This classic pudding had to be in a book like Great British Adventure but the addition of the rhubarb cuts through the sweetness and adds a nice twist. The best rhubarb is grown in the rhubarb triangle, an area between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell in Yorkshire, which has the perfect environment and soil. The area used to be over twice the size but it still produces nearly 90 per cent of the world’s winter forced rhubarb.
Lightly butter a 1.2-litre heatproof pudding basin and spoon the golden syrup into the bottom.
Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat well with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods into the bowl and stir in. Put the pods aside for the custard. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the flour and fold in using a large metal spoon to make a smooth, thick batter.
Spoon the batter into the pudding basin. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper several centimetres wider than the rim of the basin. Do the same with a piece of foil and put it on top of the paper. Holding the paper and foil together, fold a pleat down the middle (this allows it to expand as the pudding steams) and place over the bowl, smooth it over the rim and tie with string to secure it. Fold a large piece of foil into a long strip and place under the pudding bowl to use as a handle later, or take the string over the top and tie it on the other side to make the handle..
Place a saucer upside down in the bottom of a large saucepan. Lift the basin onto the saucer with the foil strip underneath and folded on top so you can lift the bowl out later. Pour boiling water into the pan to come two-thirds of the way up the bowl then cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1–1½ hours until a skewer inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out clean. Keep an eye on the water level while the pudding is cooking – add hot water from the kettle if it’s getting low.
Heat the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and juice and 75ml water in a saucepan over a low heat. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 10–15 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender but still holds its shape.
To make the custard, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Pour the cream and milk into a pan over a medium heat, add the reserved vanilla pods and bring to the boil. As soon as it comes to the boil, pour it into the egg mixture and stir thoroughly to mix together. Remove the vanilla pods and pour it back into the pan and stir constantly over a gentle heat until thickened, taking care not to overcook or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs! Lift the pudding out of the pan and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Take the foil and greaseproof paper off the basin then upturn the pudding onto a large plate. Serve with the custard and the poached rhubarb alongside.
Extracted from James Martin’s Great British Adventure by James Martin (Quadrille, £25) Photography © Peter Cassidy
For more traditional cooking ideas visit our British recipes section