As there's just the two of us in our household, we invariably end up with left over bread that becomes a sorry state for sandwiches, or even too stale to be enjoyed as toast. I often just blitz it in the food processor, bag it up and put it in the freezer, as breadcrumbs are useful for coating and binding.
One day, I remembered how my Mum used to make bread pudding from her bread remnants. It was a long time ago and I don't actually recall her using a written recipe, it was undoubtedly kept in her head as a passed down tradition from her own mother.
Bread pudding should not be confused with bread and butter pudding, the two are quite different concoctions. Harking back to the days of a "waste not, want not" culture, this pudding is far from boring and austere. It is satisfyingly stodgy and well spiced and has a fruitiness and aroma reminiscent of Christmas cake or pudding.
There aren't any real fixed rules as to what bread you should use, brown or white, it doesn't matter. The same goes for the fruit and sugar. The general idea is to use what you have to hand and not make a special trip to buy any ingredients.
Who would have thought frugal food could be so delicious?
8oz stale bread, crusts removed
6oz dried fruit like raisins, sultanas or currants or a mixture of all of them
grated zest 1 lemon
half teaspoon mixed spice
1 egg, lightly beaten
milk to mix
caster sugar to finish
Tear up the bread into small pieces and put into a bowl.
Pour on some cold water to thoroughly soak the bread. Leave stand for up to an hour.
Depending on how soft or dry your bread is, the length of time will vary. The drier the bread the longer it needs to soak, but do be careful if your bread is soft to start with, as you'll want to avoid it turning into a mushy mess.
Once the bread has moistened, tip it into a large sieve and press down well to squeeze out the excess water.
Put the bread into a large bowl and add the dried fruit, sugar, lemon zest, suet and spice and mix well to combine. Then stir in the egg and enough milk to give the mixture a soft dropping consistency.
Tip into a tin greased with butter and bake in a preheated (Gas 5 / 190C / 375F) oven until firm to the touch and golden brown.
Turn out on to a plate and sprinkle liberally with caster sugar. Eat warm or cold.Photo: ©childsdesign 2010