Regular readers of Viva Blancmange and my history blog (Come Step Back in Time) will know that I am a woman on a mission to revive blancmange. I am pleased to report that this revival is progressing very well. Earlier this year I featured in a competitive cookery series on British television with my Mrs Beeton inspired recipe, ‘Vintage Lavender and Lemon Blancmange’. One of the show’s judges was food writer and gastronome Tom Parker Bowles. I made it all the way to the regional finals and secured a place in the cookbook that accompanied the series. The show has recently been sold to BBC Lifestyle and will air first on DStv (Channel 174) in South Africa at the end of June beginning of July. I hope that it does well on BBC Lifestyle and provides the humble blancmange with an international media platform. Here are the transmission details:
- Thursday 27th June – 8pm
- Friday 28th – 3.30pm
- Saturday 29th – 08.45am
- Saturday 29th – 8.30pm
- Tuesday 2nd July – 9pm
I have also had enquiries from around the world about blancmange and retro foods in general. Some of these enquiries will hopefully lead to exciting and unusual creative collaborations. I am remaining tight-lipped about these opportunities for the moment but rest assured you will be the first to know when a project is ready for launch. My blancmange cookbook is shaping-up rather nicely too, it will be a mix of vintage recipes as well as modern reinventions. I just need to find a publisher willing take a leap of faith and bring the humble blancmange to a wider audience!
My tried and tested recipe for ‘Vintage Lemon and Lavender Blancmange’
INGREDIENTS: (For the lavender sugar) 500g caster sugar; 1½-3 tbsp culinary grade lavender husks. (For the blancmange Sunflower oil (for greasing); 65g cornflour, sifted; 600ml whole milk; Fine zest from 1 large or 2 small unwaxed lemons; 4 tbsp lavender sugar (lavender husks sifted out); 2 tsp clear honey; 1 tbsp rose water (be careful with rose water, it can be very strong, go for a weaker strength brand such as Waitrose own); 3-5 drops natural yellow food colouring (depending on depth of colour wanted).
- First make the lavender sugar. Mix the caster sugar with the lavender husks and store in an airtight container for up to a week to allow the sugar to become infused with lavender;
- This quantity of lavender sugar will last a very long time and make quite a number of blancmanges;
- Lightly oil a 1½ pint (900ml) blancmange mould and place it upturned;
- Sift the cornflour into a bowl. Add 125ml of the milk and stir until smooth. Set aside;
- In the saucepan add the remaining milk, lemon zest, lavender sugar (husks sifted out), honey, rose water and food colouring;
- Heat the mixture until it reaches boiling point, stirring continuously to prevent it from catching;
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the cornflour mixture. Place the pan back on a low heat and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes, until it thickens;
- If you find the mixture is beginning to catch as you stir, just remove saucepan from the heat, still continuing to stir and return to the hob after 30 seconds;
- Keep stirring until the mixture is thick and forms ribbons on the surface when you lift the spoon;
- Do not be tempted to beat the mixture as this will introduce air bubbles and once you turn out your blancmange, it will have a pitted surface where the air bubbles have burst;
- The mixture must be smooth and thick. This will ensure that the surface of your blancmange will be presented blemish-free!;
- Pour the mixture into the prepared mould and set aside to cool. When lukewarm, place in the fridge for 4-5 hours until firm;
- To turn out the blancmange, place the mould in a bowl of hot water for 20-30 seconds, taking care not to get the contents wet;
- Remove from the water, dry the outside of the mould, then place a plate on top. Quickly flip over, holding the plate and mould firmly together;
- Gravity should take over and the blancmange will slide out of the mould. Once the blancmange is free from the mould (it should make a suction noise), carefully remove the mould.
I have been trying-out some of my blancmange recipes on friends and family which has been terrific fun. Following transmission of the tv series, a number of viewers contacted me with their experiences of making blancmanges. Here is a round-up of some of the best pictures and feedback that I have received so far.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic about blancmange. After trying blancmange for the first time, my good friend Simon observed: ‘I gave it a go and as expected the dreaded wobbly food isn’t for me. Not sure why, but I feel the same way about jelly and to an extent ice cream as well. Trifle is a food nightmare for me! I think it [blancmange] is something you either love or hate, it certainly divides opinion.’
What do you think? Would you like to see blancmange revived?