Rated: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Me Up.

In honour of Free Cone Day, here’s a little B&J post to get you going…

Peanut Butter Me Up

PB and Yay

What? One of Ben & Jerry’s more exciting flavours: a new concoction consisting of Vanilla and Peanut Butter Ice Creams, a ‘core’ of Raspberry Jam, and miniature Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

The PB Ice Cream was particularly luscious, with a rich taste and super-smooth texture.

The Jam core was excellent too – the tang of it cut through the creaminess, adding a pretty exciting dimension (with an unusual, pulpy texture).

That said, there was room for improvement.

More Jam would have gone down well, for starters.

And as for those Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups: amazing – but sadly sparse.

Without them, my teeth just got BORED

Where? Available at most decent supermercados

How Much? Typically £4.99 for 500ml (though you might get lucky and snap up a tub on offer)

Rating?

8/10

More killer, less filler – and then it might even warrant a 10

Rated, Y’all: The Pecan Cobbler.

Pecan Cobbler

Read it and weep

What? A truly dreamy dessert of Pecans, thick Syrup and crunchy Crumble, crowned with a scoop of Praline Ice Cream, which gradually turned to a lovely nutty puddle as I went.

I knew I was on to a winner before I even started eating (that smell, Ogglers! MON DIEU!).

As for the texture, I swear it had it all – plus more Pecans than a Pud-Hog could wish for (and you know how much I love Pecans…)

Rich, sweet, soft and creamy, it made me so happy I swear I actually cried.

Pathetic? Possibly.

Such is the power of pud…

Where? From the excellent Carriage House restaurant in Natchez, MS

How Much? $6 before taxes

Rating?

10/10

Oh, my sweet Cobbler: where have you been all my life?!

Rated: The Mishkins Salt Caramel Blondie.

Blondie with Salt Caramel Pretzels

Rather Hit-and-Misskins

What? According to the menu, an exciting premise of ‘White Chocolate Blondie, Salted Caramel Pretzels’.

In reality, an extremely dry Blondie topped with a much-needed ball of Vanilla Ice Cream and surrounded by Pretzels with semi-burnt (and therefore bitter) Caramel and Dark Chocolate.

A couple of bites came together quite well, but mostly it just didn’t hit the right buttons.

Twas a real shame – there was so much unfulfilled potential. A bit more goo in the Blondie might have salvaged things – though the piece would still have been too small.

As for the Pretzels, they were clearly more coated with Chocolate than anything else. Normally, that’s not a problem – but it isn’t so great when you fancy a dose of Salt Caramel.

Harumph.

Where? At Mishkins, the ‘kind-of Jewish deli’ near Covent Garden

How Much? £6 (plus an optional 12.5% service)

Rating? 3/10

Overpriced and underwhelming

Recipe: Man-Pa’s Christmas Pudding Ice Cream.

What with the New Year’s bank holiday out of the way, it feels like the Christmas period is well and truly over.

What a very sad time it is, when the days of legitimate Hoggery are finally at an end.

There are plenty of things I’ll miss from the festivities: Ma Hog’s homemade Mince Pies; steaming glasses of Hot Buttered Rum; the crunchy chew of a light-toasted Pudding; pots of cold Custard, lining the worktop.

It pains me to think that I won’t see most of these goodies again until next December, though I suppose that’s partly what makes them so special.

Then again, there are some treats I’m not sure can wait…

One of this Christmas’s more major (and moreish) highlights was a bowl of Christmas Pudding Ice Cream, made by the fair hands of Man-Pa (he of Summer Pudding fame).

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

O, Holy Pud!

The die-hard Ogglers among you will remember me mentioning this particular treat way back in 2011. In fact, you could argue it was what got the Pud-Hog Blog going in the first place: so enamoured was I with this Ice Cream, that I felt compelled to tell the world about it.

Anyway, just a fortnight ago, I was thrilled to be served it again – and this time it tasted even better.

Apparently the formula had changed: out had gone the Breadcrumbs, to be replaced by Meringue and luxury jellied Fruit Pastilles, of the type you can find in the fancier delicatessens.

The resulting taste and texture were extraordinary: sharp bursts of sugared Fruit; boozy Raisins, Dates and Peel; crunchy fragments of Meringue, and the softest, creamiest base you could wish for.

My delight secured me the recipe – so, thanks to the Man-Pa, you too can enjoy this magnificent medley at home.

It’s easy and fairly quick – and, I swear, yule never have better.

I defy you to wait until next December…

Man-Pa’s Christmas Pudding Ice Cream (serves 4)

Ingredients:

Fruit Stuff…

  • 80g raisins and/or sultanas
  • 80g dates
  • 80g candied peel
  • Some brandy or rum to soak the fruit
  • Finely-chopped fruit pastilles (preferably upmarket ones; gelatin-free)

… and for the Ice Cream:

  • A few nutmeg shavings
  • Generous half tsp ground ginger
  • 1 to 2 tsp vanilla essence (depending on your tastes)
  • 1 tsp coffee essence (make your own with half a tsp instant coffee granules and same amount of boiling water)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks OR 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 2-4 cloves (again, your taste dictates)
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 medium/large crushed meringue

Method:

  1. Mix the Fruit Stuff together and set to soak in the brandy or rum
  2. Heat ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon in a small saucepan for a few minutes…
  3. Then in with the cream, vanilla essence and coffee essence. Bring gently to the boil
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a medium-sized bowl
  5. Strain the cream to remove the spices. Tip cream into the sugar and egg mix and whisk together before heating again – slowly – in a clean pan for no more than 10 minutes until it thickens slightly
  6. Take off the heat and chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight, if you have the time)
  7. Strain the cream mix into a freezable container and freeze for an hour or two until it starts to thicken. Stir every half hour to break up the ice crystals (NB: clingfilm on top of the ice cream will prevent it turning brown if it’s going to be in the freezer for a week or more)
  8. Defrost for about half an hour before serving so it’s nice and soft to eat
  9. ENJOY

Happy Hogging – and thank you to Man-Pa for sharing!

P-H x

The Pud-Hog’s Pud of the Year: Top 10 (Purchased) Puddings.

This is it, Ogglers: the Big One; the post you’ve all been waiting for.

After much deliberation, I’ve finally picked my Top Ten Puddings of 2012.

While choosing the best was a reasonably easy feat, sorting the ranking has taken weeks of thought. My brain has been flooded with memories – while my mouth is in floods of saliva.

I think I’ve just about cracked it though…

Each entry on this list stands out for a host of reasons, including value, size, originality, texture, taste and even audibility (in other words, if I didn’t hear myself groan with delight, it didn’t make the cut).

What you see below are the cakes and desserts that stopped me in my tracks. They are among the best calories that have ever passed my lips and, with the tragic exception of No. 10, they’re all out there for you to try.

For more information, click on the links at each heading. Then add them to your To-Chew list and get gobbling while you can.

10. Niko B.’s Pumpkin Pancakes with Halloumi and Chocolate Sauce

Warning. Photo may cause mouth leaks.

This isn’t a match I would ever have thought of, but blimey it was a good’un.

Soft Pumpkin Pancakes, rich Chocolate Sauce, and thick slabs of fried Halloumi – if my last supper were scheduled for breakfast, I’m pretty sure this would be it.

Hailing from Niko B’s now defunct Chocolate Lab, alas, they may never be my Sunday treat again.

It’s a tragedy, folks. But I feel truly blessed to have tried them.

9. Pistachio Rose’s Chocolate Tarts

Indian Tartlets

What you see here are the crispest, cleanest Pastry Tarts, filled with the most Chocolatey spiced fillings that this Pud-Hog’s ever had.

Milk Chocolate Chai; Dark Chocolate with Salt and Chilli; White Chocolate and Sweet Fennel: every flavour is exciting, with a melt that makes me shiver every time.

8. The Bakery Cafe’s Chocolate, Fennel and Caraway Brownie

Fennel and Caraway Brownie

BEHOLD: a textural triumph of tremendous proportions!

This Brownie was moist, melty, crispy, chewy – and perhaps more excitingly still, absolutely ENORMOUS.

If its intriguing mix of spices doesn’t float your boat, then the slightly salty edge will surely get your oral rivers flowing.

Worth a train trip to Sherborne all on its own.

No other Brownie compares.

7. The Kooky Bakes’ Kooky Slice

Congratulations. You have reached the Holy Grail.

Here is the slice to end all slices.

With Condensed Milk, Pecans, Pretzels, Dulce de Leche AND Dark and White Chocolate, this cunchy gooey beast has all the trimmings.

As it happens, the Kooky Slice is the first cake of the year I almost married. Our love affair didn’t last long though: eating it was so much more fulfilling.

6. Outsider Tart’s Congo Bar

Congo Bar

This juicy slab is made up almost entirely of Cookie Dough, with a finishing flourish of Chocolate Peanuts. It also happens to be my favourite creation of Outsider Tart so far.

Even now I can’t help marvelling at its construction.

How do they make the outside so crisp, while the inside is perfectly gloopy?

Clearly, there’s some sort of miracle going on. Those bakers deserve a sainthood.

5. Bonda Cafe’s Bubur Pulut Hitam

Into THIS

The fact that this bowl of glutinous Black Rice looks so downright unappetising only proves the strength of my love for its flavour and texture.

Creamy, warm, soft, and suffused with Brown Sugar and Coconut Milk, it ticks all the boxes as my ideal comfort food.

Bonda Cafe: I salute you.

4. The Classic Cinnabon

Cinnabon

As much as I like to support local foodstuffs and plug the wares of independent retailers, on this occasion I’m forced to make an exception.

In a nutshell, CINNABON RULES.

Their Original Bun quite literally drips with Cinnamon Butter, while its caramelised Sugar corners are just the thing to make a Pud-Hog sing.

No doubt it’s loaded with chemicals (I know for a fact that each one is loaded with calories), but quite frankly all other Buns pale in comparison.

3. Honey & Co.’s Cold Cheese CakeCold Cheesecake

Cheesecakes don’t have to be heavy and rich, as this heavenly plateful proves.

Instead, they can be nests of Honey, Fruit, Almonds, fresh Mint, Pastry and creamy Curd-like Cheese.

Every mouthful of this is sheer delight, with just the right balance of crunch, bite and softness.

If the Pud-Hog made clouds they would taste like this – and the skies would be damp with drool.

2. The M’Hencha

M'Hencha

Light, luscious and practically bursting with syrup, here’s another Middle Eastern pud you really mustn’t miss.

A.K.A. the Mmm’hencha, life’s too short not to sample this stupendous Pastry swirl, with its filling of Ground Almonds, Lemon and Rosewater.

Indeed, according to the Guild of Fine Foods, it’s 2012’s best Cake in Britain.

Having sampled a great deal of cake myself, this Pud-Hog can proudly concur.

And finally… drum roll please…

1. La Grotta’s Pine Nut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice

The reason that God made Ice Cream

WOOO!

This is it, Ogglers: the champ of well over 200 Pud-Hog posts – and it’s a worthy winner indeed.

I looked at my notes for this Choc Ice the other day, and in big letters, filling up three lines, one phrase is scrawled in biro:

‘Oh!’

It’s quite difficult to describe just how special this Ice Cream was. I have never, never had anything like it.

A magnificent mash-up of fresh sea breezes, thick Milk Chocolate, Pine Nuts and Candied Orange, before I tried this, I mistakenly thought that I’d had all that Ice Cream could offer.

If you can, get your hands on one sharpish – and congratulate La Grotta on a pud well done.

Happy Hogging – and thanks for supporting the Pud-Hog’s first year!

Here’s to the next twelve months…

P-H x

The Pud-Hog’s Pud of the Year: Top 10 Pudding Producers.

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Last week marked the one year anniversary of the Pud-Hog Blog – and I was so caught up in those Cape Town desserts, I blooming well let it pass by.

A BELATED HOGGAVERSARY TO YOU ALL!

To celebrate, I’ll be looking back over the past year of tasty Pud-Hog treats (now in the two-hundreds, last time I counted), and presenting the best of the bunch.

To kick things off, here’s my Top 10 Pudding Producers; a handful of excellent companies that have caught my eye, with various ranges of sweet treats guaranteed to make you drool.

These are by no means one-hit wonders, folks: they’re places for Pud-Hog pilgrims (and no – they’re not all in London)…

10. Chococo

Luvly Jubilee

Why? Chococo is an excellent Chocolate company which sells all manner of gorgeous goodies, using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Their flavours are pretty exciting too – think Truffles filled with Molasses, or even Stinging Nettle Ale(!)

Where? They have a factory/shop/cafe in Swanage (you can order things from their website too).

Try: the Chocolate Cream Tea (Chocolate Scones with Dulce de Leche and Clotted Cream); one of their Ice Cream Sundaes (drowning in homemade Chocolate Sauce).

9. Konditor and Cook

K&C Brownies

Why? Though slightly pricier than the average bakery, the range and quality of their cakes is more than worth the money. Indulgent and full of all the right flavours.

Where? K&C has numerous shops in London town – their store at Borough Market is always buzzing.

Try: their Brownies (to my mind, the best in London); Pumpkin Pie; the Curly Whirly Cake (a must for Cream Cheese Addicts).

8. Gatineau

Any more colour and we'd have gone blind...

Why? This could well be the best patisserie outside of France: it always smells divine, their cakes and pastries are made fresh and onsite – and their less fancy pastries are very good value for money.

Where? Gatineau has a popular store in Summertown, Oxford.

Try: a bag of Macaroons (especially the Passionfruit and Raspberry/Chocolate varieties); the Chocolate and Almond Brioche (phwoar).

7. Kooky Bakes

Salt Caramel Whoopie Pie

Why? Big, bold, fun exciting and – above all – very American. Kooky Bakes make a damn fine cake – and their textures are superb.

Where? You’ll find the Kooky Bakes stall at various London markets (take a look at their website for details). They also have a few things in the Selfridge’s Food Hall.

Try: the one and only Kooky Slice (a crazy riot of goo, crunch, salt and sweet); the Salted Caramel Whoopee Pie.

6. The Bakery Cafe

Bakery Cafe Cakes

Why? The atmosphere in the cafe is great and the cakes are even greater, not only in terms of taste. The Fruit Scone and Bun are particularly huge – best of the bunch for value, hands down.

Where? At the top of the main drag in Sherborne, Dorset.

Try: the Chocolate and Caraway Brownie (OMG it’s good); the aforementioned Scone and Bun (you probably won’t need to eat for the rest of the day).

5. Pistachio Rose

High Chai Platter

Why? Refined and flavourful Indian-fusion products: like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.

Where? Some of their products are stocked at Fortnum and Mason. They also do markets (keep an eye on the website for details).

Try: the Shortbread Hearts (so crisp!); the Fig and Dark Chocolate Naan (so chewy!); any one of their super-dense Chocolate Tarts (Out. Of. This. WORLD).

4. Paul A. Young

Aquariva

Why? Mr Young is a stickler for authentic flavours: if a Truffle’s supposed to taste like Malt Loaf, you can be sure that’s what you’ll get. Their range transforms on a regular basis and is always full of surprises (Pea and Mint? Port and Stilton?) The only downside is the price – this is the upper end of luxury.

Where? There are three main stores in London, all filled to the brim with Chocolate (stop by in Soho, Islington, or Bank).

Try: spiced Aztec Hot Chocolate; the award-winning Salted Caramel Truffle; the Marmite Truffle; the PB&J Truffle (the Pud-Hog’s personal fave).

3=3. Sorbitium/La Grotta Ices

Greengage and Hazelnut Custard Crumble

Why? It’s a cop-out to tie them, I know, but each one of these Ice Cream and Sorbet makers is just as awesome as the other: both use incredible flavour combos, and numerous British ingredients that are all-too-seldom seen. Think Cobnuts, Quinces, Damsons – whatever’s in season (and tasty).

Where? For La Grotta Ices, head to the Spa Terminus Market in Bermondsey on Saturday (9am to 2pm). Sorbitium can be found in various London markets (you know the drill: check their website).

Try: if you can get it, go for Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli; Greengage and Hazelnut Custard Crumble (both Sorbitium); Toasted Hazelnut Brittle; Pine Nut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice (mmm – both La Grotta).

2. Honey and Co

Chocolate Sandwich

Why? Their goodies are all made onsite and they are WONDERFUL. Cost-wise, they’re generally located towards the dearer end of the market – though are not nearly as pricey as some.

These puddings aren’t your normal restaurant fare, but decadent and delicious, with a Middle-Eastern bent. They change their menu regularly too – always a good sign.

Where? Their small cafe was established on Warren Street earlier this year.

Try: the Cold Cheese Cake (a fruity, nutty nest made with Honey and chopped Almonds); the Chocolate Sandwich with Peanut Butter (extremely dense and rich); the Chocolate and Hazelnut Loaf (a goo bonanza).

1. Outsider Tart

Outsider Tart Stall

Why? These are some of the most imaginative guys around, with a no-holds-barred approach to baking. Chunky, unpretentious, usually bursting with Chocolate… I’m not talking about myself here, but the numerous Brownies and Cookies in their repertoire (one which appears to expand by the day).

It’s the only market stall I can’t help but run to, just to see what new creations they’ve invented. Pecans, White Chocolate, Strawberries, Whisky, Oreos, Marshmallows, Oats, Caramel – all feature on a regular basis.

Comforting, filling (and frequently naughty), if I could, I’d eat their products every day.

Where? Catch them at the Southbank Real Food Festival (look for the jostling crowd of people), or at their shop in Chiswick.

Try: walking past without buying anything (trust me, you won’t be able to). The Pud-Hog’s favourites so far include the Congo Bar (a medley of Chocolate Peanuts and Cookie Dough), the Apple and Whisky Pop Tart (served warm with a dusting of sugar), and the Mile High Bar (beats an aeroplane tryst every time).

Sweet S.A. 1: Chocolate Samoosas at Rick’s.

Those of you who follow the Pud-Hog on Twitter will know that I’ve just come back from a week in Cape Town.

It was my first visit to South Africa, and, foodwise, I wasn’t expecting to have my boat floated.

Being veggie and all, I imagined I’d spend the whole time eating Beans and Bread, while my cousin – my travelling partner – got fat on Springbok Steaks and Ostrich.

In fact, the reality was quite different: not only was there plenty of choice in the main meal department, but – on the whole – Dessert was exciting and bounteous.

During my stay, I tried numerous Cakes and Puddings, many of which I had not had before.

I’ll be featuring most of them over the next few posts, but today I start with one of the biggest highlights: the Chocolate Samoosas at Rick’s Café Américain on Park Road.

Chocolate Samoosas

Why fill a Samoosa with anything else?

Sweet Samoosas (or Samosas) probably aren’t the first thing you would think of when contemplating African cuisine. Then again, I can’t say I’ve seen them anywhere else – and they make quite excellent ambassadors.

Two hot and super-crisp Pastry triangles, crammed full of Dark Lindt Chocolate, served with fresh Fruit and a scoop of homemade Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream.

In a word? Bliss.

The texture was particularly good: through some weird process I don’t quite understand, the Chocolate in the centre had congealed while cooking. As a result, it stayed lovely and firm, rather than dribbling over the plate.

The Ice Cream was superb as well: it partnered with the Pastries beautifully, keeping things smooth and providing a much-needed coolness to balance things out.

My only reservation was the price. At 48 Rand for a plate of two (just under £3.50 at current rates), it was only a few pence cheaper than one of our huge main meals – and certainly wasn’t the largest serving of Pudding I’ve ever had.

Then again, it was one of the tastiest. And in London it would have cost at least double, I’m sure.

What the hell: we were on holiday!

Before we knew it our plate was cleared – and seconds were on their way…

Maltby Street Treats: La Grotta Ices.

STOP. Right now. Whatever it is you’re doing can wait.

You ought to read this.

You need to read this.

The Pud-Hog has made a discovery, see, and to say that it’s a good one is an understatement. It concerns the city of London and some of the finest Ice Creams I have ever tasted.

All from this lowly brick building at Spa Terminus, just metres from the Little Bread Pedlar:

What? This one?

Looks fairly run-of-the-mill, don’t you think? Small? Humble? Easy to miss?

Why, if it weren’t for the colourful sign you might hurry past thinking that nothing was there. But that would be a serious mistake.

Come closer, Ogglers, and check out that blackboard menu…

A.K.A. Today’s Flavs

This board, dear chums, marks the home of La Grotta Ices. And, my, don’t those flavours sound exciting?

For those who can’t make out those bright chalky letters, the options (at least for last Saturday) read as follows:

  • Pinenut + Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ices £3.50
  • Chocolate + Espresso Choc Ices £3.50
  • Chestnut Cremolata £2.50
  • Toasted Hazelnut Brittle £3.00
  • Quince Custard £3.00

That’s right, Ogglers. QUINCE. CUSTARD.

Last time I saw such an intriguing list was on the side of the Sorbitium Ice Cream van. But they didn’t do any Choc Ices.

No, sir.

In fact, the last time I had a Choc Ice was years ago – and it was just your average supermarket fare: nice, but nothing special – and nowhere near as tasty as a Magnum.

Naturally, I was keen to try one of La Grotta’s gourmet varieties – but first we were lucky enough to sample the other Ice Creams on offer.

They were delicious.

The Hazelnut Brittle was packed with candied Nut – like a crunchy Praline in frozen form.

The Chestnut Cremolata was milder and much lighter – apparently not being an Ice Cream per se, but more of a milk-based Sorbet.

Meanwhile, the Quince Custard wasn’t custardy at all, but a gorgeously fragrant hit of what tasted like Fruit Sherbert (POW), followed by a sweet and milky aftertaste.

Excellent work, indeed.

Even so, nothing – nothing – could quite match up to what I then opted to buy: the Pinenut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice.

The reason that God made Ice Cream

OHMYWORDITWASFRIGGINGAWESOMEWOWZERSHOLYBALLSGODDAMN!

Sorry… must breathe… calming down…

Mmmmm.

So where should I start?

Well, obviously, despite being the drizzly, cold November day that it was, this Choc Ice ROCKED MY WORLD. So hard did it rock, by the end Magnums started to seem like bars of frozen ditchwater in comparison.

Seriously, this Choc Ice had it all: the softest and creamiest centre, a thick coat of luxurious, crisp Milk Chocolate, and a flavour that pretty much BLEW MY MIND.

Apologies for all the capped-up letters, folks, but you know it’s my go-to when I get excited. AND I AM EXCITED. Besides, how else can I convey just how deeply I loved this product?

Oh me, oh my! What an intense experience!

It was the flavour of the Ice Cream within that really stole the show: like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.

The best way to describe it would be to say that it was like eating the sea. Not in a bad way, mind (after all, actually eating the sea would make you very ill). Instead, it was more like the atmosphere of the sea: the breezes, the sunshine, the slightly briny air.

Perhaps it was the fragrance of the Cedrat (a citrus fruit that’s slightly like a Lime). Or maybe it was the generous dose of Pine Nuts.

Whatever. Then combination of these, the Chocolate and all that Candied Orange was really, really magical.

And marvellous.

And moreish.

Seriously, I urge you, Ogglers: if you’re anywhere even remotely near London next Saturday, be sure to go to Bermondsey and get some goodies from La Grotta.

Whatever the weather, your taste buds will love you forever.

The Millionaires Ice Cream Bombe.

Tick tock…

Is there anything more extravagant than an Ice Cream Cake? The whole concept smacks of impracticality: once you’ve taken it out and served the thing there’s no going back.

Too few of you clustered around the table and things start to get obscene pretty quickly. Unable to refreeze it you have only two choices: either stuff your face or watch in dismay as the leftovers melt into oblivion.

I recently faced this dilemma myself. With four of us craving sugar after a splendid Indian feast, someone had to go out and buy dessert.

The brief, to suit all appetites, was this: costing less than £5 it had to be both gooey and exciting – with a generous serving of Chocolate to boot.

Our emissary returned with a Millionaires Ice Cream Bombe from Sainsbury’s, plating it up to a round of applause. He had covered all the bases. Not only was it studded (and topped) with Chocolate-covered Biscuit nuggets, but inside was the excitement and the goo:

A.K.A. a raunchy Caramel filling

Extravagant indeed!

Especially when you consider that we’d eaten less than half before feeling full.

What to do with the rest though? After softening a little at room temperature it was clearly at its best: smooth and melty without having made the full transition to liquid.

The contrast in textures was lovely too: crunch and goo; hard and soft. But soon it would all just be damp. And, with none of us fancying full-fat Milkshakes for several days, all would go to waste…

Some of the group stayed strong, recognising the madness of trying to finish the lot.

Others, however, metaphorically (and literally) decided to step up to the plate.

Seconds went down all right, but proved more than enough for my comrades. Alone, I soldiered on, but the third bowl of richness was perhaps a bowl too many.

Damn you, Ice Cream Bombe! I cried. Are you trying to make me obese?!

With a quarter still dripping defiantly, it seemed like I was fighting a losing battle.

Thankfully, minutes later, we were saved by a stray housemate, who mercifully ate the last of it, putting us out of our misery.

Even so, the damage had been done. Though thoroughly delicious, I realised I could never buy another one: the Bombe had lived up to its name, and gone off far too quickly.

It was time for the Pud-Hog to call for a truce. And a very long lie-down indeed.

Review: Za Za Bazaar and the Pudding Bowl Blowout.

Food as far as the eye can see…

There are some concepts I just can’t resist, however much I might want to.

Za Za Bazaar is a prime example: an all-you-can-eat buffet, with 1,000 covers – apparently making it Britain’s largest restaurant.

Before I go on, you should know that I hate crowds. I also hate feeling like I am competing for food – there’s nothing worse than having your eye on a certain Cake or Pastry, only to see it snatched up by the person in front of you.

Nevertheless I was drawn to the place, namely because of the choice: most of the world’s cuisines in just one room – from Sushi to Sausage and Mash – with a dessert list longer than anywhere outside my dreams.

Since we were in Bristol – i.e. home to this particular Bazaar – it seemed like we really should give it a go. The website alone made my eyes spin, but when else would we get the chance?

From the outset it was clear that this wasn’t your usual dining experience. You can’t just book any time you want, but have to go on the hour.

The price also varies depending on when you go (as does the range they offer). Our visiting time being peak (i.e. Saturday night), we supposedly had the whole range of their dishes, for a fairly meaty £15.99 per head.

When we got there almost the first thing they told us was what time we had to leave: it was 8.45 at the latest; little more than ninety minutes after we’d arrived.

Which brings me to another thing I hate: time-limits.

With one-and-a-half hours to sample various cusines, the main temptation was to pile up our plates and start scoffing. But no: the Man and I had been working on a plan.

It ran as follows: do the rounds first to scope out the joint; try tiny samples of everything we fancied; minimise the carbs (too filling and cheap – not easy to get your money’s worth); drink plenty of water; and – most importantly – try to avoid being sick.

I have to say, our main meals went surprisingly well. The food quality wasn’t generally great, but the spectacle was amazing: our first recon took about ten minutes, so vast was the range on offer. Each station was themed by place, and was manned by at least two chefs; some of whom could make things on request.

Enough about savouries, though – this blog post is hardly the place. As I learnt that night, it’s vital to save space for pudding.

So here it is (brace yourself):

Four kinds of cake on this side…

…a Chocolate Fountain with Fruit, Marshmallows and Cake Chunks…

…Gulab Jamun, Sweets, and two cabinets of Jellied Desserts…

…a Mr Whippy-style Ice Cream Dispenser…

…PLUS Ice Cream for scooping, Crème Brûlée (in the background), AND Kheer, Apple Crumble and Custard (just out of shot). WHEW.

In short, there was quite a lot – and my aim, as the Pud-Hog, was to try a little snuffling of each thing.

Alas, however, my ambitions were unfulfilled. Not, I might add, because my stomach was overwhelmed (I’d been sparing with my savouries in preparation for this challenge), but because a great deal of what was on offer was apparently not vegetarian.

In fact, the issue of what was and wasn’t veggie caused myself (and the Chefs) no small amount of headaches, mainly because the labelling was so ambiguous: on the few occasions that it was visible, it was hard to tell exactly what it meant.

Take this label for the Indian-style Rice Pudding, for example:

Vegetarian: X

Where most of the labels wrote ‘Y’ or ‘N’ beside the word ‘Vegetarian’, this one plumped for an ‘X’.

But was that an ‘X’ as in a tick box? Or an ‘X’ as in I’m-crossing-this-bad-boy-off-my-list-and-so-should-you?

Nobody seemed to know. One Chef said it wasn’t veggie, another disagreed. Back at the table, our waiter told us it was gelatin-free…

Who to believe?

Elsewhere, as well as the usual no-nos (the Marshmallows and Jellies) a whole cabinet of cakes was apparently off-limits too. Not that this seemed rational either.

Perhaps someone had made up their mind to bake gelatin into everything like some hog-hungry maniac. Or perhaps the labelling department was being incredibly lax.

As for the contradictory Chefs, I’m not sure what the problem was. A language barrier? Undertrained members of staff? A ruse to prevent the Pud-Hog from gobbling up all the stock?

I have my suspicions…

But, again, let’s bring ourselves back to dessert.

What, after all this confusion, did I eventually choose to eat?

Well, this was my first plate:

And so it begins

Sadly, some of it didn’t get eaten (the Chocolate Square, the Swiss Roll and the Pie), but purely because of my aforementioned bewilderment. As for the rest, I’m surprised to reveal that it wasn’t half bad.

Indeed, as products for what is basically a mega (and generally indiscriminate) feeding frenzy, they could have been a whole lot worse.

The Crème Brûlée tasted nice and fresh, with a thin but crunchy caramel top.

The Chocolate Tart was pleasantly rich and dark (if a little too thick and soft in the Pastry department).

The Carrot Cake was something I’d be happy to pay full price for in a bakery, while the Gulab Jamun wasn’t perfect, but just as syrupy as you’d hope to get.

My next stop was the Chocolate Fountain, where I dosed up on Tinned Peaches and a square of Sponge. Alas, you couldn’t just spoon the Chocolate in (instead you had to spear and dip), but I managed to get a fairly decent covering, topping the lot with a scattering of generic chocolate-filled shells.

Like so

Again, it was OK. No Purbeck Chococo wizardry, obviously, but fine as long as you had average expectations. The Chocolate was slightly too thin and oily, but the Peaches were juicy and moreish.

My third bowl quite surpassed them though, with both Kheer and Apple Crumble being pretty gosh darn tasty.

Trust me, it was better than it looked

The former (which I’d decided just had to be veggie) was nice and creamy, with a lovely flavour of Cardamom. The latter was very comforting: a stodgy (though only part-baked) Crumble, with plenty of warm, cooked apple.

It was so comforting, in fact, that I went for seconds – this time with some custard.

My thirds came with Melon and Pineapple.

My fourths with another Gulab Jamun and a sliver of Chocolate Fudge Cake (like one of those Betty Crocker ones; sludgy, but not too bad).

Of course, if you think six bowls of pudding sounds rather piggish, you’d be right.

Then again, it could have been worse: I didnt have the Cupcakes or the Ice Cream – they just didn’t seem that exciting. By the end I was also feeling slightly full…

…and then we were herded out.

The verdict then? A pretty impressive experience, but not one I’d like to repeat.

One session of scoffing against the clock is more than enough for me.