A few days ago I was talking to a friend about the things we miss at uni right now – a bath in a bacteria-free bathroom, having a car to drive around in, having an actual dining table instead of eating off our laps etc. – and she said ‘pudding’…
I did not comprehend this.
‘I just don’t do pudding anymore. It’s not part of my priority list right now’
‘Part of my priority list’? Pudding is not a chore. It doesn’t belong in the realm of a ‘priority list’, pencilled in between such mundane activities like ‘keep on top of washing’ and ‘pay bills’ and ‘socialise’ – 3 things which are far harder to juggle successfully than you’d think (I gave up on all three long ago). But I haven’t given up on pudding. Pudding is a perk of life; a small prize for living another day through the stresses and anxieties and annoyances the exist on this planet.
I think we underestimate the medicinal importance and power of pudding in day-to-day life. Feeling blue after a miserable day at work? Remedy this with pudding. Had one of those ‘I’ve done life right today’ days? Top it off with pudding. Need motivation to exercise? Make a pudding that you would only justify eating by going to the gym. Feeling ill? Get someone to make you pudding. Got home drunk? Absorb it. With pudding. All manner of occasions, emotions and ailments solved by the ancient tradition of pudding.
Even the word is satisfying. Pudding – it always reminds me of my junior school dinner favourite of a glob of slightly aerated, slightly grainy chocolate ‘pudding’ with a shortbread biscuit for dipping. If pudding were a person, it would be a plump little man with fluffy white hair and NHS glasses with a loud laugh and permanently rouged cheeks (I’m describing my Grandad in essence, always a bit red from the amount of whiskey he drank and smelling a little like cigar smoke). This plump man is happy. This plump man always has his pudding.
‘It’s not in my budget’ was another justification for her desertion of dessert. Further fuel for my rant. It’s not like pudding needs to be expensive or fancy. It doesn’t even need to be unhealthy. Put a banana in the freezer and blend it with cinnamon, cocoa powder or honey and you have ice cream – does your budget not stretch to accommodate a bunch of bananas? Moreover, if it’s not in your budget, I’d argue you need to re-evaluate what is in your budget. Nothing beats the satisfaction of leafing through a recipe book for your after-dinner indulgence, spotting one with a good picture, and attempting (90% of the time failing) to create an exact replica that may be a bit wonky or cracked or uneven, but will taste infinitely better than the one in the book because you made it yourself. Concentration, dedication, precision, wellbeing – pudding is an investment of transferrable skills as much as any degree or job.
I think it’s time we gave pudding an equal status to that of breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hidden hero, the under-appreciated fourth meal. Don’t save it for special occasions, carpe dessertem.
(By the way that will be my manifesto speech for when I run for Prime Minister, quite compelling I think)
So after all that, I not actually giving you a pudding recipe because I had a shop-bought hot crossed bun for my pudding tonight – shoot me. I’m actually going to give a really easy recipe that I meant to post around Christmas time. It’s essentially all the flavours of Christmas without the turkey, using both brussel sprouts and seasonal purple flower sprouts – both of which are in my top ten favourite veggies.
Maple roasted sprouts, carrots, chestnuts and pancetta on braised lentils serving 2
1 carrot, cut into sticks
1 handful sprouts, halved
1 handful flower sprouts
Small handful dried cranberries
Small handful chestnuts, quartered
Half a pack of pancetta or bacon cut into strips
Small handful pecans
Bunch of Thyme
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 red onion, sliced thinly into half moons
A couple handfuls of dried french lentils
More fresh thyme and rosemary
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees c. Toss the carrots, sprouts, flower sprouts and chestnuts together with the maple syrup and a splash of olive oil. Throw in the bunch of thyme and season. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat up the chicken stock on medium and pour in the lentils. Add a splash of white wine, seasoning, thyme and rosemary, and simmer for about half an hour.
- In a frying pan on medium heat, place the onions and slowly fry until caramelised, about 10 minutes. Don’t stir for the first few minutes to allow them to steam and soften.
- When the veg has about 10 minutes to go, add the cranberries, pecans and pancetta and toss about before placing back in the oven until the pancetta is crispy.
- Drain the lentils, mix with the caramelised onions and serve with the roasted veg sitting on top.
- Make pudding.