The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Why your summer pudding needs a splash of elderflower

Why your summer pudding needs a splash of elderflower
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Is there a sight more pleasing, more cheering, than the vermillion dome of a summer pudding? Its vibrant colour cannot fail to raise a smile, even on dreary June days, suggestive as it is of all that is best about the British summer when it plays ball: gluts of sweet, juicy fruit, that sweet-sour tightrope that our summer crops walk so deftly, long lunches in the garden, and sticky fingers.

Each time I make a summer pudding, I am convinced it won’t hold. That, after a day of soaking, the flimsy bread frame will give way, spilling forth its berry contents all over the plate. Each time I turn out the pudding, I am freshly delighted and surprised; triumphant, as if it is my structural skill rather than berry juices that is to be congratulated. It is a pudding which defies gravity and sense, and rewards faith. Its simplicity is the key to its success: plain, slightly staling white bread (brioche seems altogether too rich, too sweet to suit a dish like this, and for goodness sake, don’t bother making your own), showcasing the best of summer fruits. On the one hand, it is elegant in its simplicity; on the other, it seems distinctly British to name soggy, stale bread stuffed with fruit after an entire season. I love it.

When it comes to the fruit, raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants are to my mind the non-negotiables, but they can be supplemented with cherries, blueberries, even tayberries, loganberries, and strawberries – although I rather love chef and pudding king Jeremy Lee’s addition of gooseberries. A splash of elderflower cordial gives the pud an even fresher, floral, summery note. Like all the best puddings, it should be served with the thickest double cream you can find.

Summer pudding

Makes: Serve 6

Takes: 45 minutes, plus overnight soaking

Bakes: No time at all

750g mixed summer berries (raspberries, blackcurrants, blackcurrants)

2 tablespoons elderflower cordial

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 loaf, sliced white bread

Butter, for greasing

  1. Place the berries, caster sugar and elderflower cordial in a pan, and simmer gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave the berries to stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Grease a 1 litre pudding basin with butter: this will help the pudding release to serve.
  3. Cut a disc from a slice of bread about the size of the base of the pudding basin. Dip this into the liquid that sits on top of the berries, making sure it is fully coated with the juices, and place in the base of the basin.
  4. Remove the crusts from the bread, and cut it into segments which will fit neatly around the inside of the pudding basin. Soak each in turn in the berry juices, and place in the basin you have lined the entire bowl.
  5. Spoon the stewed berries and any remaining juices into the lined basin, and top with a lid of bread (you may need two slices of bread, trimmed, to make this lid; that’s ok).
  6. Place the basin on a plate, as some of the juices are likely to spill out. Place a saucer that will fit inside the mouth of the basin on top of the bread lid, and weight down with food tins, or a large bag of rice, and leave in the fridge overnight.
  7. Remove the weights and saucer, and turn the pudding out onto a serving plate (it may need a little bit of wiggling, but should slip free without issue). Serve with thick cream.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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