My mother believed in a good tonic.
By tonic I mean a concoction administered with the aim of reviving the spirits and protecting against all manner of ailment. My mother had some sort of internal clock that sounded an alarm when the tonic was due. It may have been signaled by the failing of the light or perhaps the first frost or the clock going back an hour or just a mother’s instinct.
If the timing was regular, the formulation was anything but.
Back in the 1970s, the tonic was a vibrant yellow and viscous fluid that went by the worrisome name of radiomulsion. The exact contents, or the reason for the ‘radio’ in the name, I fear to google. The stuff came in a brown glass bottle that needed to be stored in the fridge for fear it would spontaneously combust. I loved it and would regularly sneak a swig of it when no-one was looking.I suspect I may have lived through the 70s with a glowing yellow aura about my person.
Much later on, as the stress of exams was added to the risk of viruses new and old, a vitamin supplement known as Vivioptal was the tonic-du-jour. This waxy brown capsule was of a size designed to lend credence to its extraordinary claims. Never mind raising your flagging spirits; this stuff would resurrect the dead. The thing was, the timing was crucial. You were to take a course of it at exactly the right interval before the exam. Too early and you would waste your burst of energy and crash before English Paper One, too late and you would only be lifting off just as the state examiner packed up his papers and left. One imagines that the stress of getting it right could only have been counter-productive.
In between these dubious concoctions, my mother placed her faith in a gentler remedy called Carrageen Moss. Chondrus crispus, also called Irish Moss, is a seaweed that grows along North Atlantic coastlines. It is hugely rich in iron, magnesium and iodine and has been taken in Ireland for centuries as a cough remedy. You can read about the many, genuine benefits here and, you can buy it here. It’s practically weightless so the postage shouldn’t cost much wherever you are. This little 40g bag contains enough for 4 batches of 8 servings each.
My mother began by using Carrageen Moss to make a honey-sweetened and lemony tea which was palatable enough but slightly reminiscent of the radiomulsion in its gloopiness. Never a quitter, she experimented with Carrageen Moss Pudding and so we discovered the greatest of medicines; a restorative tonic that was good for both body and soul.
Here is what you do:
Weigh, as best you can, just a scant 10g of Carrageen Moss. Err, if you must, on the side of less rather than more or your pudding will be too stiff.
I desperately want to find yarn of this colourway. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Add the dried seaweed to 500 mls of full-fat milk. You can replace up to half the milk with cream if you like but there really is no need. Add 150g of sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Bring the milk slowly to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. You will feel it thickening as the natural gelling agent is released.
Strain the thickened mixture through a nylon sieve into serving glasses. Let it set for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Leave it plain which is more than good enough.
Or, make it pretty with some freshly made bramble jam and the last of your summer roses.
There you have it. Carrageen Moss pudding: guilt free, in fact it is positively good for you and properly delicious. Now, that is a tonic.