Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lemon Surpise Pudding

The saddest day of my parents' lives was the day that I dropped out of Westminster School's Oxbridge preparation classes. I didn't really understand what was going on and I wasn't sure if I wanted three more years of not understanding what was going on. But my parents were very depressed about it: out of four daughters, they had only managed to hammer one measly one, my eldest sister, into the city of dreaming spires. And even then she got in second time around and had the temerity to neither marry a Duke nor get a First. And she read physics the square, beaky wonk.

I like to tell myself that it's not that I was too stupid to go to Oxford, it's that I was too lazy. But the fact is that I was too stupid AND too lazy. I got into Westminster to do my A Levels somehow - clerical error? - and when I was there I had to work all the time to keep up. And I mean all the time. I know for a fact that my friend Izzy used to go to the pub after school every day for a minimum of three hours - including Saturdays - and she got straight As and "Excellent" in red pen on all her homework. I sometimes woke up early before school to work a bit harder and I only got 2As and a B. Teachers would quite often say "How are you?" to me. It's tragic really.

Mostly for my parents, because my Dad was an academic and a tutor at Balliol, which is where young Communist PPE students go to wake up at 5am, perform 80 star jumps in the quad while reciting the Greek alphabet backwards, before departing for the library for the rest of the day for some light recreational long division. They can do this because they have plenty of free time, having written all of the current term's essays in the previous vac.

(I ought to point out that my father isn't a Communist anymore, although he remains an expert on Karl Marx. His book, "Karl Marx: His Theory and Its Context" is the only book you'll ever need to read on the subject. Some might say the only book you'll ever need full stop.) Thus, my academic dimness was an unprecedented blow.

It was also tragic for my mother, because it meant that I definitely wasn't going to marry a Duke - although marrying someone who is occasionally on telly runs a close second I think. Imagine Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice in a pair of pink Crocs and you've got my mother.

So my point is that despite this avalanche of parental disappointment, I really try not to be bitter and chippy about NOT ONLY having fallen at the first Oxford hurdle, but then going on to spazz up my degree at Bristol University.

(Of the two people who did worse than me in my graduating year, one got glandular fever half way through the second year and only turned in 60% of her essays and the other went completely fucking mad before finals and was sectioned by the Bristol Royal Infirmary.)

But I have to admit that whenever I am able to do something better than someone who went to Oxford, a little piece of me rejoices. My husband went to Oxford and got a First - despite speaking almost exclusively in swear words, refusing to shave and dressing like a slobby graphic designer - and whenever I outsmart him, I internally give myself a little high-five.

For example: does he know all the words to 'Holiday' by Dizzee Rascal? No. Do I? Yes. *high five*

Can he do the whole talky-bit from the A-Team's opening credits in a convincing American accent? No. Can I? Yes. *high five*

And so it is with this Lemon Surprise Pudding.

An old friend emailed me, challenging me to make it as it had not worked out for her. Normally I don't make lemon puddings because I was traumatised by one as a child. But, you see, my friend went to Oxford - and the opportunity to DBTSWWTO (Do Better Than Someone Who Went To Oxford) was irresistable. Especially as she said that she would "weep" if it worked out first time for me. Oxford people: very competitive, you see.

I also ought to point out that I am a massive shitbag because I promised that if it did work out first time for me I wouldn't tell anyone. But it turns out that I LIED!!!!!! Redbrickers: prone to lying and gloating.

So the idea with a Lemon Surprise Pudding is that you have a sort of fluffy spongy top that you cut through to reveal a pool of lemon sauce. That's the surprise. I was expecting to have to source Semtex from somewhere, but cooking just isn't that exciting.

The things that can go wrong with this are:

a) You end up with a vaguely wet scrambled-eggy mess, which means your oven is on too high. This is quite common with modern ovens - I know that mine sets fire to pretty much anything I try to cook, so I often crank the temperature knob down half a centimetre if I'm cooking something sensitive.

b) You get the light meringue-y sponge bit on top but a thick lemon curd at the bottom rather than a lemon sauce. This is still very delicious, but not quite echt. This happens because you haven't used the right pie dish. For this recipe, you need to use a DEEP 1.5litre basin, not a shallow basin. It really does make a difference.

So here we go:

50g butter
110g caster sugar
rind and juice of 2 lemons
2 eggs, separated
50g sifted SELF-RAISING flour (might burn me once - won't let you burn me twice)
150ml milk

1 Pre-heat the oven to 180C OR if you have a very hot mega turbo fan oven, to about 175-170C and butter your 1.5pint/850ml deep baking dish

2 Beat the butter, sugar and lemon rind together until it's all combined. It won't go light and fluffy because there's too much sugar in it

3 Beat in the egg yolks a little at a time - perhaps a teaspoon each go.

4 Fold in the flour and alternate with the milk and the lemon juice - about a tablespoon each every go. The mixture will curdle and go gross - don't worry.

5 Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage and then fold in.

6 Bake in the MIDDLE of the oven for 40 mins.

If only school had been this easy.

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