Thursday, 15 January 2015

The best of A Greedy Piglet: Old fashioned bread pudding. Deep joy.

I was shocked that I hadn't moved this recipe from June 2010 over here from the old blog site ... (or at least I can't see that I have, but I might be going blind..) it is by a long stretch one of the most popular recipes I have ever given on A Greedy Piglet.  Give it a go.. and let me know what you think!


There are great foods in all our repertoires that have taste memories in them. That take you right back to childhood. Sometimes bad, mostly good (I think I have deliberately erased the really bad ones though...)

Bread pudding is one of the good ones for me. I am talking about proper bread pudding, not bread-and-butter pudding. Good as that is, B&B pudding is very much a dessert, a light egg custard held together with slices of buttered bread and fruit (dried, fresh, even jam). Bread pudding is something quite different, a cake to be eaten alongside a cup of tea, to fill the gap between lunch and dinner, to assuage the after-school hunger of growing kids.

It is as old as the hills, a good working class cake, made by people who couldn't afford to waste anything. These days, of course, we don't have to worry about where every last crust will go, and so we make versions that are considerably more luxurious than the ones made in the days during and between the wars. Mine is certainly more fruity and spicey than my mum's.

Less stodgy too. The wartime recipe I was brought up on had suet and flour in to make it solid and claggy. I loved it at the time, but these days, I want something lighter and less fatty on my palate.

I have been asked many a time for this recipe, but it has always been tricky to get the recipe down. It is, after all, a recipe made to use up leftovers, and for this very reason the quantities are variable, depending on what is actually left over. I know what I want the mix to look like, but how to convey this to someone who hasn't been there whilst I have been cooking is very difficult, and I take my hat off to recipe developers around the world.

So armed with a pencil and a now-rather-sticky notebook, I took the trouble to weigh and measure as I went, and this is what I came up with. Now these measures are not written in stone, this kind of recipe is good natured, it doesn't depend on strict ratios to work, you can up and down the various ingredients as you feel fit. The bread/egg/butter ratio is probably best kept roughly to this, but you can add more/less fruit, sugar, spice, to suit your own taste.

300g Stale bread, cut roughly into chunks (I've made this with stale fruit loaf as well as ordinary bread, works beautifully)
50g soft brown sugar
250g dried fruit
1 tbs black treacle
50g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten just enough to mix yolk & white together
1 heaped tsp ground mixed spice

Soak the bread in COLD water to cover until the crusts on the bread are nice and soft. Squeeze the water out of the bread until it is as dry as you can get it. Put the squeezed bread into a mixing bowl, throw the water away.

Roughly break the bread up (sort of squish it between your fingers, like making mud pies)

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and black treacle together (TIP warm the spoon first before you get the treacle out of the tin, then it just slides off the spoon into the pan). You just want it warm and runny, don't let it boil - it turns into toffee pretty quickly.

Add the fruit, egg, sugar and spice to the bread, together with the treacle/butter mix and mix it all up. It should be quite a sloppy mix, very similar to Christmas Pudding.

Turn into a greased and base lined tin - usually people would cook this in a flat traybake tin, but I have recently started cooking it in a 1lb loaf tin, I find that I get more squishy middle bit, which is the bit I like. If you like the crunchy outside, then a traybake will be better for you.

Run a fork over the top surface to roughen it up, and sprinkle with a little extra sugar - demerara is good if you have any, or just ordinary granulated.

Bake at medium temperature (roughly Gas Mark 4, 350/180 degrees but (in particular if you have a fan oven) do check the temperature and timing, the raisins can turn into little charred bullets if your oven cooks hot), for about an hour. It won't rise much, and when you test it it will probably still be a little damp, that's ok. Sprinkle with a little more sugar if it isn't crunchy enough on the top for your liking. Let it cool in the tin before taking it out - it is quite delicate, and it will break apart if you take it out whilst it is still hot.

Oh, by the way... I fibbed about it only being a cake. The pudding name is quite right. It is also delicious hot with cream or ice cream as a REAL pudding.


Update January 2015

Among the various comments that I received were some great ideas, people were soaking the bread in cold tea, adding apricots, apples, strawberry jam (yes! honestly!) glace cherries... seems your imagination has no bounds! Read the original comments from the Greedy Piglet Post from 2010 and then come back and add your own thoughts here :)

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Fischers - at last!!!

I have been meaning to go to Fischer's on Marylebone High Street for lunch for ages.  Several of the Thane Prince Cook Book Club join Thane (who is on her way to having a personal, permanently reserved table) there frequently, and report on the fabulous ambience and food. 

I don't eat out often really, but I have a soft spot for the Delaunay Counter, where Bob and I sometimes stop for a chicken schnitzel sandwich and a Black Forest gateau if we are up town for the theatre or the museums, and as Fischer's is run by the same group, I had to go sometime or other.

My lovely friend Frances, who I used to work with when I worked in publishing, moved to Somerset a few years back, so we don't get to meet up that often.  But, she had plans to be in town for a day before Xmas and we decided to go shopping and see the lights, and to have a posh lunch.

Fischer's it was to be.   Love the old fashioned continental railway station vibe of this restaurant, with the clock in the middle.

We settled in with aperitifs and delicious caraway rye bread and whipped butter, and waited for our special of venison stew and spatzle with red cabbage to arrive.

Rib-sticking, warming stuff, lots of it and delicious.  We didn't leave much...

 We really didn't have a lot of room for pudding, but we were very tempted by the sound of the nut icecreams - almond, hazelnut and pistachio with a hot butterscotch sauce.

The almond was the prize in this though, it was on the top so we ate that first, but honestly, I wish we had left it until last it was so delicious.  Next time I think I will ask for 3 scoops of almond and leave off the others.

Not a cheap lunch, about £80 for the two of us, with coffee but no wine. But definitely one for the address book for a special occasion.