Thursday, September 29, 2011

Odds and ends

A few weeks back, I used half a packet of Edmonds buttercake mix to make a fruit sponge. The half-empty packet has been sitting in the cupboard ever since, so I turned again to the 'desserts with Edmonds' section to find a way to use it up.

A steamed pudding (p217) would do the trick nicely, made in a half-recipe as I did with the sponge. It would give me a chance to use the end of a bag of raisins I'd bought for my cashmere chutney (you're supposed to use currants, but I figured I could get away with the substitution). To go with the pudding, I decided to make some vanilla custard (p189), which would conveniently get rid of some milk that was just past its best-before date. Plus, I'd bought a much larger carton of eggs than usual (for what reason, I have no idea), and I'd be able to use a couple of those as well.

In short, this particular exercise was less about making myself a pudding and more about tidying up various items in my cupboard and fridge that needed using. Good excuse, though, right?

I began by scattering a handful of raisins in the bottom of a pudding basin. For my half-recipe, I should have used only a tablespoon, but the idea here was to get rid of the raisins. Then all I did was put the cake mix in a bowl with an egg, some butter, and a little water, and beat it for a few minutes with an electric beater. The resulting mixture went into the pudding basin on top of the raisins.

I wrestled for some time with the pleated baking paper, trying to tie it securely over the bowl. Usually I use tinfoil, which is more easily tied on, but I think the baking paper is better because it's almost transparent:  useful later on, when you're trying to see if the pudding is cooked or not.

When I first started the Edmonds challenge, I didn't have a clue how to steam a pudding. From the descriptions given in the various pudding recipes, I managed to get a general idea of how it works, and have been steaming my puddings in a bowl that sits neatly in one of my saucepans without touching the bottom, thus removing the need for a trivet.

My way works, but I've now got a better idea of the traditional method, thanks to a recent 'Masterclass' episode of Masterchef. It's similar to what I do, except you place the bowl on a trivet in a large, deep pot e.g. stockpot. I suspect this way (i.e. the proper way) cooks the pudding more efficiently, as my puddings often take longer to cook than stated in the recipe.

One of these days, I'll find something suitable for using as a trivet, and give the 'proper way' a go. Meanwhile, I stuck to my personal saucepan steaming method. When the sponge looked like it was nearly done, I spent a few minutes making the custard, putting custard powder, milk, a beaten egg, some sugar and vanilla essence into a pot on a low medium heat, and stirring until the runny mixture thickened into custard.

I'd forgotten to grease the sides of the pudding basin, so the pudding wouldn't come out when I tipped it upside down. Instead, I scooped a portion straight out of the basin, and topped it with a generous serving of custard.

The buttercake mix made a very light pudding, and it was nice to encounter juicy raisins in the occasional mouthful. I didn't regret adding extra raisins, in fact I wish I'd put more in! The custard, true to its name, was pleasantly vanilla-flavoured and the ideal match for the pudding. I've found that custard (or ice cream) is a necessity with steamed puds, to prevent them from seeming too dry.

Anyway, both pudding and custard were a success, in the sense that they both tasted good, and got rid of some odds and ends that were cluttering up my kitchen. Now, what else have I got that needs using?

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