Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Pressies & Puddin'

People seem to have me pegged. I have 2 microplane graters and a travel coffee plunger from the bloke; a charity cookbook and a set of cheese knives with Tasmanian sassafras handles from his Mum. And I bought the icecream maker and Maggie's Harvest (a mammoth tome by Maggie Beer) with money from my Mum, so I think that counts as a foodie present, too.

I haven't cooked much. We had Xmas lunch at my mate Jon's place - an extraordinary cold collation of roast goose, ham, cured beef, two kinds of duck pies, a cheese and mushroom pie, and assorted salads, followed up with pudding, chocolate truffles, shortbreads and more. Everything was home made or cured by Jon and his family, except for the ham and a panettone. He's a great cook, but of course the trouble with going out for Xmas is the lack of leftovers for snacking on in the next week. To alleviate this problem, I bought a large hunk of pre-cooked turkey breast from the supermarket, and made a tray of sage and onion stuffing. I also bought a Maggie Beer pudding and made a frozen brandy cream to go with it, and I made a summer pudding with red currants from my mate Beth's garden and some frozen mixed berries. I intend to do a ham for January, with luck I can get a nice one on sale.

Today we nibbled on the turkey and the summer pudding. Summer pudding is an amazing substance; how could soggy bread be so delicious? It comes out fresh, light and fruity - dollop on some cream and it's heaven, or try it with a good yoghurt for a decadent yet not too heavy holiday breakfast. My recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexander's.

Recipe: Summer Pudding

1/2 loaf good quality sliced white bread

200g fresh red currants
300g frozen raspberries

300g frozen mixed berries

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla vodka
Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan large enough to hold all the berries. When it is thoroughly dissolved, add the frozen berries and warm through. Add fresh berries and simmer for another 30 seconds, then leave to cool. Add the vodka, stir well, then drain off and keep the liquid.

Cut the crusts off the bread, dunk each piece in the liquid and line a pudding bowl. Toss in the berries, and top with more soaked bread. Put a plate on top of the pudding, and a weight on top of the plate, and refrigerate overnight. Unmould and serve.

Notes: Well, this is as I made it, but it is a very flexible recipe. Use wholemeal bread or brioche - but not multigrain, it needs to be smooth. Use vanilla vodka or Grand Marnier or creme de cassis or what you will. Use more or less fresh or frozen fruit. Drizzle a little more vodka over the base if you run out of berry juices.

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