British Food: Summer Pudding

No-one knows who invented summer pudding or when, but you can bet it was a woman with a glut of soft fruit and too much bread on her hands, not a chef.

This is because it is simple, as well as one of four great bread dishes invented by the English. The other three are, says Elizabeth David (The Baking of an English Loaf, 1969), bread sauce, bread and butter pudding and sandwiches.

Summer pudding is the most luscious of the quartet, for which Mrs David uses only cooked raspberries and recurrants with their juice, squashed into a bread casing. Jane Grigson (English Food, 1974) adds blackcurrants and Margaret Costa (Four Seasons Cookery Book, 1970) admits that redcurrants and raspberries are correct but likes to add alpine strawberries, white currants and even cherries and to lace the result with kirsch. More recently, Shaun Hill (Cooking at the Merchant House, 2000) puts nectarines and plums into a sliced brioche case together with blueberries and a touch of root ginger, while Sally Clarke’s Book – 1999 – suggests mixing blackcurrants, tayberries, raspberries and strawberries with brioche toast soldiers.

Summer pudding is ideal for creative cookery: take one glut of soft fruits and too much bread…