When I think of puddings I think of winter evenings as a child eating Heinz's chocolate version which my mum would squidge out of the tin into a bowl, then blast in the microwave before serving. The smell that wafted through the house was enough to drive everyone giddy with anticipation: dense, rich, kind of eggy, but totally mouth-watering and comfort food at its finest.
Nowadays, Heinz's chocolate puddings are one of my most indulged guilty pleasures (up there with apple sauce out of the jar with a spoon for tea; the very cheapest jelly-laden pork pies and putting pickles on pretty much anything).
The pudding is superior to its sister - the cake - in a number of ways.
Firstly, the stodge factor. Cooking a pudding involves keeping all the moisture inside the tub or tin (or microwave - no one's judging here) and results in this gloriously sticky, gooey end product - something that a cake baked in the oven just can't match.
Secondly, the sauce factor. What would a sticky toffee or bread-and-butter pudding be without a glug of custard? Cakes have icing, but puddings - puddings are demanding. They have a thirst that needs quenching with something more fulfilling.
Castle pudding is about as pudding-y as it's possible to be.
It starts its life as a cake, by creaming sugar and butter together in a bowl, and then adding sieved flour, baking powder and lemon rind. I'm glad at this point in the recipe it says to add milk or water if needed, because the consistency of the mix is particularly dense. But maybe it's supposed to be like that? I'm not sure I like being given the freedom to add things in if I like - if it said to add a packet of chocolate buttons (or a pickle, let's be honest) I'd jump at the chance, but that certainly wouldn't be a Castle pudding.
The next instruction is to add the mixture into greased dariole moulds. Greased what now? A greased dariole sounds like something you'd find in a dancing bar with dubious morals, but it is in fact a French term meaning a small cylindrical mould. I don't have any, so I'm going to do what I do best and 'freestyle'. I place my mixture inside two buttered ramekins - the kind fancy shop-bought puddings come in that you keep - and put them inside a large Pyrex jug.
The Pyrex jug then stands in a pan of boiling water. With one eye closed for fear of everything exploding in my face, I do as the recipe instructs and cover the self-made contraption with greaseproof paper.
At this point in the recipe, I see there is an end note.
I love an end note: its usual inclusion is to forgive a mistake that's been made and offer an alternative method of doing things. This note recommends that if preferred, Castle pudding mixture may be baked in a moderate oven for approximately 20 minutes. That would, I'm sure, make it a cake, but no matter - into the oven go a few little puddings to compare the overall result.
As I'd hoped, the steamed version is... a pudding. Taste-wise, it's heavy and makes me feel sick about three bites in - exactly how it should be. It has a delicate, sweet smell that contrasts against the chunky sinfulness of its body. I've never sniffed her but if I were to guess, then I'd say Castle pudding is the Kim Kardashian of the dessert world.
The oven-baked version is... a cake. A perfectly edible but essential dull lemon cupcake. With both my puddings I serve a lemon sauce, which is reduced sugar and water with the juice of a lemon. It helps add a tartness to the cloyingly sweet denseness, like a lemon drizzle cake's syrup.
So there you have it: Castle pudding two ways. I'm only a parsnip puree away from being on MasterChef...
For the pudding
2 eggs; their weight in:
Butter and sugar.
5oz flour and 1 level teaspoonful baking powder OR
5 oz self-raising flour
Grated lemon rind
Little milk or water
1 Cream the butter and sugar
2 Add the beaten egg a little at a time
3 Stir in sieved flour, baking powder and lemon rind. If necessary add a little milk or water.
4 Mix well. Place in greased dariole moulds and put in a pan with boiling water to come halfway up the moulds
5 cover with greaded paper and steam steadily
6 Allow to shrink before turning out
7 Serve with lemon sauce
Note: If preferred Castle pudding mixture may be baked in a moderate over, 375oF., for approximately 20 minutes.
For the sauce
4-6 oz granulated sugar
½ pint water
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 Place sugar and water in pan; boil gently till it is reduced to half the original quantity.
2 Peel the lemon thinly, cut into shreds 1-in long.
3 When the syrup has reduced add the strained lemon juice and shreads, boil up.