Summer pudding is an old-fashioned and peculiarly British pleasure – a solid lump of stodge designed to be enjoyed when our berries are at their world-class peak. Well chilled, however, it’s surprisingly refreshing stuff, and refreshingly thrifty as well – the perfect home for that stale loaf and those over-ripe berries going cheap at the market.
Prep 15 minChill 4 hr-plusServes 6
Butter, to greaseHalf a loaf of slightly stale, good-quality white bread225g redcurrants675g raspberries2–3 tbsp caster sugar1 Pick the right bread
If your bread is obstinately fresh, very lightly toast it before use, or it may disintegrate under the weight of the fruit juices. There are advocates for cheap white sliced here, but, like brioche, I find it too soft and squidgy for the purpose. Decent white bread is the way to go, but do try to get it machine-sliced, if possible, because it will make for a neater finish.Pick a slightly stale, but good-quality sliced white loaf, then cut off and discard all the crusts.2 Prepare the bread and basin
If you can’t get machine-sliced, cut the loaf into medium slices, then cut off the crusts and set aside to make breadcrumbs (or feed them to the dog). With a little butter, grease a pudding basin or a deep bowl with a capacity of about a litre (measure this by filling it with water, then tipping it into a measuring jug).3 Line the basin with bread
Line the inside of the basin all over with a single layer of bread, cutting it as necessary to make a base and fitting it around the sides without any gaps. Finally, make a lid in the same way, but leave this off for the time being. Set the basin aside while you prepare the filling.Use the slices of bread to line the inside of a greased pudding bowl, saving a slice to act as a lid.4 Start on the filling
After removing any stalks, put the fruit (sweet raspberries and sharp redcurrants are the classic combo here, but they’re not the only choice – see step 9) in a small pan with the sugar and bring to a very gentle simmer over a medium-low heat – give it a bit of a stir now and then, to help dissolve the sugar, but try to keep the berries intact.Select the fruit – raspberries and redcurrants work well – put in a pan with sugar, and simmer to dissolve.5 Add the fruit to the basin
Taste and add more sugar, or a squeeze of lemon juice or wine vinegar, if you think it necessary (remember, the bread is fairly bland, so you can get away with strong flavours here). Then, gently spoon the fruit into the bread-lined basin and pour over most of the syrup, reserving any excess fruit or juices for serving.When the liquid is syrupy, gently transfer the fruit to the bread-lined bowl and pour over most of the syrup.6 Cover and leave to soak
Put the bread lid on top of the fruit filling, then put a plate on top of that and weigh it down with some tins or something else heavy. Once it feels cool to the touch, transfer to the fridge, still weighted down, and chill for at least four hours, and ideally overnight, to give the fruit and bread a chance to mingle.7 Flip and unmould
Remove the weight and plate, and put a large serving plate (one with a pronounced lip is advisable, to keep all the juices in check) over the top. Very carefully turn over the basin, give it a sharp tap on the base and around the sides, then lift off to reveal the pudding.8 Finishing touches
Pour the reserved syrup over the top of the pudding (this is particularly useful for covering any pale patches where the juices haven’t quite soaked in evenly) and arrange any leftover fruit artistically on top; a few mint leaves also look nice, if you have some to hand. Serve at once with a generous jug of cool double cream.9 Variations on the theme
Summer pudding can be made with a variety of fruit, including blackcurrants and blackberries, and even defrosted frozen fruit, though that will tend to break down into a coulis on heating, so fresh is preferable. I also like to add a dash of rosewater to the fruit, but you could substitute liqueur (sloe gin, for example), orange zest or vanilla sugar.