Classic British puddings

Rice pudding and bread and butter pudding are still British classics.

Simon Hopkinson shares his recipes for rice pudding and bread and butter pudding

Each of the following very English puddings remain as cornerstones to my earliest memories of my mother’s cooking. They would have been her mother’s recipes, taken from a well-used—nay, a touch battered—fat book of handwritten instructions in elegant, fountain-pen script, together with some of my mother’s additions and, more lately, occasional magazine recipes stuck in. Eventually, I would be allowed to add some of my own contributions in my slightly more florid script—using a fountain pen, of course.

And this was how it just was, for I recall evidence of very few printed cookery books, then. They were certainly not on display on some decorative special ‘kitchen shelf’ reserved for such items; I think, in fact, that they were simply shoved in a drawer somewhere. Certainly, I remember fondly Dad’s slim paperback of Indian cookery by E. P. Veeraswamy in that drawer, but the others were less exotic: a Hamlyn ‘all colour’ one, perhaps, maybe a Fanny Cradock from the telly.

Later would come the Cordon Bleu magazine series (my postpubescent grown-up gastrocomic), a Robert Carrier and Margaret Costa. Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson were nowhere, sadly.

Quite simply, cookery skills were inherited. My mother— and father, to give him his due—were the celebrity cooks in our house, be assured. Without question, both the rice pudding and bread-and-butter pudding recipes were written down. How often Mum referred to them, I don’t know. Rarely, I should think, as they were a staple sweet thing for us all to enjoy on a regular basis.

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Sometimes, they were quite brilliant; the rice pudding nutmeg-scented creamy and all a-wobble, the bread and butter particularly custard-like, with a golden top and a delightful crunch. However, other times, the top of the rice pudding would be burnt, with the rice in clumps rather than evenly dispersed through the milk and the currants in the B&B also scorched to tiny cinders. My memory is very good with this, but we wolfed it all down because we were hungry, not fussy. Eight year olds weren’t picky in those days, unlike now, I fear.

With Easter around the corner, I can’t think of anything more fitting with which to finish a festive lunch over the long weekend; perfect for the little ones and nostalgic for the grown-ups, too. You may, if you wish, use stale (unlikely, I guess, but fresh is also fine, obviously) hot-cross buns for the bread-and-butter pudding, in which case, omit the currants, but not the rum; simply spoon it over the bread as previously instructed.

A note about the rice: confusingly, if supermarket shopping, pudding rice may not be stocked in the ‘rice’ section—rather, it will be found in ‘home baking’. Failing this, use round-grain Spanish rice that’s used for making paella. Happy Easter!

Rice pudding recipe
rice pudding recipeServes 4
40g butter
75g caster sugar
100g pudding rice
Half a vanilla pod, split lengthways
1 litre full-cream milk
150ml double cream
Pinch of salt
Plenty of freshly grated nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C/
300°F/gas mark 2.

Melt the butter in a solid-based, flameproof casserole and add the sugar.

Stir around and heat gently until gooey, then add the rice and vanilla pod and continue stirring until the rice looks a touch puffed and sticky with sugar.

Now, gently pour in the milk, which will seethe around the rice, causing the volatile rice/butter/sugar mixture to set into lumps at once.

However, fear not, for as you stir around in this milky mess with the aid of a wooden spoon, within minutes, any sugary lumps will soon dissolve into the milk as it heats up. Continuing to stir, add the cream and salt and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Once this is reached, give the mixture a final stir and grate at least a third of a nutmeg over the surface (do not stir again). Pop in the oven and bake for about 60–90 minutes; if the surface burnishes too quickly, lay a loose sheet of foil over the pudding.

Once there is a very nice, thin tarpaulin-like skin on the  surface and the pudding only just wobbles in the centre, it is ready; remember, the rice will continue cooking a little as the heat wanes within. Serve at room temperature.

Bread-and-butter pudding recipebread and butter pudding recipe
Serves 4
1 heaped tbspn currants
Dark rum
100g softened, salted butter
8 slices white bread from a cottage
loaf, say, two days old
2 whole eggs
2 yolks
50g caster sugar
1tspn vanilla extract
400ml whipping cream
Grated nutmeg
A little extra caster sugar


Preheat the oven to 180˚C/ 350˚F/gas mark 4. Place the currants in a small cup and generously cover with rum—about 4–5tbspn—then leave to soak and swell for about 20 minutes.

Using a little of the softened butter, grease a deep-ish baking dish and sprinkle with about half the currants (save the rum!).

Spread the remaining butter onto the bread slices, remove the crusts, cut into triangles and arrange them in the dish stacked up against each other. Spoon over the remaining currants, together with the rum, so that it soaks into the bread.

Beat the eggs, yolks, 50g of sugar and vanilla extract together in a bowl until light and frothy. Pour in the cream and whisk all together until smooth. Pour this over the bread and currants and leave to soak into them for at least 30 minutes— or even longer, if you like; this will make the pudding that much softer and fondant, once baked.

Finally, grate over plenty of nutmeg and sprinkle with the extra caster sugar. Cook in the oven for about 30–35 minutes or until the pudding is nicely puffed and the surface is beautifully crusted and golden. Serve warm and not without some ice-cold pouring cream close at hand.

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