There are those who say the best berries are the ones you steal. I suppose there is a certain thrill to standing technically on council land while your hands and arms are scratched to shreds by thorns in an effort to collect your booty before the person who owns the other side of the fence catches and abuses you. Yet, having never grown any fruit at all until about two years ago, I'm inclined to disagree and say the best berries are the ones you grow yourself. Many of you will know by now that our aim is to turn our property into an edible paradise. We're aware good things take time. For example, we don't expect our avocado tree to fruit for some years to come, which is why I was surprised by how quickly our berries have fruited. We inherited some raspberry canes with the property but transplanted them two Februarys ago and planted loganberries, boysenberries, tayberries and purple raspberries to join them. Now, around only a year and a half later, we're harvesting kilos of fruit every two days.
I'm fiercely protective of my precious raspberry crop, my only experience of them (until recently) being the hideously expensive and tiny packages you buy in the supermarket. I even refuse to make jam out of them because they taste so luscious fresh. Oliver is much more laissez-faire when it comes to berries. He grew up picking wild blackberries in the pine forests around Canberra, before they began spraying them, and was privy to a fine berry patch in his own family garden. I balk when he says he'd like to sell them. We've begun trialling a handful of weekly veggie boxes and this week he wants to include a punnet of raspberries. I'm appalled. I even try to guilt trip him. 'What about your unborn child,' I say, 'doesn't he deserve to keep such precious gems to himself? They're rich in vitamin C, you know!' I relent when Oliver points out that our baby (or rather his mother) has already consumed 1.6kg of berries in the last few days. Ahem. I suppose I must learn to share. It doesn't take long. This morning while picking I find I no longer resent the recipients of our veggie boxes. In fact, it's a pleasure to share the delights our garden has produced.
There are a few ways to cope with an abundance of berries; stuff your face until you can't stand the sight of them, freeze them, turn them into jam or jelly or make summer pudding out of them. Despite all my years living in England I never tried this British dessert until the other night. It's not the most handsome looking dessert (or perhaps my plating up skills leave a bit to be desired) but the taste more than makes up for anything it lacks in the looks department. Like most of the recipes on this blog it's super easy to make but with this one you will need a little patience while the juices soak overnight. Traditionally made with redcurrants, loganberries and raspberries you can really use whichever berries you like. You can use frozen berries, but I wouldn't use all frozen fruit as there won't be sufficient juice to soak the bread and create the gorgeous crimson colour. I'm told the redcurrants add a lovely piquancy to the dish which is why I've added them to the recipe. Sadly ours are within easy reach of our chooks and so none were left when I came to harvest them.
1 loaf thinly sliced bread, preferably slightly stale as this will help the juices soak into the bread more easily
1/2 cup water
125 g sugar
125 g redcurrants
125 g loganberries, or other berry of your choice
375 g raspberries
Place water and sugar into a large saucepan. Cover and simmer until sugar has dissolved. If you're using frozen fruit, add it now and allow to thaw. Add fresh fruit and give it a good stir. Cover and allow fruit to come to the boil. Remove from heat as soon as fruit has come to the boil, you don't want it to reduce in size too much or lose its texture. Strain berries through a fine sieve catching the juices in a bowl underneath. You want as much juice to strain out as possible. Allow the fruit to cool completely.
Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of a deep bowl with white bread (crusts removed). You want the lining to be as tight a fit as possible to prevent juices spilling out the gaps rather than seeping through the bread. Keep aside about three slices for the lid.
Spoon drained berries into your bread lined bowl. Level fruit and then pour over a little of the reserved juice so that the filling looks wet but is not swimming in liquid. Cover with remaining bread, ensuring again a tight fit. This will form the base of your pudding once turned out. Cover the pudding with two layers of foil then press in a side plate or saucer that fits inside the rim of the bowl. Weight the saucer with tinned goods and refrigerate pudding overnight or even for up to two days.
To serve, remove tins, foil and saucer or side plate. Cover with a generous serving plate and invert carefully. You may need to delicately pry the side of the pudding with a knife but it shouldn't take much for it to slide out of the bowl and onto the plate. Top with additional fresh berries if you wish. Spoon over some of the extra juice and offer the rest to your family or guests to pour over ice cream or cream once cut. Enjoy!
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