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
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.
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
2tbspn caster sugar
A little sieved icing sugar
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
4 eggs (3 separated)
100g caster sugar
100g melted unsalted butter
Few drops almond essence
100g ground almonds
Extra butter and sugar for lining
300g fresh raspberries
Cream to serve
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.
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