15 April 2007

Disgusting English Food That I Want More Of

I always thought that English food was an oxymoron. A cooling puddle of gelatinous white gravy, if you will. Swill. Over cooked pot roast and vegetables that have been boiled to death. I was right, of course, as I always am (see: Badger, Infallibility of; Canon Law 452), but what I considered English food is what English people were eating in 1981. Which is the year that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared that ketchup would be considered a serving of vegetables, so really, I think maybe my point of view is skewed by about twenty-five years.

British food is back, and back with a vengeance. I went to London a couple months ago to visit a good friend, G., who took us to what has become my shangri-la: Borough Market. I dream of it at night. We ate cheeses. We sampled cider. We bought wild boar sausages, potatoes with dirt still on them, clotted cream (which we actually just ended up eating yesterday. Best-by date? No, shan't.), ate pastries, ogled hanging sides of meat and looped around for two samples of the wines. Woah, my God, as certain people might exclaim.

Two fine fellows at Borough Market.

So, in celebration of Britain deciding to quit eating crap on white bread, I made a treacle sponge with a butterscotch sauce. I've never tasted, much less made, a steamed sponge before.

Je. Sus. I see what my English friends were always whinging on about now when we had the inevitable expat "what food would I kill children for right now because they don't have it here and I need some RIGHT NOW" conversation.

Dark and warm, the sponge has the tenderest crumb possible, deep brown from the brown sugar and blackstrap molasses. So brown it was almost red. If that makes sense. Which it doesn't. The butterscotch cascades down the sides, leaving a smooth surface of sweet velvet, and pools around the base of the sponge, begging for a spoon to cut a vaguely cake-like but not quite bite from the sponge, scoop some of the butterscotch and render the entire offering to my currently salivating mouth. So sweet, so caramel, a smoky-sweet cake covered in butter goodness. The sour cream in the butterscotch seems counter-intuitive, but trust me, it's what's right with the world.

Make it. NOW.

Treacle Sponge with Butterscotch

(modified from delicious, March 2007)
Serves Eight (or one, if you are me).

6 oz
175 g
butter, softened
7/8 c
175 g
dark brown sugar
2 t
2 t
treacle, or blackstrap molassas

1 ½ c
175 g
self-rising flour

2 oz
50 g
butter, softened
6 T
75 g
dark brown sugar
2 T
25 g
white sugar
5¼oz150 g
dark corn syrup
½ c
140 ml
sour cream

1. Find something to make this steamed sponge in. The British have a special pan called, lyrically and appealingly, a pudding basin. If you don't happen to have one of those laying around, I recommend a ceramic mixing bowl of some sort that holds at least a quart. It has to fit into a big pot so that it can steam. Go crazy.
2. Grease your new found pudding basin with some butter.
3. Cream the butter until it is light and creamy. Add the brown sugar and keep beating until the mix is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. With the last egg, add a big spoonful of the flour. Gently fold in the rest of the flour.
4. Spoon the mixture into your greased basin and level it off. Grease a piece of foil at is big enough to cover the top of your basin and hangover a few inches. Place the foil, greased-side down, on the basin and tie it into place with some string around the outside of the foil, under the rim of the basin.
5. Put a trivet or an overturned plate in the bottom of your big pot. Add about two inches (5cm) of boiling water to the pot and place it over a high flame. Place the pudding basin in the pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and steam for two hours. Don't forget to check the water level, you lazy punter, you.
6. When you are about twenty minutes from eating this little piece of heaven, combine all of the butterscotch ingredients except the sour cream. Place the sauce pan on a medium high flame. Stir the caramel until all of the sugar melts (it will bubble and boil and gradually get darker- this should take maybe three to five minutes). Stir in the sour cream, return to a boil for a brief second and then take off the flame. Do not drink the boiling hot butterscotch.
7. Remove the sponge from the steamer and run a knife around the edge to loosen it. Upturn the basin on a serving dish and gently shake the steamed sponge out. Pour over the butterscotch. Eat.

Rejoice in that strange little island that invented our language.


english guy said...

oooh more pudding talk please you big food tease. i'm hot, breathless and dribbling. I went here once with my parents:


nauseous merchandise aside, this is the mecca of British puddings. i remember having one called Lord Randalls Pudding. Ginger sponge covered in hot marmalade sauce and vanilla custard. Twas orgasmic. as was the sticky toffee pudding. and the roly poly. hmmmmm. pudding.