Cooking along with Fanny Cradock regularly leads me to reminisce about foods from my own past, as well as foods that have somehow sadly become neglected in the midst of time. Sometimes Fanny is cooking things I remember we ate, or using an ingredient that I haven't seen for a while. Sometimes she is looking back on a dish that we used to eat a lot, maybe not prepared in the same way. When I see Steamed Chocolate Pudding I think of a tin from Heinz bubbling away on a stove long after the meal was finished with some dazzling bright custard waiting as patiently as we were. Of course Steamed Pudding à la Cradock, revived from history, does not involve any nasty tins, everything is prepared from scratch and prepared for a very special occasion.
You'll recall Fanny teased us with this recipe over a year ago, while she was showing us a steamed suet pudding. This time she introduces it without fanfare, after all that waiting. This is the famous pudding she created especially for the writer W Somerset Maugham. In 1981, around a decade after the partwork was published, Fanny and Johnnie were clearly more keen to recollect, publishing a book musing over their memories through the years. Actually, 'Time to Remember' was more like an early edition of Hello magazine, as they gossiped and dropped names on almost every page as they harked back to review the rich and famous folk who had enjoyed their cooking through the years.
As Fanny tells it, W Somerset Maugham, in his nineties at the time, was a man who really knew his food. Unfortunately Annette, who Fanny admits was one of the 'finest woman cooks' in France and who worked for the writer, was simply no good with 'nursery puddings' and in particular those faffy English ones. Fanny lists some of the recipes that Annette could make successfully, including Crème Maire-Louise, fish pie and a 'peasant' omelette, and also some of the well-to-do folks that had enjoyed them, including Winston Churchill, the Duchess of Windsor and the Aga Khan. But her steamed puddings were 'a disaster'.
Clearly then when W Somerset Maugham was to come to luncheon it would be a show-off affair with a showstopping steamed pudding to finish. Fanny provided a choice of two desserts but dear old 'Willie' (they were so close) exclaimed, after just one mouthful of the chocolate pudding, 'Ignore the other, take the pudding. It is truly admirable, extremely light... oh yes...!' before polishing off three portions. The pudding itself was made simply by creaming butter, adding sugar, flour and ordinary drinking chocolate with eggs and a little milk. Then steamed for three hours in a thickly buttered basin covered with buttered papers. Don't tell Annette.
Fanny served her hard-to-resist and hard-to-replicate (if you are a French cook or don't happen to have Fannys own instructions) pudding with a chocolate pouring sauce made by softening chocolate in a small pot with brown sugar and a little water. Flakes of butter are then beaten in with slosh of brandy. As ever. I'm using a Mint Puddle Chocolate from Dairy Milk, simply because it was calling to me as I stood in the supermarket checkout queue (it was on offer), and I thought it'd make a particularly good sauce. It did. The pudding is indeed light and moist. It as indeed reminiscent of those puddings I had in tins when I was young, but 'oh yes', so much better. My memories have indeed been replaced. I can't quite manage thirds, but will enjoy it at several points throughout the day, which is surely the same thing?