Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bread and Butter Pudding

I like Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and Other Stories (1994) and Second Helpings of Roast Chicken (2001) very much indeed. (See here and here.) Hopkinson penned his first Roast Chicken offering with Lindsey Bareham, a food writer with more than a few cookbooks under her belt. While Hopkinson and Bareham worked on Roast Chicken and Other Stories, they “began to reminisce about the hotel and restaurant dishes they had grown up with and always loved….” Think Chicken Kiev, Duck à l’Orange, Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, Trout with Almonds, Crêpes Suzette and Pêche Flambee. This reverie led to The Prawn Cocktail Years, a collection of winsome dishes that have fallen out of favor due to the ever-shifting sands of food trends. If you are over a certain age, you’ll recognize these dishes from a bygone era of dining. It is as you’ve picked up a vintage issue of the now defunct Gourmet Magazine.

But the thing is, these dishes can taste delicious! Yes, many an ambivalent kitchen wreaked havoc upon these foods, but that doesn’t mean the dish itself was bad in the first place. Thus, the stated purpose of The Prawn Cocktail Years: “…to redefine the Great British Meal and rescue other similarly maligned classic dishes from years of abuse, restoring them to their former status.” I dare say that when Bareham and Hopkinson wrote these words in 1997, they were ahead of the culinary curve: Deviled Eggs and Angels on Horseback are hot again.

Flipping through The Prawn Cocktail Years, I came across a number of recipes I wanted to try, including Bareham and Hopkinson’s take on Bread and Butter Pudding. Topped with orange marmalade, the dessert is easy to make and tastes outstanding. Fine ingredients will produce the best results, so go for the good stuff with this recipe.

Serves 4-6

400ml milk
1 vanilla pod
2 tbsp caster sugar
approximately 75g soft butter
125g white bread, medium sliced, crusts removed
75g sultanas
3 large eggs
freshly grated nutmeg
350g good quality marmalade
200ml whipping cream.

Pre-heat the oven to 325ºF/160ºC/gas mark 3.

Bring the milk slowly to the boil with the vanilla pod, giving it a good bashing to release the tiny seeds, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sugar until it dissolves, and cover with a lid to infuse while you deal with the bread.

Butter a 1-litre shallow ovenproof dish. Spread the bread with butter, cut it in half diagonally, then into quarters. Arrange the slices in the dish and distribute the sultanas between them.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Remove the vanilla pod (which can be saved and re-used) and whisk in the milk and whipping cream. Pour the eggy milk over the bread, making sure that all the sultanas remain covered. Dust the surface with grated nutmeg and dot with any remaining butter. Leave the dish to stand for 20 minutes.

Heat the marmalade in a small pan until it turns liquid. Pour through a sieve to catch the peel. Using a pastry brush or spoon, smear the top of the pudding with a generous glaze of marmalade. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the custard has set and the top has billowed and turned golden with crunchy bits where the bread has poked through the custard. Allow it to settle and cool slightly. Serve the remaining strained marmalade in a jug to be spooned over each helping, along with cold, thick cream.

Note: You could, if you wish, chop the strained peel and add it to the pudding with the sultanas; alternatively the sultanas could be soaked in hot rum or whisky—or either alcohol could be added to the marmalade sauce.

Some things to consider when making this dish: If you use the sultanas (or chopped, thick-cut orange peel), do make sure that they are well tucked in and buried between the slices of bread. Otherwise you risk a dish topped with burnt and bitter bits of fruit.

If your marmalade is chock-full of heavy, thick-cut peel, you will want to liquefy more than 350 grams; you want enough liquid jam to coat the soaked bread. And speaking of bread, cut the crust off before weighting out 125 grams.