Friday, 30 November 2007

The Ultimate Comfort Food (or School Dinners Revisited)

The weather here has turned cold. Not just a little chilly. We're way past the point of just putting on an extra sweater, and turning the heating on for a couple of hours in the evening... the local schools have already had a couple of 'snow days' (last Thursday I had to do yard duty in a blizzard), my regular exercise is now shovelling the snow from the driveway and the average temperature over the coming week will be -10. Pretty soon we'll be plugging in the car's block-heater overnight so that the engine doesn't freeze.

I could say that it's at this time of the year that our thoughts turn to puddings, but that wouldn't strictly be correct... my thoughts are more or less permanently turned to puddings, although I rarely make them. However, it's at this time of the year that a very particular type of pudding comes into its own; yes, the School Dinner Pud. Stodgy, starchy, rib-sticking, custard-doused, but above all warming and filling. I suddenly felt a desperate urge for a pud like this last Tuesday evening. The problem with most such puddings however, is that they take a long time to cook - a steamed syrup sponge would have hit the spot, but I wasn't going to wait 3 hours for it.

Fortunately a brain-wave hit - semolina! Even more fortunately I had a packet of it in the cupboard, so within 5 minutes Rob and I were tucking into a bowl of it. It's hard to believe that 3 simple ingredients (semolina, milk and sugar) can create such a satisfying pudding (sorry, but 'dessert' just seems far too fancy a name for this), and in such a short time. A dollop of raspberry jam (Rob's topping of choice was Golden Syrup) and my joy was complete.

I'm not sure that I ever ate this at school - although Rob did, and hadn't eaten it since, so emotionally scarred had he been by the experience! - but I do remember eating it at home as a child, and loving it even then. I think now it ranks with rice pudding as one of my favourite Winter puds, and is probably old-fashioned enough to be lovingly thought of as 'retro', only adding to its appeal.