A slight cough to his left made him jump, and he turned to see Ash standing by the door,
‘Ah, Ash, Good Morning. I was just, er, umm, did you get my coffee?’
Ash handed over the cup, his eyes lingering appreciatively on the Love legend before him.
‘Can I just say Valentine, you look amazing!’
His eyes took in the snug-fitting black leather trousers and the tight lilac silk shirt, whose long, ruffled sleeves half-covered Valentine’s hands.
‘Really?’ Valentine looked perturbed, ‘you don’t think I look like that designing chap?’
‘Llewellyn-Bowen? Noooo, much sexier’‘And nothing like that potty mouth with the wispy hair? The one on the radio?’‘What, Brand? Nope. You are the gorgeous-est of them all’.
Valentine relaxed and smiled, ‘Ash, you may be as camp as a row of tents, but at least you can recognise a Love God when you see one. Now, scripts? Running Order?’Ash handed a sheaf of papers to Valentine, who turned and gave the mirror one last, seductive look,
'Come on, time for me to work my annual magic’.
Valentine walked to the other side of the room and briskly pushed open the door marked, ‘Gallery – Quiet Please’.
Inside the dimly lit room there was a wall of monitors. Some were blank, others showed presenters fiddling with ear-pieces, or cameramen standing around sipping coffee. A semi-circular desk arched away from the monitors, laden with impressive buttons, sliders, lit switches, sunken computer screens and piles of papers. Valentine nodded curtly to the sound and vision guys to his left. He really disliked the techie types; they always wore shapeless clothes, terrible shoes, were in desperate need of a hair stylist and conducted conversations with each other using ridiculously technical words and phrases. Then his eye fell upon his studio PA and he grinned broadly,
‘Good Morning sweet Ali’, he muttered, leaning in seductively,
‘I’m glad you wore one of my favourite colours today’, he let his eyes rove up her legs, which were clad in red, sheer tights. Her black micro skirt was barely there.
‘Oh Valentine’ purred Ali, ‘ I always like to think of you when I’m dressing’, she winked, then snapped into business mode. ‘We’re on air in 3’.
Valentine slid into the Director’s chair next to Ali, he’d had it re-upholstered in red boa feathers, a bit tickly, but very him he thought. He leant forward and flicked a few switches on the desk, leaning in to a microphone, ‘We’re coming to you first Camera 1. Les, I want some nice tight shots, none of that sloppy crap you gave me last year, and for goodness’ sake keep the sound boom out of shot’
‘Righto Val’ came back the crackly reply. Valentine scowled at the insolent use of ‘Val’. What a shame they were all freelance, he would have enjoyed firing Les.
‘15 seconds, standby’ came Ali’s professional voice. She checked her stopwatch, then looked up to the large gliding hand of the gallery clock, ‘ Coming to you Camera 1 in 5, 4,3,2,1…on you’
The gallery held its breath; it was always a tense moment. The live monitor showed that Camera 1 was inside a large greetings card shop. The camera panned slowly around the shop, then zoomed steadily towards a group of giggling teenage girls. The presenter walked into vision, a short squat man with dark brown quiffed hair,
‘So the most important day of the year for lovers everywhere! Welcome to Valentine’s Roadshow of Love! We’ll be catching up with the man who made it all possible at the end of the show, but meanwhile…here’s a group of teenage girls, let’s go and chat to them!’
he grinned wolfishly at the camera and turned to address the group.
Valentine relaxed a little, he was always happier when the show was on air. He checked his running order, then looked hard at the scene in the shop. Duncan was still doing a Q & A with the girls, trying too hard as usual, thinking he was sexier than he was. Valentine wondered how long the teenagers would believe in the myths of love, equality, eternally fabulous sex, equal share of the household chores and men making them breakfast… He shook his head pityingly, it seemed incredible that they believed it at all!
He glanced up to the preview monitor, and smirked when he saw that the female presenter up next was in a lingerie shop. Not a classy shop, but the kind that sells the trampy stuff; the kind that the presenter would never consent to wear. Not that she really should anymore - mused Valentine - parts of her had clearly strayed a little too far South...
‘Counting out Duncan – 10, 9,8,7 – coming to you Jenny in – 4,3,2,1 on you!’ Ali shifted position slightly in her chair, her body rigid with the stress of keeping the programme flawless. She hoped Valentine was still watching her legs and not the stressed flush that was creeping up her neck.
The next piece had Jenny prattling on about the female right to choose comfortable underwear, and whether men would ever grasp this concept. She marched up to a man holding a flimsy creation that he clearly had every intention of buying. Valentine watched aghast as Jenny started to harangue the man.
‘Get her off!’ he sputtered, ‘this is a day about looking sexy and desirable, it has nothing to do with what women want!’Ali frantically started counting, Jenny looked disgusted, and the camera cut away as she educated the man about the scratchiness of lace, the impracticalites of crotchless knickers, and wouldn't his wife really much prefer comfortable silk?
‘Coming to you camera 4, and on you NOW!’ Ali shuddered, that had been a close one. As Camera 4 opened on a wide shot, the gallery became still. Valentine leaned forward. The monitor showed a kitchen where a woman was cooking. She moved gracefully and with skill. There was no presenter for this piece, it was just sound on film, but the rhythmic clink of kitchen utensils complimented the action beautifully. The woman reached up to the oven and slowly removed a baking tray. Valentine gasped,
‘What is that?’
Ash stepped forward from the back of the gallery,
‘The researcher says it’s called Chocolate pudding or something’.
Valentine sighed deeply,
‘It looks amazing. Who is she?’
‘We’re not really sure. Some struggling, wannabe cookery book writer, pretty much unheard of, but the researcher says her stuff is really good’.
Valentine sat back in his chair watching as the still youthful woman spooned out the unctuous, velvety chocolate creation. He salivated a little. For a minute he considered pulling some strings with his mates in publishing, give her a leg up; this was, after all, the day of love. Then another idea came to him;
‘Get her off', he said, ‘no-one has heard of her, no-one is interested in her, but they ARE interested in me. I want that pudding. Pay her off if you have to, but she needs to disappear and that beautiful pudding needs to bear my name. Make sure I’ve got some to hold for my spot at the end of the show. Hey, could we rustle up some scantily clad women to eat the pudding out of my navel?’
Ash nodded and quickly left the gallery. There was silence save for Ali’s clear voice,
‘Counting you out camera 4 in - 3,2,1’
And that, Dear Readers, is how the unscrupulous Valentine stole my recipe and claimed it as his own. He’s a hard-hearted, wily lothario, but at least he was right about the pudding, it is delicious. I do hope you enjoy it on Valentine’s Day…or on any other day for that matter.
Valentine's Chocolate Pudding of Love (fills 8 Ramekins of Love)
This is a version of a pudding that my Mum used to make when I was little. You pour the sauce over the sponge mix and then as it cooks the sponge rises up and the sauce sinks down; magic. It is also the perfect pudding for those ramekins that you snapped up on a whim one day, knowing that they would come in handy sometime...
For the sponge:
If using wheat flour: omit the cornflour, rice flour & xanthan gum and replace with 135g plain flour
300g dairy free spread
100-200ml rice milk
90g cornflour / corn starch
45g rice flour
3tbsp cocoa powder
0.5tsp xanthan gum
0.75 tsp gluten free baking powder
0.75 tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.75 tsp ground ginger
For the sauce:
250ml hot water
60-80g sugar (depending on taste)
2 tbsp golden syrup
30g cocoa powder
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, grease 8 ramekins and place them on a baking tray
- Prepare the sauce first. Boil the kettle. Put the sugar, golden syrup and cocoa powder into a large jug, then pour in the hot water and whisk until all lumps are eradicated
- Put the dairy free spread, sugar and half the rice milk into a large saucepan and heat gently until melted
- Add the flours, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, and ground ginger to the saucepan and stir. Use a mini whisk and whisk like a dervish until all the lumps are gone. If the mix seems thick, add more rice milk. You are aiming for quite a liquid mix, but not too runny. It's not as thick as cake mix
- Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir again
- Divide the mixture equally between the ramekins; they should be half to three quarters full
- Then use a ladle to lovingly pour in some sauce. I'm sure the sauce used to stay on the surface of my Mum's pudding, but my sauce sank without a trace. Not to worry. Divide the sauce equally between the ramekins
- Carefully put the ramekin-laden baking tray into the oven
- Let them cook for about 20-25 minutes. The sponge will rise triumphantly from the depths of the ramekin and the sauce will lovingly cheer it on from below. My sponge cracked open at the top, it was all very thrilling, but did sink down a bit when removed from the oven. They are cooked when they have risen triumphantly, and are springy to the touch. Some of the sauce may even be bubbling up from the bottom
- Leave the puddings to cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve them with a topping of your choice...I'm thinking Vanilla Ice Cream, what do you reckon?!
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007