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This recipe seems a bit daunting, but once you’ve got the hang of dipping the bread and lining the basin, it’s pretty straightforward. Make up the weight of fruit with any mixture of berries you like; raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, currants, cherries, blackberries and tayberries are all brilliant. You will need a 1.8 litre/3-pint pudding basin; for best results, begin the recipe the night before you plan to eat it. Serves 4-6.
750g mixed summer soft fruit (for example, Raspberries, Blackcurrants, Strawberries and Cherries)
185g Golden Caster Sugar
Good White Bread, slightly stale (you will need most of a loaf – closer-textured bread in a standard rectangular ‘loaf’ shape will be easiest to work with)
2 tbsp Fruit Cordial (use whatever you prefer – Blackcurrant, Raspberry or even Elderflower)
Wash the soft fruit, removing any stalks and stems, and hull the strawberries if using. Put the fruit in a large saucepan, pour in the sugar and mix carefully to combine, then cover the pan with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for three hours or thereabouts – this allows the fruit to macerate in the sugar, softening and releasing its flavour-filled juices.
Next, put the pan on the hob over a medium flame and bring slowly up to the boil, then simmer for about five minutes. Turn off the heat under the fruit when it has had its cooking time, and pour in the cordial, stirring to combine.
While the fruit is cooking, cut the bread into medium-thick slices and cut away the crusts (you can turn these into breadcrumbs and freeze them for use in other recipes, like our tasty Crab Gratin. Using the base of your pudding basin as a template, cut out a circle of bread from one of the slices – this will eventually be the top of the pudding. Now turn the basin over and use it as a guide to help you cut out a circle large enough to form the base of the finished pudding (you may need to combine bread from more than one slice), then cut each of the rest of the slices into two equally-sized rectangles, to form the sides of the pudding. Line the pudding basin with two pieces of clingfilm, allowing plenty to hang over the sides so that you can completely cover the pudding before leaving it to rest.
Take your smaller circle of bread and dip one side of it carefully into the pan so that it soaks up the fruit juice. Put it juice-soaked-side down in the bottom of the pudding basin, then repeat with the rectangular pieces of bread, dipping one side of each rectangle into the fruit juice before placing it around the edge of the bowl, with the juice-dipped side facing outwards. Overlap each rectangle slightly, so that there are no gaps. When the basin is completely lined, dip one side of the remaining bread circle in the juice, then carefully put all of the fruit into the pudding basin and pour the juice in with it, then top with the final bread circle (juice-side down). Pull the clingfilm up and across the top of the basin, then find a small plate or saucer that will fit snugly inside the top of the bowl and sit it on the clingfilm. Put a weight on the saucer (a bag of rice or a big tin of baked beans is ideal), then put the pudding basin in the fridge and leave overnight.
When you are ready to serve the Summer Pudding, remove the weight and the saucer and give the clingfilm a very gentle ‘lift’ around the edges of the basin, then invert the whole thing on to a serving plate and it should drop gently down. Remove the clingfilm and take it to the table with plenty of clotted cream, single cream or a couple of scoops of good quality vanilla ice-cream.
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