Tag Archives: British

A Roman summer pudding

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It was petrifying. Our litlle palazzo (building) was finally lifting the five-year ban on using the gorgeous roof terrace for anything but laundry, and was celebrating this with a condominium rooftop potluck. We had been assigned a secondo and a dolce: second course and dessert. But what cook? Well, as long we brought something foreign (but not too foreign) it should be OK. So I made Moroccan meatballs, and my husband made summer pudding. Berries, fruit, bread: very  English, refreshing and tasty.image We had made summer pudding last year in Norway, very popular. My husband used the BBC Good Food Summer pudding recipe again as a guideline, adapted to what we had. You would need something like this: 1-1.5 kilos mixed berries and fruit of your choice, 100 g sugar, 7-10 slices day-old white bread.

Step one: line a shallow bowl with plastic cling film, so it is easier to turn the pudding out later.

Step two: In a medium pot, add your assorted berries with a little sugar, depending how sweet your berries are. 100g was plenty for us. Strawberries and raspberries would often be used. We used frozen blueberries, frozen white currants, and a couple finely chopped apples to bulk it up a bit. You need enough to fill the bread-lined bowl. Cook the berries and fruit for a few minutes until the juices start releasing. Strain the fruit to catch the fruit juices, you will need that. In addition, a punnet of fresh strawberries were washed and chopped, but not cooked with the others. 20140613-220435-79475327.jpg

Step three: line the bowl with white bread, with the crusts cut off. Slightly stale works better. As you can see, the bread should be trimmed so it all fits tightly together. This time he dipped the cut bread in the fruit juices, then layered it in the bowl.

20140613-220438-79478451.jpg Step four: ladle over the berries and fruit mixture, into the bread-lined bowl. Add a layer of chopped strawberries as well. 20140613-220440-79480660.jpg Step five: keep filling it up with cooked berries and fruit until it is almost full. Leave a little free space on top. 20140613-220442-79482184.jpg Step six: cover the top of the bowl with a layer of trimmed white bread. Again, make sure it is fitted together well. Cover with plastic cling film. Now, put the bowl on a plate (it might leak) and put this carefully in the fridge, with a small plate on top of the bowl and something heavy on top. A couple milk cartons will do. Leave in fridge for 4-6 hours. As you see, we made two summer puddings, just in case. 20140613-220443-79483765.jpg Step seven: Take the bowl out of the fridge, and peel off the plastic cling film from the top. Now, invert it carefully onto a serving dish. Lift off the bowl, and remove the remaining cling film. You could decorate it with some extra berries if you remember. Impress your neighbours with the exotic English pudding, and give your husband all due credit. 20140613-215508-78908179.jpg

Really lovely evening, gorgeous view and a cool breeze. We stayed up there chatting until past midnight, really nice time with the neighbours.

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Making marzipan with my mother-in-law

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Christmas preparations and traditionals are such a reminder of cultural differences. Most of us carry Christmas preferences from home: what to eat (fish, turkey, smoked lamb ribs, pork or nut loaf?), which cookies to bake, which day to celebrate on. We usually alternate Christmases in England and Norway, so we tend to mix and match the traditions we like: purple candles for a Norwegian advent wreath, and clementines studded with cloves to count down the days; Italian pandoro (and red underwear for New Year’s Eve for for good luck, also an Italian tradition), German lebkuchen; and of course, English Christmas cake.

Every year in November my English mother-in-law calls to ask if we would like a Christmas cake, and every year my husband says to me “You know I don’t eat that…..” But I do like them, and happily say yes to her Christmas cake, which she will already have baked weeks ago and fed with brandy since. It is a) a small step to bridge the cultural gap and b) rather delicious.

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Our cake, with brandy. She spoons a little brandy over the rich fruitcake regularly after baking (feeding it). It is made with Delia’s recipe, but she soaks the fruit in brandy for at least a week before baking. I was taking notes as she explained. As we were over to see them in London before the holidays, we made marzipan icing from scratch for several cakes. New experience for me. Here we are beating eggs and sugar over boiling water, 7-8 minutes.

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From Delia’s Cakes, or online here: Almond Icing (Marzipan)

90g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
90g golden caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
a few drops pure almond extract
1 teaspoon brandy
175g ground almonds
a little icing sugar (to knead and roll)

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….. Then we added the ground almonds, brandy and almond extract and kneaded it. This made enough to cover two cakes.
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Impressive marzipan! Yes, much easier to buy the marzipan, but this was rather fun. The marzipan was rolled out with icing sugar.
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Another slight deviation from Delia: my mother-in-law brushes the cake with apricot jam before the cake is wrapped in marzipan icing layer.
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I rolled out marzipan to a sheet, lifted it over each cake, and tucked in the corners. Voila! Almost done! The cake needs to dry for at least a week, and then have a sheet of royal icing layered on top. That then needs to dry for some days before the cake is eaten, according to the instructions I was given. So I carefully wrapped the cake and took it back to Rome (where it is still waiting to be iced and decorated……)

Back in Rome from London with a suitcase of British food:
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As you see, the cake survived the flight. And so did the treasure trove of British food: mince pies, crumpets, suet, Bovril, brown sauce, winter Pimm’s, mincemeat, Marmite, Christmas pudding, cheddar, porridge oats…… Yes, you can even carry mince pies in your hand luggage! Wonderful as Italian cooking is, a little British food is very nice indeed. And if I can just get our Christmas cake iced soon, all will be well…….

Summer pudding with Norwegian berries

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British puddings mystify Norwegians. We might read about them in British novels, but have never seen or even less tasted the mysterious dishes. Apple duff, Yorkshire pudding, spotted dick, Christmas pudding, they are all unknown and seem exotic. My English husband is regularly asked by my relatives about the difference between Yorkshire pudding and Christmas pudding. At Christmas my English husband thus impressed everyone by making toad in the hole (sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding) and then bread and butter pudding. This time, his Great British pudding tour continued with a summer pudding (also novel and exciting). It is a really lovely summer dessert. Here is what he did.

Step one: make sure nobody eats the ingredients. White bread, bought the day before to be slightly stale, and blueberries we had picked in the woods. Watching football while cooking is optional. He used the BBC Good Food Summer pudding recipe as a guideline, adapted to what we had. You would need something like this: 1-1.5 kilos mixed berries and fruit of your choice, 100 g sugar, 7-10 slices day-old white bread.

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Step two: line a shallow bowl with plastic cling film, so it is easier to turn the pudding out later.

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Step three: line the bowl with white bread, with the crusts cut off. Slightly stale works better.

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As you can see, the bread should be trimmed so it all fits tightly together.
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Step four: In a medium pot, add your assorted berries with a little sugar, depending how sweet your berries are. 100g was plenty for us. Strawberries and rapberries would often be used. We used fresh blueberries, white currants, fresh raspberries, and a couple finely chopped apples to bulk it up a bit. You can use frozen berries too. You need enough to fill the bread-lined bowl. Cook the berries and fruit for a few minutes until the juices start releasing.

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Step five: ladle over the berries and fruit mixture, into the bread-lined bowl.

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Step six: keep filling it up with cooked berries and fruit until it is almost full. Leave a little free space on top. You will see the juices seeping through to colour the bread already. We had a couple cups worth of extra cooked berries and juice that we saved and served with the summer pudding later.
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Step seven: cover the top of the bowl with a layer of trimmed white bread. Again, make sure it is fitted together well. Cover with plastic cling film. Now, put the bowl on a plate (it might leak) and put this carefully in the fridge, with a small plate on top of the bowl and something heavy on top. A couple milk cartons will do. Leave in fridge for 4-6 hours.

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Step eight: you have had a lovely dinner in the garden, and it is time for dessert. Or time for pudding, as the English would say. Take the bowl out of the fridge, and peel off the plastic cling film from the top. Now, invert it carefully onto a serving dish. Lift off the bowl, and remove the remaining cling film. You could decorate it with some extra berries if you remember.

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Step nine: watch as the 12 people at dinner are impressed, taste summer pudding for the first time and proceed to wolf it down. This was served with vaniljesaus, a cold vanilla custard sauce, but it is delicious just as it is. Quite filling as well.

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Now, what pudding will he impress them with the next time we come to Norway?