John's Bread and Butter Pudding

John Brandon, Deputy Headteacher at St Thomas Comprehensive, Exeter, is a man of many talents: a keen yachtsman, powerful cyclist, committed teacher, entertainer and, not least, part-time professional chef who looks after Nello's kitchen at least once a week. John has mastered Nello's repertoire to such effect that satisfied diners rarely notice when he is in the kitchen instead of Nello. But John also has his own style of cooking that is all his own and which many of us have enjoyed at prolonged meals chez Brandon together with Jean and their children William and Catherine.
Cooking is clearly one of John's passions, so it was a great event when he joined the "three chefs" team of Nello and Michael Caines for a very special gourmet evening. Says John, "I always wondered how restaurants keep on top of a variety of dishes, seemingly simultaneously, landing at tables and putting smiles on faces. Meeting Nello in 1989 enabled me to find out. Indeed, Nello's invitation to come into the kitchen and watch him was one that I accepted eagerly, and this led first to preparing garnishes, then to supporting, sous cheffing, and finally being let loose on my own with the full run of the kitchen on Nello's night off (my night of, well, I have to say pleasure). At such times, I escape from my day job and am able to have fun in a restaurant which has won national acclaim. And indeed, after such experiences, domestic dinner parties have become, well, a breeze..
Marc and Nello's Ride for Life has stuck a chord with many of us, so you can imagine my pride at being asked to be the third chef with Michael and Nello, responsible for the evening's dessert. I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I enjoyed the evening..."



A rich but light variation of a classic dessert, no, pudding!

1 ficelle or baguette

butter, softened

8 large egg yolks

4 ozs vanilla caster sugar

18 fl ozs double cream

18 fl ozs full fat milk

pinch of salt

Icing sugar and cinnamon or mace or cocoa to dust and finish dish

12-14 ozs apricot jam to glaze

Vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 2 (ish) (150 degrees C./280 degrees F). Warm the cream and milk to just off boiling and add a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Cream together the sugar, egg yolks and small pinch of salt. Slice the ficelle or baguette into even rounds about 8-10 mm thick (not too thick). Butter an oval baking dish. Butter the rounds of bread and place in layers in the dish.
Now add the hot (but not boiling) cream to the egg and sugar mix and return to the pan and heat gently to form a light custard (take care here not to curdle the custard). Pour the custard mixture over the bread which will float to the surface. Tidy up the bread.Place the dish on a folded teatowel in a roasting tin and pour into the tin boiling water 2/3 way up the side to form a bain-marie. Place in the pre-heated slow oven for one hour. Remove from the oven and the bain-marie and allow to cool. When cool, place under a hot grill and toast bread to form a nice brown crust. Allow to cool again. Meanwhile, heat jam and a tablespoon of water in a pan until runny. Boil for about 30 seconds, then strain. Use a pastry brush to brush this glaze over the toasted bread. Allow to cool. Just before serving dust with icing sugar and serve on plates with a further dusting of contrasting spice such as cinnamon or mace.
This dish can be served warm, cool (at room temperature) or from the fridge. It can also be made up to 24 hours in advance.
Wine Suggestion: At the Ride for Life gourmet evening, this scrumptious pudding was enjoyed with a real rarity, a late-harvested English -- yes, English -- dessert wine from Denbies that was sensational: sweet, honeyed botrytis character but with a racy, cleansing, nervous edge of steely acidity which kept it from cloying. Another excellent alternative would be to partner it with a raisined Italian passito wine, Passito di Pantelleria, made from local Zibibbo (Moscato) grapes laid out to dry in the near African sun on that Sicilian island off the coast of Libya. MM.

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