The little arm of the old lady flung out towards me, I turned to recognise a slight frame that is a familiar sight that shuffles along the main road. In her hand she held that day’s edition of the Morning Star extracted from a neatly folded pile on her lap. However the tabloid, set up 83-year years ago by the Communist Party of Great Britain, was not for me. Sitting on what seemed a habitual perch at the corner of the pharmacy counter she croaked a request: would I deliver it to a house somewhere at the end of the road? A shop assistant appeared from nowhere and bent down to offer her a glass of water. To refuse would require more impoliteness than I could muster, besides which the house described was on my way. ‘Why not just chuck it in the nearest bin?’, an internal voice tugged at my volition as I walked along. Nevertheless, by the 60s bohemian character of open-to-the-world front room I gained some satisfaction that I had delivered this organ of ‘peace and socialism’ to the right letterbox.
No big deal, but possibly I ought to try to be a better person more often. The following week I was ‘head down’ as usual going about my business, when I received this from a stranger.
It is a recipe scribbled out for me on the back of a till receipt. It was completed in a few seconds at the express lane at the supermarket. This pleased the cashier less than the largely bewildered students and homeward-bound office workers behind me in the queue. My staked out portion of the conveyor belt had moved forward to bring my trifle sponges under the gaze of the observant lady in front of me. She clearly marked me down as a fellow cook – either that or WordPress is much better at marketing than I could have ever possibly imagined.
She called the recipe Paradise Pudding explaining that the main ingredient was condensed milk. A shadow of doubt must have crossed my face as she went on to assure me that the lemon in the recipe masks its presence. Childhood memories of slicks of condensed milk on Sunday canned peaches must have come to my mind. Condensed milk was to later re-enter my life in a more exciting way during the banoffee days of the 90s. The caramel layer can be made by boiling a can of condensed milk – like a little pressure cooker – until the contents were a stiff toffee sauce. Good fun at the time, but I would not recommend it now as it could provide a potential shortcut to paradise; I have since learnt that the same process makes something called Danger Pudding in the southern states of the US.
I have constructed the Paradise Pudding recipe from the simple instructions given to me in the supermarket queue. It is true that no one would detect the condensed milk in this dish as it is light-tasting and lemony. I have added some lemon zest which makes it fruitier. It is as gracious a recipe as the lady who gave it to me. Lime, Seville oranges, passion fruit or a combination of them, in addition to soaking the trifle sponges in appropriate alcohol, are all potential options.
So I have shared this valuable recipe with you, if you choose not to make it – or pass it on – nothing terrible will happen to you, but if you do not you will possibly miss out on some sort of paradise.
It may be, if it exists, I have had a brush with ‘the divinity’ in beneficent aspects; if so god is not only a women (which is not news) but an old-time European communist and latterly, and most significantly, a cook.
Juice of 2 large, or 3 small, lemons plus zest of one
Some trifle sponges
1 can (397g, approx.14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with the lemon juice and mix in with the condensed milk. In another bowl beat the eggs whites into stiff peaks. Add a tablespoonful at a time folding the gloopy condensed milk mixture into the whites and chill the resulting mixture.
Donated garden plants; not from strangers but friends.