There is a glut of British berries in the supermarkets at the moment. And they are all on offer. Which tells us that though berries are bang in season, they should be snapped up now – because in a few weeks, we’ll be back to tasteless overpriced offerings flown in from around the world (and which we should not buy).
So what to do with all these berries?
I enjoy “half price” and “3 for 2″ strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt on top of my muesli each morning.
You could also, obviously, chuck them in smoothies, snack on them, or add on the side of pretty much any fruit or chocolate dessert. But really, right now, berries should be the focus of what you are eating, not a supporting act.
One of the best ways to make berries the focus, is in a Summer pudding; a real celebration of sweet and tart red and black things.
I subscribe to the principles of Summer pudding making and eating set out by Nigel Slater in this step-by-step guide. Do read. If you don’t feel you have the time to so, I’ve paraphrased Mr Slater’s recipe below. My additional comments are:
(a) I think you need a bit more than 850g of fruit (maybe up to 1kg);
(b) about 75% of the fruit should be raspberries, and you must also include redcurrants and blackcurrants (not always easy to get hold of (Ribena hogs most blackcurrants), but Waitrose are stocking both at the moment);
(c) 80-100g of that fruit (of the 1kg measure) should be saved to create a sauce to cover up any anaemic patches on the turned out pudding; and
(d) you’re less likely to have white patches if you use thick but relatively cheap style sliced white bread (I used premium white bread this weekend and the juices just didn’t soak through).
This is more an assembly of ingredients than cooking. But a British Summer without at least one home made Summer pudding is a very sad one. So you’ve got a couple of weeks more to give it a go.
Nigel Slater’s perfect summer pudding
850g mixed raspberries and currants, with an emphasis on raspberries [I used a bit more: 600g raspberries; 150g blackcurrants; 150g redcurrants, and a sauce from about 100g of additional raspberries, strawberries and blackberries on the day so as to ensure all of the pudding was a vivid berry colour]; 7-8 slices firm, good quality white bread [but not too good]; 3 tbsps white sugar; 3 tbsps water; thick double cream to serve.
[You should use a 1l pudding basin (I don't agree with individual (or, indeed, any other form of) Summer puddings]
Sort through the fruit, picking out any that are unripe or mouldy. Pull the currants from their stems and with the raspberries put in a saucepan over a low heat. Add sugar to taste (bear in mind the finished pudding should have a bit of sharpness to it). Pour in a little water and band simmer for 3-4 minutes. When the currants have burst, the fruit is shiny and there is lots of juice in the pan, take it off the heat.
Using thick slices of bread, remove the crusts and cut 6 of the 8 slices into three strips. Using a pint glass, cut a circle out of one of the spare pieces and push to the bottom of the basin. Line the rest of the inside of the basin with the strips of bread, pushing them together so there are no gaps. Once the basin is lined, fill it with the fruit and its juice. Lay the remaining bread on top, again ensuring there are no gaps. Use leftover bread to patch up any gaps.
Put the basin in a shallow dish to catch any juices, then lay a flat plate or small tray on top with a heavy weight to squash the fruit down. Leave overnight in the fridge.
When you are ready to serve the pudding, remove the weights, slide a palette knife around the edge (don’t tear the bread). Turn the pudding out (put a plate over the top and quickly upend the basin, giving it a shake or tap if necessary).
There may be a few white bits showing. So heat a few more berries with water and sugar until the juices escape, pass through a sieve and pour over the top of the pudding before serving.
As Nigel says, you must serve with cream.