I’m not really a Valentines Day type of gal. I suppose my disinclination is due to the truckloads of fluffy naffness. Perhaps it’s because I waited tables one year in Washington DC on Valentines Night and the snippets of overheard conversation have stayed with me for life. Scarred!!!
But it’s mid May now so I think it’s a safe enough distance away from February to make heart-shaped food. The reality of this gesture today though is more genuine. I just want to tell those who’ve helped me build this place that I love them. (And I get to cook).
My heart-shaped offering is a Summer Berry Pudding. It’s pathetically easy to make and you can easily make it in a non heart-shaped bowl (which the recipe below matches). I found my small heart shaped bowl a few years ago. It’s for salt and comes with a little spoon. But shape aside, there’s an awful lot to be said for not littering the hob with pots and pans (there’s just the one for this recipe) and this is the perfect food for berry lovers (which are, as we know, the best kind). I’m struck every season at the tables of berries that Vivienne Westwood provides backstage at her fashion show. Do I have to even go on?
The berries for this dessert need little else alongside: bread which provides a cozy home and caster sugar a little sweetness, so you’re spared any thought of turning on an oven or any form of chopping (by all means make hand-made heart-shaped ravioli to eat before if you want, but that’s not exactly easy is it?)
And while Summer Berry ‘PUDDING’ may not seem the most seductive of words (not like Tiramisu or Sorbet or Eaton Mess is it?), the fact that the colour conjures up happiness makes it a winner. Humour me. It’s my queen of puddings.
OK so you think it’s a little bit simple? But it tastes luscious and looks cute and if well made it can look very cool. Oh and finally, quite apart from the seductive prettiness of its dense and dark crater filled with molten fresh juicy berries, there is something very relaxing about making it. Here’s how…. (Enjoy xxx)
You can use any type of berries – raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrents, red currents – depending on what you like. You can serve it with Mascarpone cream (cream and vanilla extract whipped into Mascarpone), vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream. I do neither and just serve it on its own!
Place the berries (keeping a few back for decoration), sugar and 60ml (2fl oz) of water in a large saucepan and heat gently and simmer on a low heat for 3-4 minutes until the fruit softens and a rich, dark juice starts to rise around the fruit. Set aside to cool.
Pour off the juice and place in a flat dish. (Put the fruit aside)
Cut the crusts from the bread and cut two circles one to cover the bottom of your mould/bowl and one to fit the top. Cut the remainder into triangle slices about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick.
Dip both sides of the bred pieces in the berry juice and then line the bowl with the smaller circle of bread first at the bottom and then continue to build your shell with the juice soaked bread. Overlap them slightly to make sure there are no gaps.
Spoon the berries into to bread lined-bowl and drizzle with any remaining juice. YOu can patch here and there if there are tiny holes and then finally top with the larger circle of bread, trimming it to fit.
Cover the top of the pudding with clingfilm and then find a plate that fits perfectly inside the rim of the bowl and sit it on the large bread lid. Press the plate in, then find something heavy and weigh it down (a heavy can or two). Place the bowl in in a shallow dish to catch any juice that might overflow, and refrigerate overnight (for at least 12 hours).
To serve, run a thin knife around the inside of the basin and shake the tipped bowl onto a serving plate. If any berry juice has escaped, collect it and drizzle it on top. Serves 8
FOR THE PUDDING
1kg (2lb 4oz) mixed berries (use a combination of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, redcurrents or blackcurrents)
200g (7 oz) superfine caster sugar
10 slices of stale white bread, (remove the crusts)