Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater

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Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater

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Category: Cookery
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A book of delicious pudding which can take as little as a few minutes to prepare. It's entertaining and enlightening and you'll use it until it falls apart.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: November 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 014102951X

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Better one fat fig at its brief moment of perfect ripeness than a hundred slices of Black Forest Gateaux.

That's probably all that you need to know about this book. It tells you that Real Fast Puddings is dominated by fruit, but it's not just any old fruit. It's got to be fruit at the perfect moment of ripeness that you can smell from six inches away. It's got to be quality fruit, in season. It also tells you that this book has got absolutely nothing at all to do with the sort of 'dessert' which you find on a restaurant trolley.

People have lots of reasons for not doing puddings. This book dispels the myth that making them is time-consuming: it takes only a few moments to scatter a few basil leaves over a bowl of strawberries. If the strawberries are perfectly ripe and the basil aromatic then you will have the perfect pudding. The other myth which disappears out of the window is that puddings are too expensive. Yes, there are some indulgent recipes (both in terms of cost and calories) but these are not for every day, and the aim has been to avoid unnecessarily extravagant ingredients or wastefulness. Besides, how much does it cost to make a pancake drizzled with some fresh citrus juice?

The book's arranged around the seasons, rather than around specific types of puddings. This can be slightly confusing as pancakes, for instance, make appearances in two seasons, but there is a good index if your fancy is for pancakes rather than a temptation to eat apple pancakes in autumn. It's easy to see what's in season and what might be worth hunting out if it doesn't appear in the supermarket. I try and avoid eating food which has travelled further than I ever have and by and large Nigel Slater seems to work on the same principle. Tropical fruit does make an appearance in winter when there is little other fruit around, but it's an exception rather than a habit.

Along with the traditional sweet pudding suggestions there are some savoury recipes and some excellent suggestions about serving cheeses. Before reading this book I hadn't realised that some cheeses are better at certain times of the year. Apparently (and Nigel admits that it is a generalisation) hard cheeses are better when there is an 'r' in the month and soft cheeses (particularly those made from goat's milk) are better in the summer and autumn. The book is packed with snippets of information like this.

Don't just read this book for the recipes, even though there are around about two hundred of them in the book. Read it for inspiration, for the ideas that it will give you. The thought of a ripe pear with some parmesan cheese tempted me to try the pear with some crumbly Lancashire cheese. When unexpected guests arrived I spread what was available a little further with the addition of a berry compote. Nigel Slater gives you that sort of confidence.

This book is the companion volume to Real Fast Food and was written because Nigel had received complaints that he'd successfully enticed people back into the kitchen only to leave them to their own devices before the pudding was served. You don't need to have both books (much as the author would like you to buy them both) but they do work usefully together.

I will always owe Nigel Slater a debt of gratitude: along with Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson he taught me to cook rather than just to prepare food. Over the years I think I must have read just about every word he's published and I don't think he's ever bored me. He's interesting and he's witty, even to a non-foodie. He might even tempt a non-foodie into the kitchen.

Buy Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater at

Buy Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater at


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Magda said:

You know, I like reading Nigel Slater, I like the spirit he is working in, but I don't think I have ever cooked a single of his recipes.

I don't know what the reason for it is, really. I think they often involve ingredients that I cannot afford or are not readily availbale in the house (I rarely shop for ingredients for a specific dish unless it's for a party or an occasion like Christmas).

The other reason is that most things I ever fancied from his recipes were things my family wouldn't eat or wouldn't appreciate. For example anything that involves cooked cheese apart from Polish cheescake and amazing proportion of his recipes seems to involve cooked cheeses, or maybe these are just the ones I yearn for. Or things with custard and cooked cream. Or cooked sauces for meat and vegetables instead of brown gravy and piles of butter.

This one, however, might be for me, though I notoriously use Jane Grigson for fruit inspiration.

Sue said:

I think you might be surprised by this book, Magda. Not a lot of the recipes require what I would call special ingredients, but rather give you inspiration to use what you have and use it well.

Magda said:

I have now bought it on a 2 books for £3.99 deal from The Book People (this and The Real Fast Food) and after a quick read overall and a careful read of the winter's section I think I would be sending it back if it wasn't a part of a package (the other book looks much better); and such a cheap one anyway.

If Nigella Lawson is food as overdone orgasm, this is food as sad masturbation, somehow: an image of an old batchelor (though there are references to we, so not sure, but that's the feel) eating bowls of sweet corn meal gruel when feeling lonely. Ouch.

I think there was one or two recipe/ideas that I though 'oh, yes, I need to try this one'; but overall a disappointment.

Oh, and Smarties are horrible.

Now reading the non-pudding one, but I think I now decided I prefer him in column-sized bits

Sue said:

Magda! You can't not like Nigel! You'll be drummed out of the Bookbag Brownie pack!

Seriously, though, I think a lot of people do eat on their own these days. I eat at least half my meals alone and there are rarely more than two people at most of my other meals. I'll always make food from scratch, but a lot of people won't bother just for themselves and I think a book like this is a godsend for them. I guess we're just going to have to disagree about Nigel!

We agree about Smarties though - they're the spawn of the Nestlé devil.

Magda said:

Oh, I think we'll have to agree to disagree. I am not that negative anyway, I am keeping 'Real Fast Food' :-).

It's the whingey feel more than anything else: numerous references to food you would need when you feel the world is against you, and coming home extremely tired after work etc. He's an extremely successful cookery writer, for goodness sake, not some office slave on minimum wage, he shouldn't whinge like that. Elizabeth David or Jane Grigson never whinge!

By old bachelorism I meant more the fact that it seems like a child never marred his table or kitchen, and those cats referred to lovingly all the time; not the recipes for two, I think this is actually a very good idea, it's often easier to multiply than divide.

Sue said:

We shall agree to disagree then Magda. I think though that even extremely successful cookery writers have the right to feel that the world is against them or that they're very tired after a day's hard work. To me that just makes him more human.