With a house to sell in England, we’re still here in the UK. So let’s make the most of it, particularly at mealtimes. Here’s how.
With any luck, Discovery, the very first apples of the season will appear any day now. I love their bright red skin, their crisp white crunchy flesh. They’re hopeless keepers, but for just a very few weeks, their bright fresh flavour presents a real contrast to the departing soft summer fruits.
And when they’re over? Well, there are James Grieves, Laxton Supreme, Laxton Superb, Worcester Pearmain, Lord Lambourne, Cox’s Orange Pippin and so many others to look forward to…if you can find them. And of course Bramley Seedlings too, so wonderful to cook with.
I was brought up to anticipate and celebrate the heady variety of taste, texture and appearance of all our English apples. These days I mourn the uniformity of the standard few varieties that stock the supermarket shelves, year in, year out. Often as not, they’re imported from New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, and France, while our own traditional varieties have become heritage items whose very existence is protected by Reading University’s National Fruit Collection at Brogdale
I KNOW they’re available in France, but when we got back this time, we discovered a small blackcurrant bush had been secretly prospering in a forgotten corner of the garden. And there it was, laden with big dark purple berries, over a kilo of them, just asking to picked and enjoyed
Hardly seen in France, I love their crisp sour flesh, and eat them any way I can. Gooseberry fool is best of all: gently stewed fruit folded in with equal portions of good custard and double cream.
They DO exist in France, but can’t compete with the big, juicy, tasty berries we have here: the best ones come from the garden of our friends Richard and Jonet here in Harrogate (and the best jam too). The rest come from Scotland.
Back in southern France, broad beans are long over. Here they’re at their best, so I’ve had two goes this year at my almost-favourite vegetable. OK, not a fruit. But very good anyway.
Surely the quintessential English pud? Gently cooked quantities of soft summer fruits, spooned into a basin that’s been lined with pappy English sliced bread, left for the flavours to mingle before turning out and serving with cream doesn’t sound too exciting maybe. But it is. Summer in England really isn’t summer until you’ve had your first helping. And as many helpings as you can manage before the season’s over
- 1kg (2lb) mixed berries (use a combination
- of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, redcurrants or blackcurrants)
- 160g (5½oz) caster sugar
- 10 thin slices stale white bread, crusts removed
- Place the berries, sugar and 60ml (2fl oz) of water in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer on a low heat and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for 3-4 minutes, or until the fruit has softened and produced lots of juice. Set aside to cool.
- Pour the juice into a flat dish, reserving the fruit.
- Cut one slice of bread into a circle small enough to fit the base of a 1.5l (48 fl oz) pudding basin, and another large enough to fit the top. Cut the remaining slices into triangles. Dip both sides of the smaller circle of bread quickly into the juice and place it in the bottom of the pudding basin. Dip both sides of each triangle of bread into the juice, then line the inside of the basin with the juice-soaked bread, overlapping them slightly to make sure there are no gaps.
- Fill the bread-lined basin with berries, drizzle with any remaining juice and top with the larger circle of bread, trimming it to fit if necessary.
- Cover the top of the pudding with clingfilm, then place a saucer or small plate that just fits inside the rim of the basin on top. Press the plate in, then weigh it down with a heavy can or two. Place the basin in a shallow dish to catch any juice that might overflow, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
- To serve, run a thin knife around the inside of the basin and invert the pudding on to a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve accompanied with plenty of thick cream.