Saturday, 21 March 2009

Spiced Pumpkin and Whisky Bread Pudding

The last time I visited London to attempt to win something I failed miserably at the final hurdle. MasterChef has been discussed a lot in the 2 years since that fateful day, probably too much for my comfort, and I’ve been working my socks off to try to make some form of living from the world of food ever since.

It hasn’t been easy and I haven’t exactly followed the natural conventional route that I thought I would take such as working in restaurants and training to be a professional chef. Instead I take great pleasure from trying to help people to cook and eat better in my work with Expo Chef. And I’ve also found that I adore writing about food, expressing my natural love for the subject and best of all, writing recipes for fun and trying them out on my friends and family.

Last month I received a call from my favourite publication, Observer Food Monthly, to tell me that I had won an award. I had to stop my car and ring them back such was the shock. One of my recipes was chosen by the likes of Nigel Slater, Jay Rayner and Tom Parker-Bowles to win one of their new categories in the annual OFM awards as best reader’s recipe.

I've just returned from a fantastic awards ceremony where a large amount of my food heroes were present. I tried my best to look cool in their company and realised that I didn’t need to when Alex James shouted at me, ‘That was a f***ing great pudding David’. They are as down to earth as us man! I even found time to feel like the elder statesman and offer a little advice to the MasterChef boys who were all there. Not that they will need my advice as I know they are going to do special things.

Seriously though, for little old me to receive praise from our finest food writer, Mr Nigel Slater, means more to me than I can explain. As for getting a kiss and a cuddle from Mariella Frostrup - these are things that dreams are made of. As I explained in garbled and excited fashion to Jay Rayner, in a scene reminiscent of Alan Partridge in which he proclaimed to the Geordie hotel porter, ‘That was just noise’, I’ve only ever won one award and that was as player of the season for Newcastle Hibs in the 1992 South Tyneside 4th division. So I’ve hardly broken down doors.


So there you go. A bit of self-indulgence but hey, these things come very rarely in my life. So I’m more than happy – I’m positively delirious – and although I am realistic enough to know that this award pales into insignificance in this increasingly glitzy world of food, it will sit on my mantelpiece gathering dust here in sunny East Boldon until such time comes where my wife relegates it to the bottom draw. Thanks for listening. Oh, and here’s the recipe…

Spiced Pumpkin and Whisky Bread Pudding
Serves 6

100g raisins
3 tbsp whisky
3 tbsp hot water

For the sauce
100g muscovado sugar
25g butter
1 tbsp golden treacle

For the pudding
1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g pumpkin, cubed, steamed until soft then puréed
250ml double cream
50ml milk
Half tsp ground cinnamon
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
Half tsp ground ginger
1 vanilla pod, split and seeded
Approximately half of a stale white baguette cut into cubes

1 - Pre-heat the oven to GM2, 150 degrees C.
2 - Soak the raisins in the whisky and hot water until plump. You may want to do this overnight, entirely up to you. Drain.
3 - To make the sauce, heat the muscovado sugar, treacle and butter in a pan until melted then pour equal measures into 6 buttered ramekins.
4 - In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until pale. Pour in the cream, milk, purée, spices and vanilla pod and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in the bread cubes and leave for 10 minutes to soak.
5 - Place the ramekins into a deep baking tray and pour in boiling water until it comes half way up the sides. Fill the ramekins with a few cubes of bread and the custard mixture.
6 - Place on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for approximately 1 hour or until the custard is firm. If the top starts to colour too quickly, cover loosely with foil.
7 - Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes. Then run a knife around and turn out onto a plate. Serve with créme fraiche, yoghurt or whipped cream.