I’ve always liked the idea of the very English, very old-fashioned Queen of Puddings – anything topped with meringue has to be a good thing after all. But the reality is that I find the sweetness can be overwhelming and the texture of the breadcrumbs can seem a little odd. For this version I’ve used a combination of lemon and almond flavours and I’ve substituted cake crumbs for the bread.
This recipe works best using a zesty, sharp lemon curd and, though you could make your own, your local supermarket probably has a decent alternative (Waitrose sells a particularly good zesty curd). It’s possible to add more than the 2 spoonfuls of the lemon curd which will give more of a lemony sauce, but which will very possibly make the pudding look just a bit too messy for its own good.
600 ml milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
20 g butter, plus a bit for greasing the dish
75 g cake or brioche crumbs (Madeira cake works very well)
25 g ground almonds
4 eggs, separated
250 g caster sugar
4 or 5 drops pure almond essence
2 tbsp lemon curd, as sharp as you can get
Grease a flat 1 litre dish. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the lemon zest and butter and gently warm through, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted. Don’t let the milk get too hot. Lightly whisk the egg yolks with 25 g of the caster sugar. Pour the milk mixture over the egg yolks and sugar, whisking as you pour. Stir in the almond essence, the cake crumbs and the ground almonds. Pour this would-be custard into the prepared dish. Set aside for 30 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (for a fan oven, a little hotter otherwise). Put the dish into a roasting tin and pour boiling water around it – it should come about two thirds of the way up the side of the dish, ideally. Place in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the custard is lightly set but still has a little wobble in the centre. Take out of the oven, remove the dish from its water bath and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Spread the lemon curd evenly over the surface of the set custard. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Whisk the egg whites to the stiff peak stage then gradually whisk in the remaining 225 g of caster sugar until you have a glossy meringue. You could pipe this onto the top of the pudding but I prefer to spoon it over and rough the surface up a little. Bake in the oven for 8 –10 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.
I think this pudding tastes best at room temperature and while you’re feeling nostalgic or watching The Railway Children.