“Everything always looks better with a meringue on it” - so someone once told me before promptly ruining a bowl of butternut squash, by doing exactly that.
“It’s what they do in America” he told assured me, before bunging it in the oven for the stiff peaks to turn sugary and golden. I don’t care what happens in America. Sweet meringue should not go with vegetables. End of.
As far as I’m concerned, meringues should only go with something sweet and preferable fruity. Like a pavlova, or perhaps this surprise pudding.
This pudding has been through various evolutions. I suspect it started as a ‘Queen of Puddings’ which layers jam on a cooked, milk-sugar-breadcrumb base. But along the way, Mum put her own twist on it, and so the second evolution is a dessert from my childhood, quaintly known as “Mummy’s Surprise” which layers fruit compote on a homemade rice pudding instead.
It was called “Mummy’s Surprise” due to the supposed surprise element of discovering the fruit and rice pudding which mum had hidden beneath the meringue. A clear indication of my slowness as a child. Mum did make this pudding quite often, so it’s astounding that I was surprised after, say, the second or third time I discovered the fruit and rice pudding beneath the meringue.
Anyway, the pudding is now in its third evolution, so I have renamed it ‘Surprise Pudding’. The ‘surprise’ as a nod to the aforementioned shock value, and the ‘pudding’ to explain what it is supposed to be. Tom incidentally remains unconvinced - as his definition of a pudding doesn’t stray far from a pie, crumble or sponge.
The recipe change which marks the third phase of this pudding’s life cycle is that I couldn’t be bothered to make my own rice pudding. And so Ambrosia it is. But the can tells me it’s from Devon and it’s “full of dairy goodness” - so that’s enough for me.
As mentioned in the recipe below, I made one larger bowl of this, and some individual ramekin portions too. It is a lovely little pudding, and ticks three important boxes: tastes delicious, uses up leftovers (I for one always seem to have leftover egg whites lingering in the fridge, and some fruit which is probably best turned into a compote), and you can almost convince yourself it’s good for you - fruit, dairy, egg whites and air!
3 cooking apples, peeled cored and cut into chunks
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 x (400g) Ambrosia rice pudding
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1. Make a fruit compote by putting the blackberries and apples in a saucepan with a drizzle of water in the bottom - so that when it’s put on direct heat, then the fruit won’t catch.
2. Stir in the sugar, and cook the fruit on a gentle heat until the apple has cooked down, and it’s a lovely purple thick puree.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C
4. Pop the rice pudding into a glass bowl, and put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. It doesn’t need to be bubbling hot, but it should be nice and warm.
5. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly add the 100g of sugar, until it’s thick and glossy.
6. Now make the pudding by spooning the rice pudding into the dishes. (I filled one 14cm diameter dishes, and three ramekins). Next, spoon the fruit compote over the top. Finally, spoon over the meringue mixture and sprinkle a little sugar over the top.
7. Put the pudding in the oven for 10-12 minutes, so the meringue is starting to colour, and the insides are happily bubbling away. Serve hot…though I think this is also delicious eaten cold.