Berry good puds

Rasp­ber­ries might not be the rare treat they once were, but, with these recipes, they will still de­light, Si­mon Hop­kin­son as­sures us

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Si­mon Hop­kin­son

Rasp­ber­ries might not be the rare treat they once were, but Si­mon Hop­kin­son thinks they still have the power to de­light

IT was clear to me, from a very young age, that a rasp­berry was deemed a spe­cial fruit. For spe­cial oc­ca­sions. For pos­si­bly not hav­ing too much of at one time. A ‘that’s quite enough, Si­mon, no more’ kind of treat.

My fa­ther’s few gar­den canes pro­duced enough fruit for oc­ca­sional week­end lunches dur­ing their sum­mer sea­son—birds had their wicked share, too— but there were still never enough to be in any way willy-nilly with. Sup­plies were sweetly sup­ple­mented by pur­chases from a well-stocked Bury mar­ket—in Lan­cashire, then—but, as with the sparse gar­den pro­duce, these re­mained al­ways as a treat. The grown-up, sea­sonal cook in me doesn’t just come from a nat­u­ral re­spect for the turn­ing over of the months, it’s fur­ther stamped by the un­der­stand­ing that there was al­ways a be­gin­ning and an end to some­thing: rasp­ber­ries are over, now, but there will be ap­ples soon.

How­ever, I will al­ways re­mem­ber the ex­quis­ite scent of that first gar­den rasp­bob—we called them that, yes we did—as it was plucked from the plant in my ten­ta­tive fin­gers. ‘Gen­tly, Bent­ley,’ Dad would ad­vise, ‘oth­er­wise you’ll crush the fruit.’ Tin colan­der in hand, I would rush back into the kitchen to show Mum my har­vest—about 10, prob­a­bly. Dad would fi­nally show up later with quite a few more and we would eat them with a dust­ing of caster su­gar and spoon­fuls of pale-yel­low cream from the farm up the road—un­pas­teurised, nat­u­rally, as that was all there was.

To­day, one can have rasp­ber­ries all year round, so the treat has some­what di­min­ished, but the true flavour of the nat­u­rally grown na­tive will thrill ev­ery sin­gle time. Con­tro­ver­sially and in­ci­den­tally, how­ever, frozen rasp­ber­ries are the very best to use when mak­ing a tri­fle. If, like me, you wish to make this most perfect of pud­dings with the good taste and re­spect that it de­serves, you will only use sponge, sherry, rasp­berry jam, rasp­ber­ries, cus­tard and whipped cream. Crys­tallised vi­o­let or rose petals are the only op­tional, but echt, dec­o­ra­tion.

The trick here is to tum­ble the still-frozen rasp­ber­ries over the sherry-soaked sponge, prior to swamp­ing them with the cus­tard while it’s still hot from the pan. All at once, this sud­den part-assem­bly both de­frosts the fruit and al­lows its juices to drip down into the sponge as the cus­tard sets and cools. Only then may the cream be piled on top. So, there it is: a bonus recipe for the out-of-sea­son rasp­berry.

Rasp­ber­ries and cus­tard Serves 4

In essence, a small dish of un­burnt crème brûlée cus­tard topped with rasp­ber­ries. I think that a deft dust­ing of ic­ing su­gar over the berries slightly sweet­ens and, fur­ther, adds a pretty fin­ish.

Very small or sliced straw­ber­ries may also be suc­cess­fully em­ployed here, but never raw blue­ber­ries, what­ever one might think—a blue­berry is a fruit that de­mands to be cooked with su­gar in a pie. Ask any good American cook.

In­gre­di­ents

500ml dou­ble cream

1 vanilla pod, split length­ways

4 egg yolks

2tb­spn caster su­gar

400g rasp­ber­ries

A lit­tle sieved ic­ing su­gar

Method

Heat the cream with the vanilla pod in a heavy-based saucepan un­til hot, but not boil­ing. Whisk thor­oughly for a few sec­onds to dis­perse the seeds from the vanilla pod, cover and leave to in­fuse for 30 min­utes. Mean­while, gen­tly whisk to­gether the egg yolks and su­gar. Re­move the vanilla pods from the cream, shake well, lightly rinse and store in some su­gar if you like, for fur­ther con­fec­tions.

Pour the warm cream over the egg yolks and su­gar and whisk to­gether. Re­turn to the pan and cook very gen­tly over a low heat, stir­ring with a wooden spoon.

Every­one—well, al­most every­one—tells you to cook the cus­tard un­til it coats the back of a wooden spoon. I think this is mis­lead­ing as the mix­ture al­most coats the spoon from the start, re­sult­ing in an in­suf­fi­ciently cooked cus­tard that won’t set. I find—and it be­comes eas­ier and less risky with prac­tice—that one can al­most al­low the oc­ca­sional boil­ing blip to form on the sur­face, fol­lowed by vig­or­ous whisk­ing to dis­perse them back into the less hot parts of the cus­tard.

When you feel that the cus­tard is ready, de­cant into gen­er­ous-sized, in­di­vid­ual ramekins—or small glass dishes, as shown here—and chill well for Sim­ple and sublime: chilled cus­tard and sweet rasp­ber­ries make a great pud­ding at least four hours. Note: the mix­ture shouldn’t be much higher than two-thirds up the sides of whichever con­tainer you’re us­ing, to leave room for the rasp­ber­ries.

Once thor­oughly chilled, care­fully pile the rasp­ber­ries on top and dust with ic­ing su­gar. Serve at once, with joy.

‘It was clear to me, from a very young age, that a rasp­berry is a spe­cial fruit

Rasp­berry-and-al­mond sponge pud­ding Serves 4

In­gre­di­ents

4 eggs (3 sep­a­rated)

100g caster su­gar

100g melted un­salted but­ter

1tb­spn Cognac

Few drops al­mond essence

100g ground al­monds

Ex­tra but­ter and su­gar for lin­ing

300g fresh rasp­ber­ries

Cream to serve

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C/ 350˚F/gas mark 4. Us­ing an elec­tric beater, whisk to­gether 1 whole egg and 3 yolks with 65g of the su­gar un­til light and fluffy. In a sep­a­rate bowl, whisk the 3 egg whites with a pinch of salt un­til fluffy, then grad­u­ally add the re­main­ing su­gar in a stream un­til a soft meringue is achieved.

Whisk the melted but­ter into the egg-yolk mix­ture, to­gether with the Cognac and al­mond essence, then slowly mix into the meringue. Now, care­fully fold in the ground al­monds. Lightly but­ter one (ca­pac­ity one litre) or two (ca­pac­ity 500ml) bak­ing dishes and sprin­kle with caster su­gar, tap­ping out any ex­cess.

Use half of the rasp­ber­ries to cre­ate a sin­gle layer on the bot­tom of your dish(es). Care­fully spoon the al­mond mix­ture over the fruit—mak­ing sure that each dish has an equal amount, if us­ing two—then deftly drop the re­main­ing berries over the sur­face. Sprin­kle with a touch more su­gar, then bake in the oven for about 30–40 min­utes or un­til the pud­ding is nicely puffed up and springy to the touch, with a shiny and crisp sur­face.

Leave to cool for a few min­utes be­fore eat­ing with very cold, thick cream.

Fol­low @Si­mon­hop­kin­son on Twit­ter

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