Summer pudding

SummerPudding © J Horak-Druiff 2011


Summer.  Such an evocative word; a word about which countless poems and songs have been written.  Say it to yourself a few times – what associations does it bring up?  To me, summer will always mean the summers of my childhood.  Days when you would awake to the sound of cicadas and could smell the heat outside before you’d even opened the curtains.  Beach sand underfoot so hot that you either needed sandals or sprinted instantly for the waves.  Endless games of Marco Polo in the swimming pool after school.  Hot classrooms where the back of your legs stuck to the desk chairs if you didn’t arrange your skirt carefully.  The smell of barbecues and the sound of music carried on the night air from a neighbour’s garden.  Warm, still evenings filled with the sound of crickets and frogs.  My mother carrying drinks out to us by the pool – if we were lucky, lemonade mixed with orange juice and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Plates of ice cold watermelon slices for dessert.  Limited overs night cricket matches when practically everyone you knew would be at the match, barbecuing meat on a Cadac gas barbecue.  Driving to summer holiday houses and stopping along the roadside for a picnic of cold roast chicken, Granny Smith apples, Elite cheddar cheese, and Appletiser.




As soon as I moved to London, I discovered that although the memories I have just listed might resonate with me and with fellow South Africans, the English have a whole other list of things that they associate with summer.  Wimbledon, Ascot and the Henley Royal Regatta.  People departing en masse for cheap package holidays in Spain the day that schools break up for summer.  The BBC Proms.  English strawberries – and in fact, berries in general.  Picnicking in the parks – or even just sunbathing in the nearest park during your lunch break.  Hot, sweaty Tube journeys.  Weddings every second weekend.  Standing on the pavement outside pubs drinking beer in the sun.  And usually also endless predictions from all sorts of “experts” on what sort of summer to expect.  It seems that every year since 2003 when we had a SCORCHER of a summer, somebody predicts it will be a “barbecue summer” and the hottest since records began.  And pretty much every year since 2003 they have been wrong.  Because, you see, the most reliable characteristic of the English summer is its total unreliability.

Which makes it all the more ironic that the Engllish have named a pudding after this most unpredictable of English seasons.  Summer pudding is one of those dishes that makes you dubious when you see the description on paper, but when you taste it you realise that it just works. It is made of sliced white bread, layered in a deep bowl with fruit and fruit juice, which is then left overnight to soak overnight before being turned out onto a plate.  Like me, you might be saying “whoa – mushy white bread soaked in fruit juice? You have to  be kidding…”  But when I tried it recently, it was a surprising hit, both with me and Nick (who does not usually like dessert much).  The beauty of it is that it isn’t too sweet, and that it is low-fat and surpiringly healthy as deserts go (if you moderate your cream accompaniment!).  And even if your summer (like this one) proves unreliable and disappointing weather-wise, this pudding is one part of an English summer that you really can rely on, every time :)




SUMMER PUDDING (serves 6-8)


850g mixed berries (I combined raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries and a couple of strawberries) – fresh is preferable but frozen works fine too
7-8 slices white bread
3 Tbsp white sugar
3 Tbsp water
Mint leaves and a few extra berries to garnish
cream to serve


Rinse the fruit, remove redcurrants from their stems if necessary, halve large strawberries.  Place the fruit in a saucepan over low heat with the sugar and water (reduce the amount of sugar if you like your pudding tart) and bring to a gentle boil.  Boil for about 3 minutes, or just until the currants start to purst and release their juice; then turn off the heat.

Slice the bread thickly – about 8mm thick slices. Cut the crusts off the bread and then cut a circle from one of the slices as big as the base of the 1 litre pudding basin you are using. Push this bread disc firmly into the bottom of the pudding basin.

Line the inside of the basin with the remaining pieces of bread, reserving one for the lid.  Overlap the pieces of bread and push then together snugly to seal the pudding (I usually wet the overlapping edges to help the bread stick).  Once the entire basin is lined, tip the fruit and its juice into the basin, filling it almost to its rim.  Lay the remaining slice of bread on top, using offcuts and spare bits to fill in the gaps so that no fruit is showing.

Place the basin on a large plate to catch any escaping juice, then place a small plate on top of the basin snd weigh it down with a heavy weight (I find a tin of baked beans works well!) to put some pressure on the fruit and make the juice soak into the bread.  Leave overnight in the fridge.

When you are ready to serve, remove the weight and carefully slide a palette knife around between the basin and the bread (NB – do not tear the bread!).  Turn a plate (larger than the circumference of the basin) upside down and place it on top of the basin.  Holding the plate and basin firmly in place, turn them quickly upside down and shake to dislodge the pudding – it should come out easily.  Serve immediately with plenty of fresh cream.


And while you are here… please don’t forget to send me your favourite braai or BBQ recipes by 23 September for Braai the Beloved Country, my annual event celebrating summery outdoor cooking.  Click here to read the submission guidelines!


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  1. says

    Ooo, what a gorgeous summer pudding photos (esp. the first one)! I make this pudding every summer at least once as well, but use blueberries/bilberries instead of blackberries (the latter are very hard to come by over here). I use clingfilm to line the pudding basin first – this way I can be sure I can get it out of the tin in one piece..
    Hugs from Estonia, where we’ve had an utterly beautiful and long and sunny and warm summer :)

  2. says

    Oh that berry pudding is sooooo British- even though I liuved there for so long, I never tried it! Very summery post and brought back my own memories of summers spent in London with my grandparents.

  3. says

    I have made summer pudding before. I think I saw it in an issue from Good Food and even though it sounded weird (as you said; soggy bread…hmm, not too appealing) but the photo in the magazine won me over. Funny thing is that I still have that photo in my studio and everyone who visits comments on how good it looks! Not a dessert that is known here in Holland but definitely tasty! And it looks so pretty with all the berries!

  4. says

    Every year I promise myself that I will make a summer pud just like this, but every year summer passes me by. It could be added to the list of summer memories,

  5. says

    Looks interesting, but what is it with putting bread in pudding? British summers sounds different, but there still is nothing like a good old South African summer.

  6. says

    I’ve been eating and making summer pudding for years – after a restaurant crawl with some British friends one summer in London, intent on finding the best in the city. And I HATE bread pudding of any type – except this one which I would give up chocolate for ;-))

  7. says

    When I was a child my (English) Grandmother who was born in 1900 (and her sisters) made this every year but they always called it ‘Hygiene Pudding’ when I asked why (never having heard it called ‘Summer Pudding’) I was told it was because it was good for your health, and that it ‘cleared out the stomach’ which was considered to be a hygienic thing to do!? They implied that ‘everyone’ called it that. Has anyone else heard of this name for a what is a very old pudding.
    On a lighter note, I made a SP some summers ago and had it in bowl in fridge prior to guests arriving. I had extra fruit juices collected in small jug in fridge ready to pour over it once I had it turned out onto plate (because sometimes you might have a ‘white’ patch. Come the evening, turn out pudding – fine, notice a pale area on the bread, look for jug of juice only to find DH had thought it was ‘surplus to requirements’ and had poured it over his meusli that morning!!! grrrh!

  8. says

    This is my very favourite pudding and very sadly I have married a man who can’t stand it! I therefore haven’t made it for ages. Having seen yours, I may just have to make it for myself – a whole pudding just for me! I sometimes add a little creme de framboise or cassis to the juices and also have made a nice ‘autumn pudding’ with blackberries and apples included in the mix.

  9. says

    this looks amazing… we don’t have this kind of pudding in austria (let alone in singapore – we’re struggling to get meaningful berries, there are frozen ones, though) it looks soooo juicy and lovely!

  10. Cassandra Pfaff says

    The recipe I have for this that is almost the same, but it calls for a splash of Chambord in the berries, and an angel food cake to be sliced instead of the bread. I think the sponge of it is supposed to be a little more absorbent, and it’s likely a little sweeter when it’s finished. I haven’t made one of these in probably over a decade, thanks for posting this and reminding me to make this again!

  11. says

    I do enjoy a good pud and the British are top of the mark for good puddings. My favorite of course is the sticky toffee pudding but this looks lovely. The color suits you!