If someone sends you some free booze with a ‘Secret Mission’ envelope strapped to it, what do you imagine is in there? Booze related nudity? Tequila based humiliation? A night in the cells/hugging the porcelain/day off work?
For the last few weeks I’ve been joining Booths (that wonderful Northern ‘grocery store’ and purveyors of fantastic produce) and other bloggers on Twitter to taste and discuss booze selected for us by Booths. It’s been a fun way to meet new people, up my wine tasting skills and makes me feel like I’m not really drinking alone in my house mid-week (I’m with Twitter people, it’s not alone!). This week Booths threw down the gauntlet and sent us bloggers a secret mission as well as the usual booze consignment.
The booze in question was a bottle of Crofts Indulgence Reserve Port and the secret mission was to create the ultimate comfort food to match it. Oh and to top it, for this mission I’d be pitting my creation against a recipe devised by Linzi from Lancashire Food. A competition? Competing? Going head to head? How could I say no to this? (Please don’t ever attempt to take me to a pub quiz or play board games with me, you have been warned).
I got the old grey matter working and, in the name of pure gastronomic/recipe research, got out the port glasses (ok, Moomin water glasses) and got my tastebuds on the case too – team effort, well done body! This port has a big berry nose and this translates down to the mouth; I was getting plums, cherries and currants with a bit of a chocolate note – little thinner than an LBV, but actually very good considering this is about half the price of an LBV!
Initial thoughts were to run with the whole stilton, port and nuts thing – very classic, very Christmassy, very comforting and some big flavours to match the port. However, that chocolate back note got me thinking – I like to sup port in the evening, or after dinner, often after pudding AND I LOVE CHOCOLATE. How about I make a big comforting pudding that would match perfectly with the port? Shazam! An idea formed… (and then I went in to the kitchen, made it, ate it as soon as it came out of the oven and have subsequently received third degree burns in my mouth for my effort in bringing you amazingness. I am such a martyr for my art…).
Chocolate, cherry and almond bread pudding –
Serves 6 – 30 min prep, 30 min stand, 30 min cook
(Please note, I made this as a 2 person and scaled up, however I have made the recipe for plain old chocolate bread and butter pudding from this recipe before, so know it works for 6. It’s a tinkering of a Delia recipe I based my plain choc one on, which I now use all the time – good old Delia!)
• 9 slices of day old white bread, crusts removed, cut into triangles (the white sliced loaf from the supermarket bakery works well, the pappy packet stuff just tends to disintegrate)
• 250g dark chocolate
• 75g butter, unsalted – plus extra for buttering the bread/dish
• 425ml whipping cream
• 4 tbsp amaretto – or a few drop of almond essence if you want to omit the alcohol
• 110g caster sugar
• 3 large eggs
• Half a jar of pitted morello cherries in syrup, drained and cut in half
• 100g whole almonds
• Cream or custard to serve
• Shallow 18x23cm dish (mine’s a few cms off this and it still works well)
1. Lightly butter the inside of the dish and each side of the bread.
2. If you are naughty like me – put the butter, cream, 150g chocolate and sugar in a pan on the LOWEST heat possible and melt them together. Stir when you see the chocolate and butter melting so the chocolate doesn’t burn. Take off the heat and stir all the ingredients together and then stir in the amaretto.
3. If you are a good girl then put the sugar, butter, amaretto, 150g chocolate and cream in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and don’t let the bowl touch the water. Take off when melted and stir to combine.
4. In a big, separate bowl whisk the eggs. Pour the chocolate mixture over the eggs, whisking as you go.
5. Put a 1cm layer of the chocolate mix in the bottom of the dish and then add a layer of bread triangles overlapping each other (use half your bread triangles for this). Pour over half the chocolate mix and use a fork or spoon to press it in to the bread and make sure every slice has a covering of chocolate custard.
6. Dot the reserved 100g of chocolate and the cherry halves all over this layer in a random pattern (or you can do it in exact lines if you have pattern OCD like me).
7. Add the remaining bread in overlapping layers and then spoon the remaining chocolate sauce over – again pressing and making sure each bread piece is covered in the sauce.
8. Cover with cling film and leave to stand for 30 mins on the work top or in the fridge. Whilst it is setting turn the oven on to 180c to warm up.
9. Take off the cling film and put the pudding in the oven for about 30 mins, it should be a bit crispy on the top and squidgy in the middle. Check after about 20 mins as the chocolate can sometimes burn and no one likes that taste! If it is catching, cover with a layer of tin foil/baking paper until it is ready.
10. Whilst the pudding is in the oven, put a heavy based frying pan on a medium heat. Once it is hot, add the almonds and toast till they are brown. Keep an eye on the as the oils in them can catch easily – you want them to be a nice golden brown. (You can do this in the oven at the same time as the pudding if you need to hob for other things; I just like keeping an eye on them on the hob).
11. Chop the almonds till they are slightly fine, but still with a bit of texture – you don’t want sand! Take the pudding out and dress with the almonds.
12. Serve warm with custard, cream or ice cream and a good measure of port.