But some of the best recipes can come about by accident. Ruth Graves Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, supposedly came up with her Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies recipe in the late Thirties when she ran out of nuts for her regular cookie recipe and replaced them with chunks chopped from a bar of Nestlé chocolate. And lo, a true icon – the chocolate chip cookie – was born. Certainly I’ve developed numerous recipes that have turned out better when I ran out of an intended ingredient and I used what I had.
Of course, whatever ingredients go into the Platinum Pudding they should be British grown and/or produced and must be easy to find. Judges won’t want complicated recipes with a long list of speciality ingredients that need to be sourced from the outer reaches of the internet. Most magazines I write for want a maximum of 10 ingredients per recipe and these must be easy to find. Think about fruits that will be in season in June when the Jubilee celebrations are in full swing (raspberries, cherries or strawberries are obvious choices), or products you can buy from your local shops, like chocolate or caramel, dried fruit or praline.
“I take one ingredient and do what my children call a ‘mind map’,” Henry explains. “I put the name in a circle and I draw arrows pointing out of it. These arrows first of all point to ingredients and flavours that will go with it, then I draw arrows to ingredients that are not usually considered partners, but which might jog something. Thinking in terms of opposites often works.”
Finding that sweet spot between a simple and special dish is always hard, but this will be vital for a winning Platinum Pudding. The Victoria sandwich (also known as a Victoria sponge), named after one of Queen Victoria’s favourite afternoon tea treats, is a prime example. The recipe is simplicity itself, but so elegant and deeply delicious that it earned a place in history.
To make a simple pudding memorable, think about including more than one component, Henry suggests. “Last time I had to think of something royal, I did a strawberry jelly with macerated strawberries and an elderflower cream. Layering is good,” she says.
If you’re struggling for ideas, old British cookbooks would be a good place to start. “Look for puddings that were in vogue when the Queen was born, or at the time of her coronation. You’re looking for inspiration,” Henry says.
Not that you should copy another recipe – far from it. A recipe must be made over and over again as you adjust and swap ingredients, change quantities and perfect cooking times. And the recipe evolves throughout this process. I once tested a chocolate chip cookie recipe 34 times, making it repeatedly with minor changes for each iteration, until I got it exactly right. Most recipe developers will test a recipe at least three times (and ideally get people in different kitchens to test it too), to make sure it works perfectly.
In the end, your passion for the recipe you have created will be the ingredient that makes it yours. And hopefully one fit for royalty.
Five of the most popular puddings in Britain