I have said a lot of rude things about English desserts in my time. I have contrasted the predominance of ingredients such as sultanas, flour, and jam with other cuisines, that embrace the delights of chocolate, cream, fresh berries, and liqueurs. I’ve made comments that any nation that names “rock cakes” and “spotted dick” as two notable dishes is one where you should stick with the savoury. I’ve mentioned suet. In desserts. Enough said, really.
Despite this half-feigned virulence, I actually have a very soft spot in my heart for British sweetmeats. I love custard, christmas pudding, and rum butter, especially when together. I love plum fools. But most of all, I love milk puddings. When I was a child, my mother would serve a cooked dessert most nights. This was generally either an apple pie, or a milk pudding. Rice, sago, or semolina. The semolina was always my favourite. It is smooth, creamy, and plain in the best way possible. Although not sweet itself, this dessert is perfectly complemented by a teaspoon of jam on top. I don’t have a photo, because milk puddings are pretty unphotogenic. They look kind of like white gloop when on camera. Good thing they don’t taste like it.
Semolina Milk Pudding (serves 3)
1 tablespoon white sugar
Jam to serve
Soak the semolina in water for five minutes, then drain. Combine all the ingredients, and soak for one hour. Stir, then cook in a 150 degree celsius oven for two hours. In the beginning of the cooking, remove and stir regularly to stop the semolina from clumping. If it does clump, however, simply remove towards the end of the cooking time and mash it with a potato masher, or a food processor. Return to the oven to heat. Serve hot in small bowls, topped by a dab of jam.
Source: Women’s Own Cookbook (1964), and my mother, who gave excellent advice on clumping