Nothing comes closer to satisfying a sweet tooth in the cold dark of winter than this old English favourite.
For those in need of a serious soul-warming injection of comfort, look no further than the simplicity of a homemade syrup-soaked steamed pud. It reputedly hails from our imperial Motherland where puddings of all sorts, sweet or savoury; boiled, baked or steamed, have offered solace through long miserly winters as far back as the beginning of the 17th century, when they proliferated owing to the invention of the pudding cloth. Popular as they were, notes food historian Alan Davidson in his Oxford Companion to Food, it was not until the advent of the pudding basin, a far less cumbersome cooking vessel than the cloth, in the 20th century that the steamed pudding came to be cemented in British cooking. Indeed, for any English person the term pudding has come to be synonymous with dessert.
Eminent food writer Jane Grigson, in her English Food, cheekily attests, "it's true that an addiction to puddings hasn't been exactly in favour of English teeth and waistlines, but these wonderful things are some of the most subtle and imaginative combinations relying on simple and natural ingredients". Now, if only we all had a nanna like Ms Grigson baking for us.
For custard, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until thick and pale. Heat milk and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to the boil. Pour milk mixture over yolk mixture, whisking to combine, then return to a clean saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes or until custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl sitting over ice. Cool, then refrigerate until needed. Makes 2½ cups.
Preheat oven to 180C. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add rind and glacé ginger, then gradually sift flour and ground ginger over egg mixture and fold to combine.
Divide marmalade among the bases of 8 lightly buttered ½ cup-capacity metal dariole moulds. Divide batter among moulds, cover each mould with a piece of baking paper (folded with a pleat in the middle to let the pudding rise during steaming) and secure with kitchen twine or a rubber band. Place in a roasting pan, pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of moulds and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Remove from water, stand for 5 minutes, turn onto serving plates and serve with custard.