Inspired by my sister and the river cottage ‘Fruit’ book in almost equal measure (but sister’s summer pudding was quite remarkable so she’s just got the edge on inspiration). Along with Bread and Butter pudding (first tried when I was about 5 and then shunned for the next 20 years until an eventual rediscovery lead to an ongoing love affair) Summer Pudding was one of the huge disappointments of child hood. How could something that looked so invitingly pink and gorgeous turn out to be bread (bread mark you and not cake – which is just wrong when you’re 5) and fruit, tart fruit. It took me a long time to get over that first experience, but now, some 30 years later I’m ready to move on.
In my mind (and I’m sharing this thought at the risk of sounding odd) Summer Pudding is a decidedly upper class sort of dessert. I was subjected to it in a distinctly county setting, and if you don’t happen to work somewhere that gives you cheap access to fruit (me) or have a lovely big garden awash with redcurrants and raspberries (other lucky people) the ingredients aren’t always cheap. Also although I’ve come to love things with a tart fruity edge there’s something of the pleasure/pain principle about summer pudding that puts me in mind of game (I’ve not yet learnt to like it ‘high’ and am not terribly keen to cultivate the taste) and living in cold draughty houses with inadequate supplies of hot water, and scratchy woollen blankets on the beds (also leaky hot water bottles). I’ve known rich people and posh people, but sadly for the latter the two have never really coincided.
The final thing about Summer Pudding is that you have to think ahead to make it – it wants to hang around in the fridge for 24 hours and I rarely plan like that, make in the morning eat in the evening is fine, but a day or two ahead; I really had to think about it. On the plus side the fruit compote is brilliant, takes minutes to throw together and would be great with any number of things.
Anyway gather together about 850g of mixed red and black fruit (blackberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, maybe a blueberry or a strawberry ...) 200g of caster sugar, and enough white bread with the crusts chopped off to line a pudding bowl (that will hold roughly 850ml of liquid) leaving no gaps. Line the bowl with clingfilm – using enough to have plenty hanging over the sides of the bowl to cover the base, and line with the bread. No gaps. Gently heat the fruit and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the juices start to run, but not until it’s all one mushy mess. Drain off a cup of the juice to serve with the pudding, and put the rest of the fruit in the bowl. Cover up with clingfilm and a plate and stick it in the fridge with a heavy weight on top to keep everything in place. The next day it’ll be ready and delicious. Some people use cassis which is something I need to investigate.