If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I love rhubarb. You may also have picked up that I’m in to fruity puddings in general. Don’t get me wrong, chocolate desserts can be amazing, but the sheer variety of things that you can do with fruit gets me really excited. I remember the first time I had summer pudding as a child, and I couldn’t believe that something so good to eat was made with bread… Until my mother pointed out that really, the exciting bit was the filling. Summer pudding – so named because it’s a great way of using up a glut of soft summer fruits, usually berries – strawberries, raspberries and currants. I thought that it might work with rhubarb, although I’ve never seen that done before. Possibly because cooked rhubarb often gets associated with mush, and when you make a summer pudding, the bread soaks up all juices of the fruit and becomes meltingly soft. Delicious though that is, it’s probably not a good idea to combine it with something erring on the side of mushy – you want a bit of texture in a summer pudding.
But, roasting rhubarb, my favourite way of preparing it, cooks it through in a way in which it becomes tender whilst still holding its shape. Team this with soft raspberries and a few pieces of juicy strawberries, and you’ve got enough bite to contrast with the cloudlike layer of bread. I’ve been thinking about pairing rhubarb with rosewater for a while now, and it seemed like an obvious addition here. If rosewater scares you, don’t worry – it only delicately laces this dessert – but by all means, leave it out if it’s your idea of culinary hell. I personally love the flavour of rose, as long as it’s used well, and wouldn’t say no to sneaking in some more. I used brioche, not traditional, but a loaf more likely to get finished in our house than white bread. And it definitely adds a little richness to this light dessert.
I used a small pudding basin, which gave us four portions – scale up if you’re feeding more mouths (or are just greedy…)
200g raspberries (I used frozen)
50g, plus 20g Demerara sugar
About 10 (small) slices brioche, or white bread, crusts removed
Preheat the oven to 170. Chop the rhubarb into small pieces, about 1-2cm in length.
Put the rhubarb into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over 50g of the sugar, followed by the rosewater. Roast, covered, for around 20-30 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, cut the strawberries into quarters.
When cooked, remove from the oven and let cool. Strain the syrupy juices into a small saucepan, then add half of the frozen raspberries and 20g sugar. Heat gently, stirring often to agitate the raspberries, then let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Put the rhubarb into a small saucepan, along with the remaining raspberries and the strawberries. Then strain the syrup through a sieve into the pan with the cooled rhubarb, and the berries, mashing the sieved raspberries with the back of a spoon or a fork to make sure you pass as much through as possible, leaving just the pips behind. Heat swiftly to just below a boil, then stir and remove from the heat as soon as it reaches this point. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the pudding basin. Lightly grease it, then line it with a double layer of cling film, making sure to leave enough extra to completely fold over the exposed pudding after it has been filled. Next, put two layers of bread on to the base of the basin, pressing it down slightly with your fist. Then arrange slices around the sides, making sure to tuck each piece into the bread at the base and to overlap each new slice them each time. You also want the slices to be tall enough to poke out of the top of the basin.
Next, spoon in the fruit, compacting it in gently as you go and drizzling over a little syrup with each spoonful. You don’t want the fruit to be totally flush with the top of the basin – you want a little mound at the top. Once you’ve used up all the fruit (you may have a spoonful left over – chef’s perk!) spoon over a final bit of syrup (reserving any remaining to pour over the pudding when you serve) then cover with bread. Fold over any bits of bread poking out the top from the sides, then tightly wrap the cling film over. Cover the pudding with a saucer, then put something on it to weigh the pudding down – I used a can of beans laid down on its side. Pop in the fridge, for 12-16 hours.
When ready to serve, peel the cling film from the top, and then, holding on to both layers, gently tug the cling film all around the basin. You should feel it loosening up around the sides as you go. Then, put a serving plate over the top of the pudding, flip over, and put on the work surface. Let gravity do its thing for a couple of minutes, after which time, you should be able to lift the basin leaving behind a cling film wrapped pudding on your plate! Peel off the plastic et voila!
Best eaten fridge cold, with clotted cream. Mmmmmm….