butter (rivalled only by salt) is the secret to everything. At this rate, we’ll all be hospitalised before the year’s out. In fact, this might be an appropriate time to mention that my great-grandmother Emily, my grandmother Ngaire, my great-aunt Phyllis and my mother Caroline all had their gall bladders removed before they turned 25.
My organs are all still intact (and, I think, in reasonable working order) and it’s been freezing today, so I’ve decided to cook a proper pudding. That is, a sweet, sticky, cooked pudding. (Everything served after the main meal was called ‘pudding’ when I was a child, even stewed fruit and ice cream, but a real pudding is baked or steamed, served warm and packed with butter.)
The only small problem is that I’m really meant to be on a bit of a diet at the moment — what Granny used to call ‘slimming’. Ngaire was a bit ambivalent about diets. She was always on one herself but, as a dedicated cook, was very irritated by anyone else wanting to lose weight. I remember her telling me as a teenager that I should be very careful about trying to be too slim, as it was scientifically proven that people need a reserve of fat for the winter. That may have been the case in Christchurch (though I doubt it) but honestly, I think I was pretty safe in Warracknabeal.
Anyway, it strikes me that there are a few ways to tackle slimming, one of which is to feed everybody else so much pudding that you start to look slim in comparison. The other option is moderation — I’ll just have a spoonful.
Ngaire’s recipe book is so full of puddings it’s hard to choose, but this seems like a steamed pudding sort of evening, so it’s Agatha Pudding. I only wish I knew who Agatha was.
115 gms butter (melted), 80 gms sugar, ¼ tspn bicarb soda
1 egg (lightly beaten), 170 gms flour, 2 good tbsp jam
Grease a medium-sized pudding bowl with butter. Mix sugar and soda into melted butter. Add egg and whisk in well. Fold in sifted flour then stir through jam gently (you want to see lines of jam – not combine it too much).
Put mixture into bowl and cover with two layers of grease-proof paper. Tie securely with string. Put in a saucepan with water coming no more than half way up the bowl. Put lid on saucepan and steam gently until skewer comes away cleanly. Mine took 40 minutes (Ngaire’s recipe says 2 hours – she must have cooked it on a very low heat).
Tip: Be sure to check the saucepan from time to time so it doesn’t boil dry (you might need to top up the water).
The secret, aside from butter, is to use delicious home-made jam. I used quince, but any type will work just as well. Servings need only be small but cream is essential!
P.S. Dear Mum. I don’t know how you managed to put pudding on the table every night — even when it was ‘just’ stewed fruit and ice cream. x