Happy New Year from Proof of the Pudding! Or is it bad form to wish you that when January is already nearly over? January can be a hard month, especially where I live as we know there are still a couple of months of dark mornings and evenings to get through, and if we’re to get a bad snow storm this year then it’s yet to come (EDIT: I spoke to soon, it seems this weekend is our first of the season). Sometimes you feel ready to jump into January with gusto: stocking up the cupboards, fridge and fruit bowl with healthy foods, pulling on your gym gear to work off that Christmas dinner and diving back into work at 9am on Monday morning, to-do list at the ready. But sometimes it takes a few sluggish days, or even weeks, to get back into a routine and not want to rush home every evening and immediately get your pyjamas on. However your January started, I hope it’s ending well. Let’s all look forward to February and longer days and Pancake Tuesday!
Now I’m not going to try and pretend that this is in any way a healthy recipe (see double cream and sugar), but it’s certainly refreshing and might be a welcome change from all that trifle and chocolate and Christmas pudding. This is also a satisfyingly straightforward ice-cream recipe which doesn’t require you to have an ice-cream maker (although if you do then by all means use it). The freeze-blend-freeze method ensures that the ice crystals are broken up and gives a smooth texture. Make sure you buy very ripe mangos for this recipe, for both texture and flavour. The squishier the better really. In particular, if you can find alphonso mangos these have an incredible, sweet flavour.
One year ago:
– Minestrone soup
– Courgette antipasto rolls
Ingredients 3 large ripe mangos (approximately 1kg) 300ml double cream 100g caster sugar ¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
50g frozen raspberries, defrosted
Method 1. Peel and chop the mangos into chunks.
8. After a few hours in the freezer, scoop or cut the ice-cream out into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth again.
9. Pour the mixture back into the tin or tub.
Summer pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts; I think it could even give the chocolate fondant a run for its money. The pudding has a nostalgic, exciting feeling for me, partly because it meant that the berries and currants at my dad’s allotment were ripe and ready to be used which in turn signaled that summer was well and truly here, but also because I think it’s the first properly impressive pudding that I learnt to make. It’s a sinfully easy recipe, but turning out a perfectly set pudding and slicing into the stunning pink exterior to reveal the jumble of different summer berries inside is a very satisfying feeling indeed.
This is based on a Katie Stuart recipe (the kitchen goddess that our household regularly turn to for instruction, and who I’ve mentioned many times before), though she makes one large pudding to serve about 6 people. If you’re feeding a crowd then I’d highly recommend this – just double to quantities of fruit and sugar below to fill a 2 pint pudding basin (about 1.1 litres) and you will need to use a bit more of the loaf of bread. If, like me, you’re catering for less people then these make the cutest little treats.
A few tips before we begin: make sure you do use stale bread, so remember to buy a loaf in advance. I bought mine two days before I made these and it worked perfectly. Use whatever combination of summer berries that you prefer or have available, but try to use more redcurrants than other berries. For example, I used 180g redcurrants, 100g raspberries, 100g blackcurrants and 70g raspberries. Katie Stuart recommends 450g redcurrants, 225g raspberries and 225g strawberries for one large pudding (double this recipe). You do need to leave the puddings in the fridge overnight so that they set properly so no short cuts here I’m afraid! Inevitably you will be left with crusts and small cuttings from the slices of bread – throw them into a food processor or blender and blitz to breadcrumbs. They can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for months and used as you require for recipes.
One year ago:
– Stuffed courgettes
Ingredients (makes 3 individual puddings) One loaf of stale white bread (you will use about half of it – the rest will make perfect toast!) 450g summer berries 70g castor sugar
Crème fraiche and extra berries to serve
Method 1. Rinse 3 small pudding basins (150ml capacity each) with cold water and thinly cut about half the loaf into 1cm slices – you can always cut more later if you need it.
2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread and cut 6 circles – 3 small circles for the bottom of the bowls and 3 larger ones to cover the top – and enough wedges to cover the sides of the basins. Firmly press the small circles into the bottom of the basins and do the same with the wedges round the sides. Make sure there are no gaps at all in the bread lining and plug any with small pieces of the leftover bread.
3. Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan and cover with a lid. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until the fruit has softened.
4. Spoon the hot fruit into the pots, ensuring an even distribution of the different types of berries. Fill the basins right to the top, pouring over as much of the juice as possible.
If you have any extra juice left at the end then don’t throw it away – you can pour a little extra liquid over the puddings once they are turned out, especially useful if there are any little pieces of bread that haven’t been completely soaked through.
5. Place the basins on a large plate or tray (some of the juice will probably spill over the top so this keeps your fridge shelves clean!) and gently press the last 3 circles of bread on top of the puddings.
6. Put small plates or saucers on top of each pudding and weight down with tins or other suitably-sized heavy objects. Refrigerate the puddings at least overnight.
7. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each of the puddings and tip out onto small plates. If you have saved some, spoon over a little extra juice.
Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.
Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.
What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?
This is an absolute killer of a recipe. It’s perfect for a dinner party or special weekend meal because it tastes divine and looks both appropriately impressive and ridiculously pretty, but is actually very simple to make. It does require a little last minute work, but you can prepare steps 1 to 3 in advance and then spend less than 10 minutes in the kitchen between the main course and pudding.
This recipe comes from Summer Cooking by Elizabeth David, one of the highest members of the royal family of cookery writers. It’s a retro-looking book that’s been sitting on my parents’ shelves for decades, but it’s packed with gorgeous seasonal recipes and this is one of the best. This is barely altered from the book – the only change is that we heat the berries before squeezing the juice from them as it makes it easier to extract the maximum amount.
This is our go-to recipe for a fancy dessert during the summer months when my dad’s allotment provides a glut of redcurrants and raspberries, though the beauty of it is that if you freeze the berries when they’re at their peak you can have a taste of summer all year round. A word of warning before we start: you really want an electric whisk for this recipe. Believe me, it’s extremely hard to achieve the right consistency with a hand whisk; even my mum, who is vehemently against the use of an electric hand whisk, admits it is necessary for this one dish!
Ingredients (serves 2-3 generously) 110g raspberries 100g redcurrants 60g sugar 1 egg white
Crème fraiche, to serve
Method 1. Weigh out the berries, removing the redcurrants from their stalks – the quickest way to do this is to run a fork down the length of the stalk.
2. Warm the berries in a pan until they begin to release their juice and become soft.
3. Sieve the juice from the berries, using the back of a spoon to squish out as much as you can from the seeds and pulp. Stir the sugar into the warm juice.
4. Whisk the egg white until it forms stiff peaks.
5. Put the juice and egg whites into a pan over a low heat and whisk continually for about 5 minutes. The mixture will thicken and rise substantially. Remove from the heat when you have achieved a smooth, fluffy consistency.
6. Serve in small tumblers or wine glasses, topped with red berries and crème fraiche.
The flavour of this mousse is an incredible mixture of sharp and sweet, almost like a berry sherbet, and the texture is as light as air. The warmth is a really unusual element that I’ve never come across in a mousse before and it contrasts beautifully with a dollop of chilled crème fraiche.
If left for too long the mixture splits, leaving a layer of juice at the bottom, however good whisking will ensure this doesn’t happen too quickly. Immediate serving and quick eating will also guarantee avoiding this!…
There are some food combinations that just undeniably work: tomato and basil, salmon and dill, goats cheese and figs, lamb and mint, and so it goes on. In my books, chocolate and fruit are one of these matches made in heaven. I’ve been seeing punnets of really plump, dark raspberries in the shops lately and find them utterly irresistible. After a fruitful (seewhatIdidthere) trip to the greengrocers on Sunday morning, I spent Sunday afternoon whipping up some treats for an afternoon tea catch-up with some of my very favourite ladies. Of course there had to be chocolate included in the spread somewhere, and so the chocolate-raspberry loaf was born.
If raspberries aren’t really to your taste (although we may have to have a little falling out if this is the case) or if you can’t get your paws on any, then this recipe would definitely be easy to adapt. Try candied orange peel folded through the sponge mix and orange zest in the icing. Or dried cherries and a splash of Kirsch. Or freeze-dried strawberries in the sponge and strawberry puree whisked through the icing. If the idea of fruit anywhere near your chocolate is an insult, then just leave the offending ingredients out for an unadulterated chocolate hit. A table spoon or two of cocoa powder in the icing might be more up your street. Whatever you decide, the underlying recipe is ridiculously easy – we’re using the “all-in-one” method where all the ingredients are whisked together in one go. No creaming, no risk of egg-curdling, no sifting. Convinced? Ready, set, let’s go!
Ingredients 140g butter, softened 180g plain flour 20g cocoa powder 3 tsp baking powder 200g caster sugar 3 large eggs 6 tbsp milk
3 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries
125g butter, softened 250g icing sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp milk
100g fresh raspberries
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/gas Mark 4. Butter a loaf tin and line with baking parchment. Leaving some excess paper hanging over the long sides makes it easier to lift the cake out after baking.
2. Place the butter, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and milk in a large bowl. Using a hand whisk or wooden spoon mix the ingredients together for a few minutes until they are fully combined and the mixture has a light, aerated texture.
3. Gently fold the freeze-dried raspberries through the cake batter. Try not to over-mix as you will lose some of the air that you whisked in at the previous step.
4. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and smooth flat with the back of a spoon.
5. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake is dark brown and a knife or cake tester comes out the centre of the cake clean. Lift out of the loaf tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
6. Whisk the softened butter together with the icing sugar for 5 minutes. A good tip here is to cover the bowl with a large tea towel to stop every surface in your kitchen becoming dusted in powdered sugar.
7. Add the vanilla extract and milk, and continue whisking for a few more minutes. Finally add the fresh raspberries and whisk until evenly combined.
8. Ice the top of the cooled loaf with a generous layer of raspberry icing.
This cake is super light and fluffy in texture, and the icing is a perfect mix of butter-icing sweetness and sharp raspberry flavour. It is at its peak eaten on the day of baking, but will keep well for another couple of days in an airtight container. Serve with tea or a large glass of ice-cold milk. Lovely.