Distracting myself with bread pudding

Bread pudding

Bread puddingBefore Covid-19 you’d be forgiven for thinking that lounging around the house and not having to go to work for weeks, possibly longer, would be lazily wonderful, but sadly it really isn’t like that. Confined to the house with just one walk a day, and said house being my parents’ home in Surrey (I didn’t fancy self-isolating alone in a two bedroom flat when there was a five bedroom house with a large garden and the company of my folks available), worrying about family members with the virus, is not an easy task. But staying at home is an essential task and we do what we can to calm and busy our restless selves.

Bread puddingI’m missing work terribly and was heartbroken that I couldn’t go on with the baking, making and delivering of afternoon teas. I’m missing the little things I left in my flat in London before evacuating to Surrey. I’m missing the freedom of not being able to pop out to the supermarket because I fancied making huevos a la flamenco tonight and need chorizo and serrano ham. I’m missing drinking wine and dancing on our dining room chairs to Kylie with my housemate who has escaped to his family home in Ireland. But we do what we can to get through it. I’ve been going for my daily walk (10,000 steps), enjoying the sunshine, blue sky and spring flowers as I go. I’ve picked up a book I meant to finish ages ago. And of course, I’ve been busy in the kitchen.

Bread puddingThere is not much else that I find as calming as switching on Classic FM and rolling my sleeves up to cook or bake. Yesterday I distracted myself from some very difficult and worrying news by making bread pudding, using up some leftover end pieces with some dried fruit, some cinnamon and ginger (couldn’t just pop-out to pick up the mixed spices I’d usually use), some milk, brown sugar and a precious egg. It was simple, quick to make, and tastes delicious. We all enjoyed a slice with our morning coffee. This recipe is perfect if you have any leftover bread that’s not good enough for sandwiches anymore and if you can’t get hold of mixed dried fruit simply replace it with whatever you have (chopped apple, chunks of chocolate, raisins, glace cherries…). This lockdown is a time to get creative and try old recipes with new ingredients – let me know what you’re making and how you get on!

 

Ingredients:

This is what I used, but the joy of this recipe is that you can adapt it and use whatever you have…

600g bread

500g mixed dried fruit

140g brown sugar (plus a little extra to sprinkle on the top)

350ml milk

1 egg

A generous sprinkling of ginger and cinnamon (around a tea spoon of each)

 

Method:

Tear the bread into small, bitesize pieces. Add the mixed fruit, sugar and spices and mix together. Beat the egg into the milk, pour over the dry mixture and using your hands – this is the bit kids love! – squelch it together. Pour your mix into a baking tray, lightly oiled and lined with baking paper. Sprinkle the extra brown sugar on the top (I was rather generous with this as it makes the yummiest crust!) and bake on 150 for around 30-40 minutes or until brown.

Loquat salad with serrano ham and goat’s cheese

We’re at the height of barbecue season (yes, even in the rain – we’re British!) and while meat plays the staring role in most people’s barbecues I find the supporting role of the salad to be just as important. So my next couple of posts will focus on delicious salads that go perfectly with your barbecue.

Fresh loquats

Last month one of my lovely regulars, Pam, gave me a couple of homegrown loquats the day before I was due to host a family barbecue. The loquat is a tangy plum-like fruit originally from China and Japan but it’s increasing in popularity in the UK – and as Pam has proved they can be grown in Wimbledon!

Loquat salad with serrano ham and goat’s cheese

Loquats make delicious jams and jellies but I decided to use them in a summer salad. I sliced the loquats and layered them along with pieces of serrano ham and slices of goat’s cheese on top of a bed of baby salad leaves and I have to say this salad was just beautiful as a side dish to the delicious burgers and sausages we feasted on. You may also want to try my potato salad recipe for a refreshingly zingy side!

Apple and elderflower cake

I can’t get enough of elderflower in the warm weather and this juicy apple cake is yet another delightful way to enjoy what has become a rather British taste of summertime. I would suggest enjoying a slice of this cake with a cup of black Earl Grey. Too delicious for words!

Ingredients:

8oz butter

8oz sugar

4 eggs

8oz self-raising flour

3 apples, roughly chopped

Icing sugar

Elderflower cordial

Dried elderflower petals

Method:

As with most of my cake recipes, soften the butter and cream in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the flour (make sure you don’t overmix, it’s important to keep as much air in as possible). Fold in the chopped apples. I like to keep the skin on for texture. Bake in a greased and lined loaf tin on 150 for around 40 minutes or until golden brown. Don’t forget to do the skewer test to make sure it’s cooked all the way though!

To make the drizzle add a couple of capfuls of elderflower cordial to half a mug of icing sugar and stir vigorously. You may need to add a tea spoon or two of boiled water to help it on its way – I would advise you to add a tiny amount at a time or you might find you need to add more icing sugar. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and lightly sprinkle the dried elderflower petals on the top. This pretty loaf cake deserves to be served on your finest china!

Cheers to cake!

I love working with fruits and flowers all year round but there’s something about summer that makes me want to make and bake with them all the more. My birthday seems so far back now (although it was only in May) but I’m still thinking about the beautifully rustic Pimms-inspired sandwich cake I made for my party. Yes, I still have a party, even at my age! Although at my age the cake is allowed to include my favourite tipple…

I wanted a summery cake, something that summed up British summertime, so I reached for the Pimm’s. Now I have to admit that I was originally thinking of the original – Pimm’s No 1 – but in my haste I hadn’t realised that I’d run out of this at home. However, what I did have was Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower, which is super summery and just delicious! And recently I’ve been doing a lot of baking with blackberries and, in particular, elderflower, and it seemed perfect to combine these two delicious flavours. And the final magic ingredient, which I love to add to so many of my recipes, alcohol, made this the perfect summer birthday cake!

Ingredients

12oz butter

120z sugar

6 eggs

12 oz self-raising flour

One punnet of blackberries (seven put aside for decoration)

For the buttercream:

A generous knob of butter

Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower

Icing sugar

For the drizzle:

Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower

Icing sugar

 

Method

Cream the butter (I always find this easiest if the butter is at room temperature when you begin) and then add the sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time. Then add the blackberries to the mix before sifting in the flour. Share the mix equally across two 8” cake tins (I use the ones with the removable bottoms). Bake the cake for around 40 minutes or until golden. As always, I’d suggest you do the skewer test to make sure the cake is cooked all the way through.

To make the buttercream icing cream the knob of butter, adding icing sugar a spoon at a time. Add a dash of Pimm’s. Keep adding and mixing until you have a beautiful purple buttercream. Spoon the buttercream onto the bottom cake and sandwich the top half on it. I usually squish it down a bit; don’t worry if it oozes out a bit, I always think it adds to the homemade look and makes it appear all the more tempting!

To make the drizzle mix a few large spoonfuls of icing sugar and a capful or two of the Pimm’s and mix until you have a nice drizzle. Pour this over the whole cake, letting it dribble down the edges. Finish the cake with a small handful of blackberries in the centre of the cake. I also dusted the cake with some dried elderflower to finish it off. Now, do you enjoy this with a pot of tea or with a refreshing glass of Pimm’s? Cheers!