Summer pudding

Yes yes, I know summer is hiding her light under a bushel right now, but I’m hoping to coax her back by eating a variety of delightfully summery dishes all the while. And what is more gloriously summery (or more gloriously British) than a panopoly of soft fruits?

A recent trip to Brixton’s Farmers’ Market came up trumps when I came home with an old fashioned paper pick-you-own punnet with a handle filled with fresh juicy Kent cherries, gorgeous redcurrants and tiny tart whitecurrants all for £4. The cherries didn’t even make it til teatime, eaten one handed on the patio while reading the Sunday papers. The currants didn’t lend themselves just as well to absent-minded nibbling being much tarter and less juicy. I half-heartedly ate a few and went off to rummage in the freezer for something for dinner…

And while there I espied a forgotten bag of frozen summer fruits from Sainsbury’s and my mind leapt to making a juice drenched summer pudding as a beautiful vehicle for some organic thick cream I happened to have picked up as well. I’m a big fan of the frozen fruits Sainsbury’s sell, especially when on an offer for three bags for a fiver and often buy them to make my five a day more interesting and affordable. The fact that they also make a mean frozen daiquiri is entirely incidental!

I haven’t eaten summer pudding for years and wasn’t entirely sure how you make it, but figured it would be fairly easy once I found a recipe. A quick Google turned up this fantastically easy sounding one from Sophie Grigson on the BBC Food Website that sums up just how easy this fabulous dessert is to make! Especially since my local shop has an inability to sell fresh sliced bread, with all their loaves seeming a bit dry round the edges. This makes them perfect for a good summer pud!

Luckily I had lots of time to make the pudding so I was able to leave the frozen fruits to defrost overnight and brings the juices out as recommended, although I halved the amount of sugar she suggested. However I don’t think you’d be missing too much if you go straight to the heating stage. I simmered the fruit for about ten minutes, before adding a few tablespoons of Ribena and allowing it to cool enough to be able to dip my bread into without burning myself. I trimmed the bread of crusts while I waited and cut the slices into triangles, except for one that I cut into a circle using the base of the bowl as a template.

Once the fruit mixture had cooled enough, I dipped the circle of bread for the base in juice on both sides and began lining the bowl. I dipped each triangle on one side and began making my juicy jigsaw, wedging each piece of bread in carefully to make sure there were no gaps, adding little plugs of bread where needed. I then filled the bread shell up with the gorgeous fruit mixture and realised I was slightly short of bread to make the lid. Some judicious cutting and trimming later and all the fruit was covered and I was relieved that no one would see its hotchpotch look when the pudding was served!

I then put a saucer on top of it all, popped the bowl into the vegetable drawer of my fridge and put a few cans of chickpeas on top to weight it down overnight and allow the lovely juices to soak into the bread and help shape the pudding before eating. This should happen overnight, but it was a full 48 hours before I got back to mine. The juice hadn’t completely soaked through the lid and I was a bit worried that the pudding would fall apart when I turned it out. Crossing my fingers while I did it made it a bit trickier, but I needn’t have worried! It slipped out of the bowl easily and looked lusciously purple and mouth-watering on the plate.

I had a generous slice cut and on a plate with a dollop of thick cream in next to no time. It was delicious. The soft succulent bread contrasted with the still crunchy berries beautifully. The cream tempered the slight sourness of the berries and turned this frugal dessert into something truly stunning that I would servee to anyone. I’ve been eating this for breakfast most mornings this week and as well as tasting wonderful, it keeps incredibly well in the fridge. My five a day haven’t been this enjoyable in a long time!

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