English Summer Pudding is chock full of berries


LONDON -- You know summer has truly arrived when the trendy menus in town start featuring Summer Pudding. Even the large chain supermarkets in Britain now stock this desirable dessert.

People rave so about this dish that it's surprising to learn that it's one of the simplest to make -- and most impressive to serve.

Imagine cutting open a dark red-stained bread casing to reveal a compote of voluptuous summer fruits waiting to burst out. This is the dessert that conjures up lazy, sensuous, sunny days. It can be eaten at elaborate dinner parties or made in small ramekins and taken on picnics. Whatever the occasion it won't fail to seduce.

In England, Summer Pudding is traditionally a three-fruit dish brimming with raspberries, blackcurrants and red currants. Aficionados squabble over the inclusion of strawberries. However, the beauty of this dessert is that as long as the color's red and the balance of fruit is right the sky's the limit.

In the United States, blueberries could replace the currantsBlackberries would also be a good choice.

Nothing beats the taste of fresh-picked fruit still resonating frothe warmth of the summer sun. But you can use frozen fruit and it will still taste good.

Summer Pudding

3 cups mixed fruits (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries) hulled and washed

1/2 cup white sugar (or less, to taste)

6-8 stale slices of top quality white bread, crusts removed

Put washed fruit in a saucepan with the sugar and cook gentlover low heat. The aim is to soften the fruit without losing its shape, and create juice. If necessary add a tablespoon of water. When ready, taste for sweetness and add extra sugar if required.

If this is a dessert, use a 1 1/2 pint pudding basin or ceramic or glass bowl with nicely rounded base. This gives the right shape when it's turned out. However, you can adapt it to any shape and size container you like.

Line the bowl with the bread so there's no gap. Strain off and reserve the juice from the fruit. Add fruit to the bowl. Pour two thirds of the juice over the fruit. Cover with more bread. Reserve 4 tablespoons of juice and pour the rest over the pudding.

Cover with a plate and weigh it down -- a heavy can will workChill overnight.

This dessert needs time for the juices to seep into the bread, sit will still taste good if left for two days.

To unmold the pudding, place a serving plate over the top of thbowl and invert it. Any bread not stained can be colored with the reserved juice.

Traditionally this is sliced and served with a thick whippecream. An equal mixture of double cream and natural yogurt has a lively tangy taste and fewer calories. Or, you could go European and use a soft cheese with a touch of sugar added to it. However you top it, this summer fruit pudding is a heady mixture.

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