If you're looking for some absolutely delicious British desserts to devour tonight, you've come to the right place. I know I'm a heath nut but I believe in the 'everything in moderation' rule and I certainly don't deprive myself of the odd treat now and then. I also live by the 80/20 rule: I'm good 80% of the time and a little bit naughty the remaining 20%. It's the best way to live in my view. When I was younger, my English teacher taught me a spelling rule: 'desserts' is 'stressed' spelt backwards and when you're feeling 'stressed' you're likely to need 'desserts'! And that's how I don't confuse 'desserts' with 'desert'. I'm not condoning emotional eating, but I do love one of the many fabulous British desserts so here are just some of them to make your mouth water.
1. Spotted Dick
When you've stopped giggling ladies (for those of you who don't know, 'dick' is a common word for the male genitalia) I'll tell you more about this delicious dessert. This one reminds me of school dinners and is one of my favorite British desserts. It's a steamed suet pudding which contains dried fruits such as currants and is great for those winter evenings. The "spotted" part of the name refers to the fruit, but there is some debate about the "dick" element with some people believing it may be a corruption of the words 'pudding', 'dough' or 'dog' and some believing it comes from the German word for 'thick'.
55g / 2oz currants
75g /3oz dark brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
225g / 8oz self-raising flour plus extra for dusting
115g /4oz shredded suet
Pinch of salt
55ml /2 fl oz milk
In a small bowl mix the raisins, currants, sugar and lemon rind for the filling.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl; add the suet and the salt and rub together to combine. Add a little milk and using a knife cut through the mixture, adding more milk little by little until it comes together. Finally, use your hands to combine into a soft, elastic dough. Add more milk if necessary.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle approx 20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inches).
Evenly spread the pudding filling mixture over the dough leaving a 1cm/ 1/2 inch border. Paint the border with a little cold water. Roll up carefully from the narrow end.
Soak a clean tea towel or cloth napkin in boiling water for a few minutes, squeeze to remove excess water.
Wrap the suet roll pudding in the napkin twisting at each end, securing with kitchen string.
Steam the pudding roll for 2 hours in a steamer. Alternatively, wrap the pudding suet roll in foil and bake in a hot oven (200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6) for 1 hour 30 mins.
Unwrap immediately, cut into thick slices and serve in warmed bowls with lashings of custard.
2. Apple Crumble
The humble apple crumble is a quick and easy dessert which can be served with custard, cream or even ice cream. Bramley apples are the best ones because they contain less sugar and more acid and therefore keep their tangy flavor when cooked, but you can use other apples except the Granny Smith, which is too hard.
For the crumble
35 g rolled oats
35 g wholemeal flour
20 g caster sugar
35 g margarine or butter
For the filling
400 g cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
50 g sugar, to sweeten
1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Peel and core the apples, quarter and cut in to chunks.
Put the apples into a pan with the sugar and water. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes and place in a small ovenproof dish.
Place the flour and oats in a bowl and mix well. Cut the margarine or butter into small cubes and add this to the oats and flour. Mix with your fingertips until it resembles an even crumb texture. Add the sugar and mix through.
Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the crumble is golden and the apple hot.
3. Eton Mess
This is one of my favourite desserts, mainly because it's the easiest one to make. It really does live up to its name and isn't the most aesthetically pleasing in terms of presentation, but it's delicious never the less. This mixture of strawberries, meringue and cream is eaten at Eton College's annual cricket game against Winchester College and dates back to the 19th Century. It's a perfect summer dessert.
300 ml / 10 ½ fl oz whipping cream
1 tbsp fine sugar
100g / 3 ½ oz ready-made meringue
450g / 1 lb fresh strawberries
1 tbsp icing / confectioners sugar
Place the whipping cream in a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and whip with an electric mixture until the cream is light and fluffy. Do not over whip - the success of the dish requires softly whipped cream.
Break the meringue into large bite-size chunks and gently stir into the cream. Don't worry if some of the meringue crumbles, just add this too.
Place half of the strawberries into another large mixing bowl and press gently with the back of a fork to break up the strawberries slightly and release some of the juice. Stir gently into the cream.
Halve, then quarter the remaining strawberries.
Place the cream mixture into a 18 cm /7" trifle or glass serving dish, top with the strawberry pieces, chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator and sprinkle with the confectioners/icing sugar before serving. Alternately serve in individual size dessert bowl or glasses.
4. Bakewell Pudding
This pudding consists of a tart with an almond and jam filling and the Brits have been enjoying this for at least 200 years. You may have heard of the Bakewell tart which is very similar but is made of shortcrust pastry instead of puff pastry.
225 g shortcrust pastry
5-6 tbsp raspberry or strawberry or black cherry jam
115 g caster sugar
115 g butter, melted
75 g ground almonds
dashes of almond essence
cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.
Roll out the pastry. Use the pastry to line a 20cm flan tin, trimming and neatening the edges.
Spoon the jam onto the bottom of the case and spread all over with the back of the spoon.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until frothy using a hand whisk and then stir in the melted butter and the almonds. Add a small dash of almond essence.
Spoon this mixture in the pastry case and bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling is set and golden brown.
Serve the Bakewell tart warm with cream. If serving the tart cool it can be topped with a layer of softly whipped cream.
This is another simple dessert consisting of custard, cream, alcohol drenched cake or biscuits and jelly. The first known recipe was published in the 1500s and it's another great dessert to serve in the summer at barbecues and parties. But please don't do a Rachel from F.R.I.E.N.D.S and add peas and minced beef because it won't taste nice, I assure you.
350g Madeira cake
good quality strawberry jam
strawberry or raspberry liqueur, or crème de cassis
400g strawberries, sliced or halved
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
500g pot of good quality vanilla custard
284ml pot double cream, lightly whipped
Slice the cake and sandwich the slices together with jam. Cut into cubes. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries in a bowl.
Divide the cake between 6 glasses and sprinkle a little liqueur over each. Spoon over the sliced strawberries and any juice and then top each with a layer of custard and a layer of cream. Decorate with strawberries.
6. Jam Roly-Poly
This dessert also takes me back to school dinners and interestingly enough, it used to have rather unusual and macabre names like "dead man's arm" or "dead man's leg" due to the fact it was often steamed and served wrapped in an old shirt sleeve. I wouldn't go tearing up your partner's shirts though!
softened butter, for greasing
200g/7oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
100g/3½oz shredded suet
1 tbsp caster sugar
good pinch salt
150ml/5fl oz semi-skimmed milk or water
6–7 tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Butter a large sheet of greaseproof paper and set aside.
Stir the flour, suet, sugar and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Slowly stir in the milk or water to form a soft, spongy dough.
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Roll the dough out to a 22cm x 32cm/8½in x 13in rectangle.
Spread the jam onto the dough, leaving a 1.5cm/½in border.
Gently roll the dough up from the short end and transfer to the greaseproof paper, seam-side down. Wrap the roly poly in the greaseproof paper, making a long pleat in the parchment to allow the pudding to expand as it cooks. Twist the ends of the parchment like a Christmas cracker and tie tightly with kitchen string, to seal the pudding inside.
Repeat the process with a large piece of aluminium foil.
Place the pudding onto a roasting rack set on a roasting tin.
Pour boiling water into the roasting tin until the half full.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
Remove the pudding from the oven, unwrap the aluminium foil, then snip the string and unwrap the paper.
The pudding should be well risen and lightly browned in places. Don’t worry if the jam has made its way through to the outside of the pudding a little – it will taste all the more delicious.
Put on a board or serving plate and cut into thick slices. Serve with lots of hot custard or cream.
7. Gypsy Tart
This dessert originates from Kent in England and the story behind it is that a Kentish woman wanted to make a dessert for a local gypsy family and had very few ingredients in her pantry apart from evaporated milk and muscovado sugar which are the prime components of this sweet treat.
250 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1 pastry case (pre-made)
Mix the sugar and condensed milk together well.
Pour into the pastry case.
Place into a pre-heated oven at gas mark 3 (170c) for about 10 mins.
Once it's cooked leave to cool before putting it in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
So there you go, some classic British desserts to satisfy that sweet tooth. What desserts do you love devouring? I'd love to hear, you know, for those 20% days.