English puddings sneered a continental ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend when we were introduced. Yep, she was right, English puddings constitute 90% of my hockey legs. And probably half of that is custard - not the dignified crème anglaise of the French nor the zuppa inglesa of the Italians, but the authentic, made from a real tin of thixotropic powder, custard which unless it maintains a large metal spoon upright for five minutes and cools to a solid with an impenetrable vulcanized skin on top is unworthy of that name. Don't get me wrong, puddings are not always love at first sight for the English. Even a squad of starvelings from the hockey pitch can feel a certain sinking of spirits when presented with jam rolypolied in a grey, marbled suet paste, otherwise known as Dead Man's Leg. In fact, such is the love-hate relationship with puddings here that they evince deep-seated sadistic urges. Let me explain. The first party I remember was a birthday bash (keep reading) for our neighbour Mrs Jolly's twins. I was about 4, they were probably 5 or 6. We had a grand time - and then the puddings were brought in. Little plates bearing individual moulded blancmange and rasberry jelly. This was rare Christmas Fayre and a very special treat at any other time of year. The plates were set before each child. The parents beamed. The children looked, picked up their spoons, eyed each other and, as one, pounded each shivering sweet tower to a right old mess on their plates. To attribute this to youth and lack of schooling would be wrong. Members of prestigious public schools and universities continue so to chastise the sinful contents of their pudding bowls. Hence Eton Mess - a mess of broken meringue, strawberries and cream - which is totally delicious. However, at this time of year, I prefer mine made with chilled raspberries, and I like my guests to have that atavistic thrill of messing their own dessert. Here is how you can quickly do it. Put fresh raspberries in a container straight into the freezer and leave until they clink when rattled. Just before you dish out your main course, place a shop bought meringue (it is too hot to have the oven on, right!) at the bottom of each dessert bowl (glass is nice), generously sprinkle over the hard raspberries and then pour some good double cream over the top - it will solidify immediately. (Aerosol creams don't work with this, I'm afraid.) The mixture will have thawed somewhat by the time you come to present it, but it will still be chilled. Give a spoon to each guest and at the appropriate signal, let the bash commence!