One of the pleasures of cooking is giving pleasure to other people, and sometimes that means giving pleasure to other people’s taste buds at the expense of your own.
You see, I’m not really a ‘pudding’ person and have always had a set of savoury taste buds – but cooking for my three boys and husband, plus friends who came down to Wales for country weekends, meant that over the years I developed a repertoire of classic British puddings in order to please family and friends.
Middle son, Harry, adored Sticky Toffee Pudding; Jack’s favourite was Blackberry and Apple Crumble; and Slater, my husband, ended up loving The Queen of Puddings – that wonderful confection of milky, egg-custardy breadcrumbs layered with home-made raspberry jam and topped with an eiderdown of soft meringue. Only oldest son, Tom, shared my savoury taste buds and would often refuse to eat pudding.
These days, I’m far more likely to finish a meal with a few squares of dark chocolate or some cheese. But now that Mr. T. is a regular visitor here in Albi, I have discovered he has a very sweet tooth and a fondness for blood oranges. When I saw some in the Albi market, I put two and two together and decided to cook him a pudding using blood oranges – oranges sanguine in French.
I love blood oranges for their seasonality. You can’t get them all the year round, and there’s a very good reason why. The pigment that gives blood oranges their distinctive colouring only develops when the temperatures in the Mediterranean become cold at night – so they really are a winter fruit.
I discovered there are hundreds of recipes for Blood-Orange Cake on the internet – some using ground almonds, some with olive oil, some using yoghurt – but I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked. I wanted to make a proper pudding, something moist and rich, perfect for a sea of custard or a coating of cream. To my mind, the almond and sponge versions risked being too dry, and the olive oil or yoghurt versions just didn’t appeal.
So I returned to one of my old recipe books, “Farmhouse Cookery“. It’s been the source of many family puddings over the years and, in it, I found a recipe for an upside-down pudding using pears.Could I marry the recipe for the sponge with the method for cooking the orange slices that I’d found in some of the cake recipes?
The sponge recipe also included cinnamon and ginger – making it feel like a perfect winter pudding. But what I particularly liked was the fact it used melted lard – a different kind of riff, following on from Judi’s Lardy Cake. I could imagine the unctuousness of the sponge, the taste of the orange, and the tang of the spices.
But there were a few challenges…
The ingredients for the pear pudding sponge included black treacle and golden syrup – which simply don’t exist in France – but the recipe for preparing the blood oranges meant cooking them in a syrupy mixture of sugar and water. Maybe I could replace the syrup and treacle with the left-over syrup from cooking the oranges?
I found myself hopping between my Ipad, which had the recipe for cooking the oranges, and my old recipe book. It turned out that the syrup wasn’t ‘syrupy’ enough, so I added more sugar and cooked it longer. And, at the last moment, I decided to zest the remaining orange and add the juice. So the recipe that follows is the end result of some experimentation. Happily, it was worth the juggling and the improvisation.
Blood-Orange Upside-Down Pudding – Preparation time 1 hr, cooking time 35- 40 mins. Serves 6-8
Ingredients for the orange syrup and the orange slices
4 blood oranges ( 3 for slicing thinly, 1 for zesting and juicing)
250 grams caster sugar
125 ml water
Demerara sugar for sprinkling in the tin
Ingredients for the sponge
125g lard (cut into rough cubes)
75g soft brown sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
225g self-raising flour, sieved
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ginger
The orange syrup (from cooking the oranges) with the zest and juice of one orange added.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Prepare a 20 cm round deep cake tin with a removable base by brushing the base and sides with melted butter and lining with a piece of greaseproof paper. Use the melted butter to help stick the folds against the side of the tin. Sprinkle a coating of Demerara sugar over the base of the tin.
To prepare the syrup, slice three of the oranges very thinly ( I used a long sharp ham knife). Pour the water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with half the sugar (125 grams) and bring to a simmer, stirring the sugar so it melts. Add the orange slices, laying them in flat so they keep their shape. Bring back to simmer point and cook gently for 20-30 minutes until the peel appears slightly transparent.
When the oranges have slightly cooled, remove from the syrup and line the base of the tin and hallway up the sides with the orange slices. I bent the oranges so they covered the edge, so to speak. To help stick them in place, I brushed them with syrup.
With the remaining syrup, add the zest and juice of the fourth orange and the rest of the sugar. Bring back to the simmer and bubble away gently for another 20 minutes or so.
Take the syrup off the heat, and melt the lard in the hot syrup and allow to cool slightly. Now make the sponge by mixing the flour, sugar, spices, and egg. Pour the syrup mixture into the sponge mixture and stir well to get a smooth mix.
Pour this into the prepared tin and smooth over the top, before placing in the middle of the pre-heated oven.
Check the pudding after about 30 minutes and when it’s cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool down for 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a flat plate, and carefully peel off the greaseproof paper.
Serve warm, cut into wedges, with custard or cream – but it’s equally good served cold as cake the next day.
Mr. T. was extremely happy with the experiment and I have a request to cook a repeat before the blood oranges disappear in mid-March.