Wednesday, 27 February 2013


I’m about to complicate a very easy pudding, but it is worth it, so hold on. The chef where I work makes this bread and butter pudding which comes out more like cake, which he freezes in wedges to order, not the usual pieces of bread floating in an egg custard. He tightly layers the bread with soaked raisins and sometimes a layer of crushed amoretti biscuits, but you really can add what you like. First when I asked him how to make it said ‘with bread and butter’ then let me in on the secret, and here it is, with a few alterations. I do go further with aesthetic concerns than I normally would do with honest recipes like bread and butter pudding, but this recipe makes you feel like you’re having something different. Plus it’s all optional, if you want to throw it all together, that’s fine too.

100g raisins
A slosh of Brandy, or any alcohol of choice (wine, amaretto ect…)
About 1 tsp mixed spice
50g amoretti biscuits. I couldn’t get these, so I used glace cherries instead, thinly sliced
4 eggs 300ml milk
1tbsp vanilla extract
8 slices of white bread, I used a small uncut loaf so I cut have the slices the sizes I wanted.
A knob of butter

Serves 4

Preheat oven to fan180/200c/6.
 Line the base of a rectangle baking dish big/small enough to fit 2 slices of bread side by side. It would be better if they fit snugly, touching the sides, but I couldn’t even get this so don’t worry.

Begin by heating the raisins, spice and alcohol of choice in a pan, I used brandy. Heat for 5 minutes or so, just to soften the raisins and allow them to soak up more flavour.

Next make the egg custard by whisking together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour into a shallow dish, big enough to soak each slice of bread in it.

Now it’s a simple (or as simple as I can explain it) case of buttering and assembling. You can cut the crusts off, or leave them on. I cut them off of the top and one side of the bread, then layered alternatively to give a striped affect which looks cool, plus the crusts add an extra flavour. Butter all of the bread and soak the first two pieces in the custard mix then lay side by side in the dish to make the base of the pudding. Scatter over a covering of raisins. Now do the next layer, soaking in the custard again, but if you’re doing it like I did, this time arrange the crusts so they lay over each slice of bread where the crust is cut off. Scatter over all of the crushed amoretti biscuits, or as I used, cherries. Soak the next two slices then layer the bread again with the crusts in the same position as the first layer. Scatter over the rest of the raisins and any brandy juice then finish with the final layers of bread, soaked again, with the crusts in the same position as the second layer. Any remaining custard you may have pour over the two, now layered sandwiches, and press down to soak in. Bake for 25 minutes at the bottom of the oven.

Once baked, leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out of the dish with the baking paper. I like to have the bottom as the top, as it’s more even. Cut the pudding in half, separating back to the 2 separate slices of bread. Then slice diagonally, so you have a cake-like wedge. Serve with custard.


Friday, 22 February 2013


Ridiculously easy to make, I serve this amaretto panna cotta with an almond praline, and an optional drizzle of amaretto spiked caramel sauce, made from a little bit of caramel from the praline and left over cream.

3 sheets of leaf gelatine soaked in a little water for 5 minutes.
250ml double cream
250ml milk
3 tbsp amaretto

For the praline
150g sugar
2 tbsp amaretto
25g flaked almonds, roughly chopped

Makes 4

Begin by gently heating the cream and milk together with the amaretto in a small saucepan. When heated through, but not boiling, take of the heat and stir in the soft gelatine, until dissolved. Pour into 4 ramekins and chill to set in the fridge for at least an hour.

Make the praline by putting the sugar and amaretto in a pan and bringing to boil until it forms an amber caramel. The sugar and amaretto tend to stick together into a blob, so it can take a little longer to entirely melt into a caramel. At this stage I poured a small amount of the caramel into a separate pan, but to the rest add the almonds and until well dispersed. Pour out onto a baking sheet and leave to set, this won’t take long. When set, smash up or chop into a praline.

Optional caramel sauce

Add about 50ml of cream (what I had left from a 300ml tub) to the little, and now hard blob of caramel you have in the separate pan, and turn on the heat. Swirl continuously for a while until the caramel begins to soften and yield into the cream. If you keep going long enough you will get a thick, velvety caramel sauce to serve with the panna cotta. It’s a great way of making something which makes a huge difference to flavour out of little, and using ingredients up.

To serve, turn out the panna cottas onto a small plate, you can dip the bottom of the ramekin in a bowl of boiling water to help with this. Top with the praline and caramel, and enjoy.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Being a huge fan of rhubarb (Yorkshire based) I’ve been thinking for a long time about how I can bring rhubarb and custard together besides from the unbeatable crumble. The final result was something completely different; custard flavoured meringues served with sticks of rhubarb and a syrup from the cooking juices. I normally avoid recipes which involve any sort of piping, excusing it as unnecessary decoration, but in reality I’m just rubbish at it. So you could probably make these look a lot better than I did. Either way, the taste is more important with the crisp outer shell of the meringue holding a gooey, custardy centre which when met with the rhubarb creates that classic flavour combination.

4 eggs whites
225g caster sugar
2 tbsp custard powder
2 sticks rhubarb
2 tbsp sugar

Makes 4

Preheat oven fan140/160c/3.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I would recommend parchment here, I finally got hold of some in a shopping centre in Sheffield but you can order it online too).

Whisk the egg whites until deep white and silky and they form medium peaks. Little by little add the sugar, pouring in while the eggs whites are rapidly whisking. Keep the meringue whisking until it forms glossy stiff peaks. Gently fold in the custard powder until well incorporated and the meringue takes on a yellow tinge. Fill a piping bag with the meringue mixture and pipe onto the baking sheets in 4 medium sized swirls. At this stage you can really do what you want with the design or quantity though. Bake for around 40 minutes at the bottom of the oven, or until they have a hard outer shell with good colour, but still give a little when pressed. You can leave them in the oven, with the door open to cool slightly before serving.

While the meringues are still baking prepare the rhubarb. Chop each stick diagonally in 4, until you have wedges of about 10cm each. Place into a pan with water that comes about half way up the rhubarb and the sugar. Gently heat until the rhubarb just begins to break down and lose its deep red outer skin. Be careful here because you want the sticks to soft but still formed, not beginning to stew. At this stage remove the rhubarb from the pan but keep the liquid and any stringy bits which might be left. Whack up the heat and let reduce until it turns into a deep pink syrup. This is delicious poured over the meringues. Assemble the meringues by serving with 2 sticks of rhubarb and a spoonful of the sweet syrup. It’s a new way to enjoy the classic combination.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


As a fan of classic combinations I’ve reached right back to even biblical times with this one; milk and honey. The result is a rich, sweet loaf which has something homely about it, partly down to the fact it gives the house that baking smell. For added richness, smoothness and to not thin the batter too much I used buttermilk and contrary to what I suggested in my buttermilk tarts, I’d actually buy buttermilk for this thickness (and not make it yourself).

150g butter
150g unrefined sugar (you could use normal)
3 eggs
225g self raising flour
80ml buttermilk
4tbsp honey

Preheat oven fan140/150c/2.
Grease and line a loaf tin.

Begin by creaming the butter and sugar, then mix in the eggs. Add about half to begin to form the batter then add the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining flour, followed by the honey. The batter should be thick and smooth as you pour it into the tin. Bake on the bottom of the oven for about 1½ hours, or until golden brown and until it springs back when touched. As I’ve suggested before, if it looks like the loaf is catching, place a sheet of baking paper over the top. It really is a handy method, it won’t work miracles, but it should help if you do it early enough.

Once baked leave to cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing and cooling completely on wire rack. The cake doesn’t have a spongy texture; it’s more like that of a syrup sponge, because the honey gives the same gooey effect that treacle does, so don’t think it’s raw when you slice it!