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Phil Vickery's Puddings by Phil Vickery

I have a weakness for puddings and whilst I wouldn't consider buying a ready meal I will happily trawl the aisles for a good desert when I haven't the time to spend in the kitchen. So, the opportunity to read a book with the sub-title every pudding you have ever wanted to make was simply too good to pass up. I have two favourites when I think of puddings – Tarte Tatin and Crème Brulee – so I was keen to see Phil Vickery's recipes for these classics.

Phil Vickery's Puddings by Phil Vickery

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Category: Cookery
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An indulgent book of pudding recipes with something for every occasion. It's not for you if you're even thinking about a diet but it's clearly written and far too tempting. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1847376831

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It does tempt fate (or a perverse reviewer) when you promise every pudding you have ever wanted to make because there isn't a recipe for Tarte Tatin, which might look daunting but is actually quite simple to make. He does, however, have an excellent recipe for Crème Brulee, which points out the common pitfalls and ways of avoiding them. I forgave him for the Tarte Tatin omission, because there might not be every pudding which you would want to make, but I doubt that there would be an occasion for which you couldn't find a suitable recipe.

It's never easy to decide how to organise a book of recipes and whilst I might favour going with the seasons simply because this encourages me to make the most of what's available locally, Phil Vickery has sensibly looked at types of puddings and then given a good selection of recipes. Milk and Cream Puddings range from rice puddings (but with rose-hip syrup and crème fraiche or dried bananas and brown sugar) through to the aforementioned Crème Brulee. There are some nice touches with the natural acidity of a gooseberry and elderflower fool offset by some crushed meringues.

Baked and Steamed Puddings are, Vickery says, what Britain is best at and there are examples from Spotted Dick (courtesy of his mum), Bramley Apple Puddings and a Gooseberry Crumble. They might be thought of as nursery food but there are few people who don't have a secret yearning for them! On a winter day they are perfect.

Pastries, Pies and Tarts sensibly begins with some instruction on how to make various types of pastry (and throughout the book you'll find instructions on various techniques which you might not have met before of might need to brush up on) including one which I hadn't seen before – cocoa pastry. The recipes range from the very light Melon and Mint Tart through to the classic Egg Custard Tart, served here with a blackcurrant sauce. The Prune and Brandy Meringue Pie is a close relative of a dish which I serve at Christmas in lieu of the more traditional, but heavier pudding.

Fritters and Fried Puddings includes a good pancake recipe and a delicious recipe for doughnuts which did make me (just for a moment) regret my decision not to have any means of deep frying in the house on the grounds that what I didn't have I couldn't use. The health concerns which led to this decision have never kept me away from the puddings in the next section – Chocolate Deserts and Cakes – unfortunately! The Steamed Hot Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Fudge Sauce puts inches on the hips even if you only read the recipe. My personal favourite is the Iced Glazed Chocolate Torte.

Cold Mousses and Cheesecakes includes some unusual recipes such as the Passion-Fruit Mousse with Passion-Fruit Jelly and Glazed Bananas, but there are some more basic dishes such as the Strawberry Mousse and it's here that the reassuring instructions on how to add gelatine to mousses and cheesecakes comes into its own. A close relative of the mousse – the soufflé – is covered in the next section and it's good to see much of the mystique which surrounds these really very easy dishes debunked. Meringues, too, will never have seemed so simple. There's an Apricot Daquaise to break your heart.

My favourite section is the one dealing with Fruit and Compotes, not least because it also covers the ways in which the summer glut can be preserved to provide some sunshine in the greyer months. It doesn't go into the subject in the same depth as Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No 2 by Pam Corbin but if you're looking for a reassuring introduction then this could be a good buy. From this section I have to confess to being slightly addicted to the Damson Jelly Pastilles.

Ice Cream and Parfaits is excellent in that you don't need an ice cream machine for all the recipes, although you will need one for my favourite recipe – Nutmeg Ice Cream, which works wonderfully with an egg custard tart. Sorbets and Granitas takes the principles a step further and I've always found that if you need to serve a light desert this is usually a good fall-back.

The section on quick puddings is the one which I suspect most busy families will love. There are such classics as banana splits to the more unusual (but still delicious) hot plums on toast or sautéed apples in Calvados for a more indulgent meal but all are tasty and ready in a relatively short time.

Sabayons, Sauces and Frostings gives recipes which are going to help you to finish off your puddings, from flavoured syrups, through the ever useful crème patissiere to the sort of sauces which make a pudding into something special. The final sections of the book cover cakes, small cakes and biscuits. With this book you've got a recipe to deal with all those moments when only something sweet will suffice.

One or two recipes are a little fiddly – Fern's Queen of Puddings, for instance requires the piping of a meringue lattice which is then filled with two different jams. In fairness the recipe does feed four to six people and so could be used for a dinner party, but that would be a piping bag too far for me. Recipes such as this are in the minority – so we'll forgive the occasional indulgence. Talking of indulgence this is not the book to buy if you're considering going on a diet – will power can only stand so much and this is the book to tempt you away from all your good resolutions.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. I've even forgiven the omission of the Tarte Tatin!

For more on making quick deserts we can recommend Real Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater. For more on fruit – including savoury uses – have a look at Jane Grigson's Fruit Book by Jane Grigson.

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