Puddings and desserts should be chosen carefully to complement the main course and, preferably, be prepared well in advance of serving.
If you use the oven, think about fuel costs. If you have the main course cooking on a top or centre shelf, put an egg custard or rice pudding in the bottom of the oven. Puddings served with custard are typically associated with British kitchens but, to the French gourmet, ice creams, mousses, souffles and gateaux are traditionally served after the cheese board.
Basic Steamed Pudding 150 g (6 oz) self-raising flour Pinch of salt
75 g (3 oz) butter
75 g (3 oz) caster sugar
1 beaten egg
75-90 ml (5-6 tablespoons) milk
Sift flour and salt into bowl. Rub in butter finely. Add sugar. Mix to fairly soft consistency with egg and milk. Stir briskly until well combined. Transfer to a prepared pudding basin and steam for 1 ½-2 hours.
Alternatively bake pudding at 190°C (375°F) Gas Mark 5, for 15 minutes and reduce temperature to 160°C (325°F) Gas Mark 3 and bake for a further 35-40 minutes. Serves 4.
Preparing a pudding basin
Lightly butter a ¾-1 litre (1½-2 pt) pudding basin and line the base with a small round of greaseproof paper. Fill the basin 3/3 of the way up with mixture and make a cover with a piece of buttered, greaseproof paper. Cover with a sheet of pleated aluminium foil and secure with string, making a handle to make lifting out easier.
Traditionally, steamed suet puddings are spooned directly into a cloth and knotted at the top. Steam in a large saucepan, on a trivet or in a steamer or pressure cooker, keeping the water halfway up the basin side and maintained at a very gentle simmer.