We live in a house with a very small fridge. There’s only one place a fridge can fit in the kitchen, and there’s only one fridge available that fits into that place. And it’s not a big enough fridge.
It has, as you might expect, a very small freezer section. We like to keep it very full of food stacked so precariously that it is dangerous to open the door. Since January, a good 30 per cent of our freezer space has been taken up with a large tub of blackberries, which we picked nowhere near my parents’ property which absolutely does not have any blackberry bushes growing on it anywhere, Mr Council Noxious Weed Inspector Detector.
Since the berries were so hard won, I have been waiting for something worthwhile to cook with them to come along. I don’t know what amazing recipe I thought I was going to stumble across, or what worthy occasion I thought might arise (my receiving a Damehood for Services to Not Pulling My Weight Around The House?), but eventually I just pulled them out one evening when Mum and Dad came round for dinner and cooked them.
I plonked them in a saucepan, added a splash of water and stewed them slowly for five minutes or so. I decanted the hot berries into my scarred, chipped, ancestral glass baked custard dish (inherited from my gran) and poured over them a thickish vanilla cake batter. It was an amalgamation of recipes from the Internet (principally this one) that promised it would turn into a sponge topping in the oven.
After forty minutes in a medium oven, my blackberry sponge pudding was golden brown, lightly puffed and smelled ambrosial. I proudly placed it on the table, broke into it with a spoon and was met with the same raw cake batter I had put there in the first damn place. So I chucked the whole thing in the microwave on high for five minutes, which is what all the best chefs do. It cooked perfectly and was delicious. Two-cartons-of-cream-between-five-people delicious, if that scale of measurement means anything to you.
If you too are burdened with homegrown blackberries, I commend this recipe to you. It would work perfectly well with many other fruits too – stewed apples, poached quinces, frozen raspberries… I would hesitate to use strawberries because they take on a repulsive texture when cooked, but I can see a mixture of custard and sliced bananas working. Maybe even pineapple in caramel sauce, if you’re feeling a bit disgusting.
The only trick is to have your fruit hot when you add the topping, and probably to cook it in the oven for a bit longer than I did. Cooking times will obviously depend on the size of your scarred, chipped, ancestral glass baked custard dish. Just keep an eye on it and poke it with a skewer to check if it’s done. Don’t just rely on its deceptively cooked appearance, as if you’ve never baked a cake before.
No blackberries on the table. The ‘no iPhones’ rule not similarly observed.
Blackberry Sponge Pudding
3 cups frozen blackberries
¼ cup water
125 g butter
125 g sugar
½ cup milk
125 g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cook the fruit in the water for five minutes. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Cream together the butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy in texture. Beat in the eggs, add the flour-and-baking-powder mix, milk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Into a buttered glass or ceramic dish, place the hot fruit and cover immediately with the batter. Bake at 180 degrees C for 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of your dish, accuracy of your thermostat and willingness to remove a served bowl of pudding from your dad, decant it back into the serving dish and microwave the whole thing for five minutes. Classy.
Serve with more whipped cream than is good for you.