Comfort food, the peak season of which we are well into here in the UK, is built on filling bellies and keeping us warm. There’s a reason why you don’t speak about comfort food during the summer.
As the temperature plunges across the UK, people turn to something warming, filling and… very often… economical. Comfort food is not expensive; should not be expensive. In the 30s and 40s comfort food took off to a great extent because it was frugal and easy to make so it didn’t take a lot of expensive ingredients, often didn’t use a lot of power, or piggybacked on the heat of another dish.
It had to warm people who lived in central-heating free houses, who may have been out on the street working or in an unheated factory or school. And it had to work. There is no place in a comfort food repertoire for faffy or fancy recipes.
One of my favourite comfort food recipes is bread and butter pudding. It’s frugal, since it’s actually better made with stale bread, warming and tasty. And it’s adaptable. I have at least 4 different versions in my repertoire, adopted from Delia, Jamie and all points West. It’s also always popular as a dessert after a family meal. My favourite memory of the pudding was over 20 years ago when we had Mr Hygge Jem’s Mum and Dad over. After a filling roast beef dinner, we settled down to citrus scented pudding, topped with Ambrosia custard (I run common with my custard tastes). My Father in Law sat back, replete and rubbing his stomach and said, “My Dear, that was the best Bread and Butter Pudding I have had in years.”
Mother in Law tusked and said, “But Bill, you only had it last week.”
“Yes,” her tactless husband replied, “But it was nowhere near as good as that one, was it?”
I thank my lucky stars that my Mother in Law was a lovely lady who had the grace to laugh and not hold it against me. Both of his parents are gone, now, and it seems lovely to have memories of happy times like this to keep them forever alive in our hearts. I think that’s part of the reason I’m so keen on the group aspect of hygge, the togetherness with food and celebrating being alive part, because I want my children to have mad memories of their mother to keep forever as well.
The following recipe is my adaptation of Delia Smith’s original Bread and Butter pudding. Hang around afterwards for the various ways you can zhush it up.
8 slices bread (from a small loaf)freshly grated nutmegapproximately 2 oz (50 g) butter½ oz (10 g) candied lemon or orange peel, finely chopped2 oz (50 g) currants12.5 fl oz (335 ml) milk2 oz (50 g) caster sugargrated zest ½ small lemon
3 eggsMethod;1. Preheat oven to GM4/350f/180c2. Butter a 2 pint oblong enamel baking dish well.
3. Butter the bread and cut each slice of buttered bread in half – leaving the crusts on.
4.Now arrange one layer of buttered bread over the base of the baking dish, sprinkle the candied peel and half the currants over, then cover with another layer of the bread slices and the remainder of the currants.
5. Next, in a glass measuring jug, measure out the milk and add the double cream. Stir in the caster sugar and lemon zest, then whisk the eggs, first on their own in a small basin and then into the milk mixture.
6. Pour the whole lot over the bread, sprinkle over some freshly grated nutmeg, and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with cream or custard.
My husband is a brave man who never argues with me. He knows it’s futile. I also get very bored very quickly so I like twisted recipes. You can butter the bread and make little marmalade or jam sandwiches, then butter the outsides of those to make jammy or orangey bread and butter pudding and at least one version I have seen uses Nutella to make a chocolatey version. Hubby doesn’t like that, because he doesn’t like the nuts. Again, Delia comes up trumps with a proper chocolatey version of Bread and Butter Pudding. She uses rum in hers, but I’ve actually used amaretto or just plain orange juice to similar effect. And again you can enjoy this with custard or cream, but a white roux sauce flavoured with vanilla extract is rather yummy here.
Wow! after all that writing about Bread and Butter pud, I am absolutely starving. I guess tonight I’ll be raiding the bread bin and throwing a pud together. Marmalade is always a favourite, I might go that route.
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