There’s such sweetness in the spectre of a proper British summer. And it’s one that I’m very sorry to have missed. These double decker buses and Beefeaters are about as close as I’m getting to London right now.
When it comes to the warmer months I have been blousily spoiled by scorching specimens of my Australian youth. On those down under days the bitumen can bite and burn your feet, and 15 minutes without the shelter of a wide brim hat will leave a nose raw and peeling for days. Feasting is often confined to fat frozen wedges of watermelon- about the only thing you can face when the mercury angrily scratches up to 40C. I didn’t realise until we arrived in London three years ago exactly that summers could also be in soft focus, with butterflies and bucolic picnics and days that started with a lazy meander around the markets, crammed with summer fruits as cheap as a laugh. And I certainly had no knowledge of Pimms.
To me, if there’s a taste of a British August, it’s a jug of Pimms, slashed with lemonade. It’s a gentle drink, best consumed in the dappled shade of a pub courtyard, or from a plastic glass, picked up in the from the centre of Borough markets, while you contemplate how best to put the abundance of summer berries you just bought to good use.
There seem to be certain bobbing elements in a jug that are mandatory; strawberries, orange rind and mint come to mind; all contribute some freshness to the drink.
The below is a pudding that arrived fully formed in my head, in a flash – combining the best of the season, while it’s still with you. The Pimms adds a mild booziness to the scarlet syrup necessary for a proper Summer Berry Pudding. As for the fruit-filled centre, you can use whatever berries are cheap – here I’ve gone for a mix of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries- though red and black currants and blackberries would also be grand. As for the bread casing, go for a sweet, soft crumbed white loaf- the buttermilk loaf from Bread Ahead is perfect.
Make it the morning of, or night before a festive gathering. Then spend the day chasing the sunshine. I recommend serving it alongside a squat jug of Pimms, with some extra mint on the side and a little pot of clotted cream. Summer days don’t come much sweeter than this. Oh, how I wish I was there.
Pimms Summer Berry Pudding
1x 1.5 litre pudding basin. Cling wrap. 1 plate and 4x400g cans, or a heavy weight.
7 1/2 cups of mixed berries – try a combination of blueberries, raspberries and hulled ripe strawberries, though you could also include blackberries and redcurrants.
1 x 450 gram Bread Ahead Buttermilk Loaf or another bloomer style white loaf)
4 tbsp of Pimms, or Pimms and lemonade, ready mixed
Optional: ½ cup of sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2 sprigs of mint
To serve: clotted cream or double cream, or good quality vanilla ice cream
Here’s how we roll
Nb, you will need to begin this recipe at least 6 hours before serving.
1) Wash the berries and place 5 cups of berries in a saucepan with the orange zest, sugar (if you want) and Pimms. Simmer for five – ten minutes until the berries have softened and leached a good quantity of scarlet juices.
2) Carefully trim off the outside crust of the loaf and cut into nine slices, each 1 – 1.5 cm thick.
3) Line a 1.5 litre pudding basin two overlapping sheets of clingfilm, leaving enough excess to cover mouth of the bowl.
4) Cut two of your squares of bread into triangles and arrange to see that they fit in the bowl.
5) Dunk one of the remaining squares of bread into the berry juices, to stain the outside scarlet. Lay in the centre bottom of the pudding. Repeat with four other squares, flush with each side of the base square until you have fashioned a cross up the sides of basin. Now dunk the triangles in and insert them into the gaps, so you have lined the whole basin. You need to line the bowl with bread completely.
6) Pour the remaining softened berries and juices into the bread-lined pudding bowl. Bulk out the filling with the remaining fresh berries, if required.
7) Use the last pieces of bread to create a lid, then pull the clingfilm tightly over the mouth of the bowl. Place a plate over the top and weigh it down with cans, or something heavy.
8) Place in the fridge to sink and set for at least 6 hours.
9) To extract the pudding invert the bowl with a board underneath and tug the clingfilm. Then remove the clingfilm. If you have any white patches of bread peeking through you can always puree some of your remaining berries and use a pastry brush to paint the exterior with the juices.
10) Serve in slices with a few extra berries, some fresh mint and clotted cream. And perhaps a jug of Pimms.