Few people look back fondly on school dinners. Overcooked vegetables, gluey mashed potatoes, rock-solid chips and watery gravy featured heavily alongside stodgy pies, hot pots and casseroles. And who can forget that dreaded nineties school dinner regular – the turkey twizzler?
Puddings, on the other hand, were something else. From warm fruit pie with cream to chocolate sponge (always doused with a good ladle of hot chocolate custard), apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding or dense roly-poly, dessert was the indisputable highlight of the day.
Here three grown-ups recount their favourite school puds, and we tell you how to make them!
Jam & coconut sponge with pink custard
When Paul Biddulph, a retired businessman from Potters Bar, thinks back to his school days, it's all about the custard.
'I have very fond memories of school dinners — I'd happily eat anything! The food we had in the 1950s was basic but pretty good quality.
‘With the shortage of sweets, school pudding was the one treat of the day, and my favourite was the jam and coconut sponge. Every Thursday, we’d watch as the cooks brought out a large tray of steaming sponge. It had a scattering of coconut on the top and was one of those filling puds you really looked forward to. We were allowed to pour on the thick, pink custard ourselves – I’d totally cover mine so you couldn’t even see the sponge!
'When I hear about my granddaughters’ meals, I’m astonished. Things like fajitas and homemade chocolate and pear cake – they sound a lot posher than anything I had!’
Find our recipe for jam and coconut sponge here.
Corn flake tart
Our Good Living content planner, Amy Cawthorne, 30, from Leeds, has fond memories of a gooey cereal pudding.
‘I clearly remember being the last kid left in the canteen at primary school. I was a super-slow eater and, every lunchtime, the dinner ladies would stand over us, checking we’d cleared our plates before they let us go out to play.
'What got me through it was the thought of tucking into pudding – whether it was Wellington fudge cake and custard, semolina and jam or my favourite – a gooey corn flake tart.
'The puddings were so popular, the dinner ladies actually made a little printed book with all of our favourite recipes inside. My mum bought a copy for us and me and my older sister Helen would spend Saturday afternoons making our favourites to serve with Sunday lunch.
'Now corn flake tart seems like such a weird recipe – it was essentially carbs on carbs – but, back then, it was just so good. A chewy mix of corn flakes stuck together with syrup, topped with lashings of custard. I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed on a school menu these days, if Jamie Oliver had anything to do with it, but we loved it!’
Find the recipe for corn flake and syrup tart here.
Emma Edwards, 41, owns a pre-school nursery in Buntingford and recalls one school pud in particular: Arctic roll.
‘I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth, so whenever I think back to queuing up in the canteen, my mind goes straight to the puds.
'I do remember the savoury stuff. I grew up in the 1980s and everything we had at school seemed to come with baked beans, which I hated. We’d have meat pie with an ice cream scoop of that really solid mashed potato.
'The puddings were the best, though. My favourites were always the cold puds, and Arctic roll in particular. I just loved the combo of Swiss roll, raspberry jam and freezing-cold vanilla ice cream that ran through the middle of it.
'It came with fruit salad, which I think was probably from a tin. We ate it at home, too, and for some reason my younger brother Terry and I called the syrup the fruit came in “joojar”.
'I’ve made arctic roll for my own kids, with frozen yogurt rather than ice cream. That combined with the sponge is just as delicious as I remember. Especially with extra joojar!’
Find our arctic roll recipe here.
Feeling inspired to take a walk down memory lane with one of our old-school puds? Make sure to stock up on everything you need at Asda or pop into your local store.