For those in need of a serious soul-warming injection of comfort, look no further than the simplicity of a homemade syrup-soaked steamed pud. It reputedly hails from our imperial Motherland where puddings of all sorts, sweet or savoury; boiled, baked or steamed, have offered solace through long miserly winters as far back as the beginning of the 17th century, when they proliferated owing to the invention of the pudding cloth. Popular as they were, notes food historian Alan Davidson in his Oxford Companion to Food, it was not until the advent of the pudding basin, a far less cumbersome cooking vessel than the cloth, in the 20th century that the steamed pudding came to be cemented in British cooking. Indeed, for any English person the term pudding has come to be synonymous with dessert.
Eminent food writer Jane Grigson, in her English Food, cheekily attests, “it’s true that an addiction to puddings hasn’t been exactly in favour of English teeth and waistlines, but these wonderful things are some of the most subtle and imaginative combinations relying on simple and natural ingredients”. Now, if only we all had a nanna like Ms Grigson baking for us.