Sur­prise! A lemon pud­ding – with no lemons

My salute to a pi­o­neer food writer who wasn’t afraid to put her recipes to the res­tau­rant test

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -


did feel like it was de­scrib­ing a brave new world. Just read­ing her words on sor­rel and how it is a huge source of flavour to the cook in our cli­mate is in­ter­est­ing – but then she urges the reader to go out and find some, hav­ing picked some her­self from Hamp­stead Heath. For­ag­ing, when it was just called “pick­ing”, was part of her cook­ing.

I was fas­ci­nated to dis­cover that in the same year that the book was orig­i­nally re­leased, the au­thor opened a res­tau­rant in Lon­don. She had mar­ried a chef called Bill Lacy and they set up Lacy’s, in Whit­field Street, just off Tot­ten­ham Court Road. This seems such a brave thing to do, be­cause most food writ­ers are happy to dis­pense wis­dom from the page but re­luc­tant to put it into prac­tice pub­licly. This sug­gests to me a hint of evan­ge­lism, as they were serv­ing many of the dishes that ap­peared in the book. I would love to see this hap­pen more nowadays as I think a few writ­ers and crit­ics might find it hum­bling. In the days of TripAd­vi­sor, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram, restau­rants are un­der con­stant scru­tiny and I won­der how many would cut the mus­tard.

This week’s recipe is an adap­ta­tion of Costa’s fa­mous lemon sur­prise pud­ding, which I have made many times over the years, but I tried it with some clemen­tines that needed us­ing up. I like the slight spici­ness that the clemen­tines bring.

Al­though we re­mem­ber Costa mainly for her book, she was also the cook­ery writer for The Sun­day Times, an orig­i­nal con­trib­u­tor to The Good Food Guide and had a col­umn in Gourmet magazine in Amer­ica. I would love to read these, as I am sure they would re­veal so much about the food in Eng­land in the Six­ties.

I wish some­body would col­lect to­gether her writ­ings in a com­pen­dium, as she re­mains rel­e­vant to­day. I think Costa, who died in 1999, would look at to­day’s food scene and see that she made an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion, even if there is a dan­ger of see­ing her as a one-hit won­der.

Stephen Har­ris is chef-pa­tron of The Sports­man in Seasalter, Kent, whose many award in­clude the top spot at the 2018 Estrella Damm Best Gas­tropub Awards


100g but­ter, plus ex­tra for greas­ing the dish

1 level tsp cit­ric acid

Zest and juice of 2 clemen­tines 150g caster sugar

A pinch of ground star anise (op­tional, though you can whizz up your own in a cof­fee grinder, dis­card­ing the coarser rub­ble) 3 eggs, sep­a­rated

50g self-rais­ing flour

200ml milk

150ml dou­ble cream, to serve


Pre­heat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas 3½. But­ter a 2-litre bak­ing dish.

Stir the cit­ric acid into the clemen­tine juice. Set aside.

Cream to­gether the but­ter, sugar, zest and star anise (if us­ing) for two min­utes.

With the mixer run­ning on medium, add the egg yolks one at a time. Keep the mixer run­ning and add the flour grad­u­ally, fol­lowed by the clemen­tine juice.

Add the milk and stir un­til you have a bat­ter.

In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites un­til they form soft peaks. Very care­fully fold the egg whites into the bat­ter, tak­ing care not to knock all the air out.

Pour the mix­ture into the but­tered bak­ing dish and bake for 30 to 40 min­utes. When the pud­ding is done, the top should be golden brown but the bot­tom should still be a bit runny.

Serve up, mak­ing sure each per­son gets some crust and sauce, and of­fer dou­ble cream on the side.

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