7 Nov 2010

Raisin roll and butter pudding and other delights with day-old bread

It's been a while since I posted anything (so long, in fact, that I'd forgotten our password...) but that's not been for want of cooking, eating and spending time in kitchens. The three weeks I spent quoffing Cruzcampo and scoffing tapas in Andalucia were an inspiration, though what with daily flamenco lessons and side trips to hilltop pueblos blancos, not to mention a seriously primitive kitchen, not a lot of cooking went on. I have come back with a Spanish vegetable press, mind you, and I'm itching to experiment with some of the southern Spanish flavors I encountered (espinacas con garbanzos and other Spanish comfort food come to mind), but I also spent three weeks back home and there, a whole lotta cooking went on so there are probably going to be some recipes inspired by good old-fashioned English cooking appearing over the next few weeks, too. 

For now, though, my mission is to do something creative with stale bread...

Ask a Brit what comes to mind when you mention traditional British puddings and the responses are nearly universal: comfort, home, love and family. I'm talking apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding, spotted dick, jam roly-poly, trifle and other classic, idiosyncratically-named favorites. 
As a child, I spent many happy hours in the kitchen, watching, helping and tasting  (obstructing, creating havoc and making a mess - is probably closer to the truth, but I'm feeling a tad whimsical) as my mum created delicious post-dinner treats. To my mother, a meal is not complete without dessert and we even have a friend whose post-prandial craving for sweet confections is such that he is fondly known as "three-puddings". There's no getting around it, the English have a decidedly sweet tooth, and judging by the number and variety of English desserts, it's not a newly acquired taste either. Though beware, not all our puddings are sweet: some, like steak and kidney pudding, Yorkshire pudding and black pudding, are eaten as starters or as part of the main course of a meal. 

Bread and butter pudding is an English classic that, like many traditional English recipes, was born out of less plentiful times when rationing was part of life and nothing went to waste. It's one of England's most loved puds (school dinner memories aside) and made the traditional way, it's rich, warming and fulfilling, and perfect for a cold winter night or - I suggest in some trepidation - for a chilly winter morning, which is when I made this and it went down a treat. It's made with the simplest of ingredients, is wholesome and comforting, and easy on the purse strings - and with that combination you really can't go wrong.

I made this with round raisin rolls so the fruit's already in there, but you can also use stale croissants or plain old sandwich bread and simply sprinkle over 50g of sultanas or raisins instead. Give day-old bread a new lease of life by turning it into the ultimate comfort food.

Raisin roll and butter pudding 
Serves 2 hungry people or 4 people with more delicate appetites

275ml milk
60ml cream
1/2 vanilla pod
3 eggs
50g caster sugar
4 round raisin rolls
50g butter (or margarine)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp brandy
a handful of candied orange peel
a little icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180-degrees Centigrade.
First make your flavored butter by mixing the butter with the nutmeg and cinnamon (you can add some orange zest too if you want an intenser flavor). Use a little of it to butter a medium-sized shallow, ovenproof dish.
Slice the raisin rolls in half horizontally and butter both sides, then cut each slice in half and arrange - butter-side down, over the base of the baking dish and sprinkle the candied orange peel and brandy over (and the raisins or sultanas if you're not using raisin rolls). 
For the custard base, bring the milk and cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and add to the pan. Whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale, then whisk in the milk and cream mixture. Sieve the custard over the bread and leave it all to soak for at least 15 minutes. 
Place the dish in a roasting tin, half-fill the tin with hot water, then bake the pudding for about 45 minutes. When cooked it will have a slight crust on top but will still be slightly wobbly inside. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm. 

And if that doesn't tempt you, then maybe this will. It's a slightly more breakfasty recipe that's somewhere between a Spanish omelette and a pan-cooked quiche. 

Bread Omelette
Serves 2

2 eggs
150ml milk
2 slices bread
2 slices bacon (or ham or a couple of small frankfurter sausages)
50g frozen spinach
1 tsp oil or butter
a little salt, nutmeg and black pepper
a little grated cheese (optional)

Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and whisk lightly. Add the seasonings and the frozen spinach and stir. Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and add to the mixture with the bacon and the cheese, if using. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. 
Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the omelette mixture and use a spatula to spread evenly over the base of the pan. Cover and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the omelette. Flip the omelette, cover and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until lightly bronzed. Cut into quarters and serve with ketchup on the side. 

And that's me done with stale staples!

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