Food nostalgia often finds its way into this column. There’s something about food which nestles snuggly in the memory and a spoonful can transport you back to a time, a place and the people.
Into this foodie fog of memory comes the polarising institution of school dinners. For some, the lucky ones, who enjoyed the last of the golden age gulps of school dinners, these daily shared meals informed our earliest love of food.
For others, the school canteen might as well have been one of Dante’s layers of hell, specially put aside to torment the hapless schoolboy. I’ve met many people whose memories of school are tarnished by being forced to eat watery custard, lumpy mashed potato, turnips, sprouts, or whatever their own personal food nemesis happened to be.
I’m one of the lucky ones. My primary school dinners were cooked by a Mrs Non, grandmother of my friend and she daily prepared a home-cooked, two-course dinner for all fifty of us in the school (at a price of 25 pence each a day too).
The main courses were great, but the puddings, especially the hot winter puddings, were the best things ever for a six-year-old. This week’s recipe for jam roly-poly pudding comes straight out of the memory from that little village school. Until I gave it a go just recently, I’d not eaten in 40 years.
You can use any suet, including vegetarian, but the best results are with real butcher’s suet. Note too, the absence of sugar - it’s not as fattening as you might expect.
200g self-raising flour*
2 heaped tablespoons jam
Pinch of salt
*You can adjust the size of your pudding – just remember to use twice the amount of flour to suet. Adjust milk accordingly when mixing.
Mix the flour, suet, salt and milk to form a rough dough. (If you’re using real butcher’s suet – highly recommended – give it a blitz in a food processor until it is of a crumb texture).
Lightly knead the dough, just enough to bring it all together and roll into a rectangle, twice as long as wide, and about 1cm thick.
If baking, prepare a buttered sheet of baking paper, sufficient to wrap the rolled pudding, plus enough for a pleat. Lie the baking paper on a larger sheet of foil.
Lift the rolled dough using a rolling pin and transfer on to the baking paper. Cover in jam, leaving a half inch gap along the edges and an inch gap on the outer end. Brush these edges with milk. Carefully roll, but not do tight the jam squeezes out. Pinch the ends together and stick the edge down.
Wrap in the baking paper and make a pleat so there is room for the pudding to rise. Do the same with the foil and squeeze the ends tight. Transfer to a baking sheet at bake in the oven at 180°C for 45 minutes, with a tray of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.
When cooked, the top will be crisp and crunchy.
Serve hot with lashings of custard.