Steamed Cranberry-Ginger Pudding

IMG_5618In our childhood home, Christmas dinner used to always end with a suet pudding with hard sauce.  Lovingly made a month or so ahead of time to be part of the day’s celebrations.  Unfortunately, most of us children didn’t like the pudding.  It was too heavy following an exhausting day and a big dinner.  Even when we were told the stories of how our Grandmother used to make this very same pudding using her mother’s recipe (I know we have it somewhere, and when found, I’ll share it with you), we still weren’t enamored enough to enjoy it.

When our children were young, I started making a very simple gingerbread type pudding with cranberries and orange.  We would serve it with caramel sauce, and with a Grand Marnier hard sauce for the adults.  It made a great breakfast for Boxing Day, and became a bit of a tradition, until I lost my recipe.  I’ve been meaning to work it out over the past decade or so, but never seemed to get around to it.

This weekend, I finally did get around to it, and came up with individual puddings, which look so nice when plated.  Drizzle the plate with a bit of caramel sauce; place the pudding on top, with a small dollop of whipped cream.  Fancy, but not too fancy, just what’s needed after a feast.  Or just serve the puddings, and let folks pass the sauce & whip cream, and let them do it themselves.

Alternatively, you can douse the hot puddings with heated brandy and serve them flambé, or maybe just one to lead in with. IMG_5651 Continue reading

Crème Brûlée

IMG_3202My all time favourite restaurant dessert is Crème Brûlée.  In many restaurants it is the only dessert made “in house”.  The reasons for this are simple enough, this is a very simple dish, keeps well, and only needs to have the sugar burnt before serving.  Many other desserts require a baker or pastry chef, and have short shelf lives.

Crème Brûlée is a simple custard of cream, sugar and egg yolks with a thin layer of cooked sugar that becomes hard enough to crack, so that you can scoop out the custard beneath.  The custard can be flavoured with different spices, but traditionally is made with vanilla.  If you have vanilla beans, simply store one in a couple of cups of white sugar for a couple of weeks.  This will give a lovely fragrance and taste to anything you use the sugar for.  It’s okay to use pure vanilla extract, just don’t add too much.

The desserts in the photos are a bright creamy yellow because I use free-range eggs.  Store bought eggs will make a much paler custard.

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Pear & Ginger Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

What is it that makes something a comfort food?  It needs to be something that triggers good memories in your taste buds, and doesn’t take you to strange places flavour-wise.  I think bread pudding is one of the most wonderful desserts ever devised.  It’s such a simple dish, the basic version using day old breads, sugar, milk and eggs.  We can dress it up, like this recipe, as a dessert, or you can make it savoury for breakfast or brunch.  It can easily be made one day, and cooked the next.  It’s actually better for it.  Whether stuffed with raisins & currants or with pears & ginger, I’m pretty sure that it is one of the best comfort foods around.  Although, I always remember picking out the raisins when I was young.  Continue reading