Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A prune pudding for Julia

I've always been really shit at making friends. My problem is that I never ring anyone because I can never think of anything to say and I worry that they're busy and will be wondering why I rang. I once told a spiritual healer (long story) that I never rang anyone and even she, all sort of accepting and calm, made a face and screeched "What - EVER?"

And I thought about it and said: "No." I don't ring my mum, I don't ring my sisters unless I need to talk about what's going on at Christmas this year, or I need to borrow money, I never rang my husband when we were "dating" and I don't ring any of my friends.

So that means I'm friends with people who are extremely patient and don't mind that I never ring them, and who ring me every now and again to suggest we go to the movies.

It also means that I hardly ever make any new friends because, as you can imagine, I'm not an especially attractive new friend prospect. "My name's Esther and I'm quite judgmental, will never let you finish a sentence, fall asleep at 10.30pm, will try to solve all your problems and I'll never ring you. Let's be friends." My one saving grace is that I remember birthdays and I always answer the phone sounding pleased to hear from people.

But I did last year make a new friend and her name is Julia. She likes dogs and does an incredibly convincing German accent. I think she is Dutch. Or from Holland (is that the same thing? Is Holland the place that only exists in England?) She's a great cook, which is quite rare in such a go-getting career girl, and has recently peroxided her hair bright white, which looks really cool. She finds almost anything funny, which is great because I need people to laugh at my jokes otherwise I can't sleep.

She quite often in the mornings, just as I'm slumped at my laptop weeping over the parlous state of my career, emails me to ask me what I'm cooking today, which more often than not makes me cook something.

She also does a thing that I approve of, which is to dispense with email niceties. Therefore an email might just say (no subject):

"What are you cooking today?"

and that's it.

I'll say:

"I'm cooking a Spanakopita"

and she'll say:


and that's it! It really cheers me up.

Anyway, last night I cooked a Nigel Slater prune pudding, which went really well. I didn't cook it specifically with Julia in mind, but now I think about it, subconsciously I probably wanted an answer for her this morning when she asked me what I'm going to/have been cooking.

Serves 4

10 ready-to-eat prunes
2 tbsp medium-dry sherry (I used port, you could also use, I reckon, brandy, marsala or calvados or any fortified wine really)
120g butter
70g muscovado sugar
70g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
120g self-raising flour
4 x 200ml individual pudding basins (or one big one)

1 Set the oven to 160C and roughly chop the prunes and pour over your alcohol. Set to one side.

2 Butter and lightly flour your pudding basins. YES YOU MUST DO THIS. The flouring bit is quite hard, don't rub the flour in, just sort of sprinkle it round the sides, shake it round a bit and then pour the remainder out into the next bowl.

3 Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. God this is a boring thing to do. I wish I had an electric whisk

4 Add the eggs one small gloop at a time. They will attempt to curdle so you can add a bit of your 120g of flour at the same time as the egg to stop it doing this. Although I've never seen what the problem is with a bit of curdling.

5 Fold in the flour.

6 Add the prunes-and-booze and mix. Divide between your four small or one large basin (the mixture ought to come 2/3 of the way up the side of the dish) and bake for 40-45 minutes. If you are doing just one big one, it might take slightly longer. It will be ready when a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean.

You absolutely need some kind of custard, cream or caramel sauce with this. It is not an especially dry pudding, but you need one just the same.

You can also (which I will be doing next time) substitute apples for the prunes, just because I like apples.



  1. Oh! I am exactly the same!

    Unfortunately mothers and grandmothers and the like tend to take it personally.

  2. For the record: I would have been friends with you had we ever met. I'm just like that! I like the idea of apple pudding - do you think it would be a bit like Dorset apple cake? Perhaps you should get baking while the English apples are in season :)

  3. I don't fancy making that, but your writing really made me/makes me laugh. I am really good at making new friends but then I go off them really fast. Me and my best friend have a club called the Intolerants. I am Vice Chairman.

    How is the pg going? We just got chickens, which I ordered two years ago, then I got pg and the thought of them made me heave. Unfortunately the chicken shit situation is still fairly horrid. I might try and bribe my eldest small child with Percy Pigs to clean out the chicken house.

  4. Hi Annalisa

    It's going okay actually, although I'm starting to feel really cumbersome. It's better now I have cracked how to dress my bump: in black stretchy material. Made everything easier.

    I used to live next door to some chickens... seem to remember they go nuts when it rains, which is sweet at 4pm but not so hilarious at dawn.

    I love Percy Pigs. What's in them?!

  5. Your blog makes me chuckle!

    My friends are used to the same thing, except I might knit in their company and make them eat weird concotions masquerading as cupcakes. Oh, I also fall asleep at 10.30, but I'm a teacher, so I'm allowed...

  6. Hi, I'm Nikki and I am terrible at making friends. You just described me down to a tee. I am terrible at phoning people and much prefer email contact. I like to fix things and fall asleep at ridicualous times ALL THE TIME. At least you have the excuse of being pregnant.

  7. I have just seen this and wondered what the hell I had done to you to want to make me eat prunes? they I saw that it wasn't meant for me HAHA (I really am not blonde, or pregnant )

  8. This is your funniest post yet. It also explains why you never returned my calls.