We lived in a small Oxfordshire village called Great Haseley. A baker visited us twice a week and sold bread at the door. The local dairy farmer, John Smith, gave us milk, unpasteurised and fresh as a daisy, and a mobile bus shop, large, long and bright green parked up on a Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. My friend Sally and I regularly pinched the penny pink shrimp sweeties from there. (Which children, if you are reading this, is very, very naughty!) Nothing, apart from the large bus, had really changed in Haseley for hundreds of years. I had my first lardy bread from our baker – it’s a traditional bready cake made in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Nothing more than dough folded and twisted with currants, sugar and lard. Yes lard. Marvellous. The lard left a film on top of your mouth if you ate it cold – which I invariably did as I could never wait long enough for it to be warmed through, which I have to say is preferable. The blackberries we picked that day were specifically for jam. As my mum stirred them around the pan, with some apples from the garden, the kitchen was filled with a rich, fruity yet quite unusual smell – almost earthy. I’m not entirely sure the aroma of blackberries cooking is actually that wonderful – plums have a much better smell – but I loved it and have never changed that opinion.
Now, whenever I cook them, I don’t feel I’ve moved house or even grown up. I’m still 10, with sticky, blackberry-stained fingers, blue teeth from eating too many and arms covered in thorn pricks. Nothing changes – I’m writing this having just been into the lane to pick some more for jelly – the blackberries had no desire to give up their fruit to me this evening – I had to fight for them. I’m scratched and bleeding with sticky blackberry stained fingers and blue teeth from eating too many! If you can’t get hold of blackberries and elderberries for this delicious fruity treat, then replace them with some raspberries – frozen is fine. But if you do have a chance to plunder a hedgerow or two, you’ll find they really do make this dish. I can honestly say this is one of my absolute favourite autumn puds.
How to make apple, blackberry and elderberry squidgy pudding
- Preheat the oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/gas mark 3. AGA 4/3-door Grid shelf on floor of baking oven. AGA 2-door Grid shelf on floor of roasting oven with cold plain shelf on third runners.
- Put the apples, jam, elderberries and blackberries into a saucepan, cover and cook over a slow, gentle heat for 10–15 minutes or until soft. Spoon into a 1.1 litre/2 pint ovenproof dish.
- Beat the butter, sugar and golden syrup together and gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition. Fold in the flour, almonds, baking powder and almond extract.
- Top the apple and raspberry mixture with the sponge mixture. Smooth the top and bake for 30–40 minutes until the sponge is golden brown and firm to the touch. If it does look a little brown on top before the middle is set, then cover with some foil and continue cooking.
- Serve with a generous splodge of cream or ice cream.
Lotte's Country Kitchen by Lotte Duncan with photographs by Lara Holmes is published by Absolute Press priced £20.