Queen of Puddings with Fresh Poached Apricots

Queen of puddings really does suit its name: for me it is an old-fashioned pudding of the highest order. I like to use fresh apricots when they are available instead of the usual jam. Later in the summer blackcurrants are excellent, too. Serve this pudding either hot or well chilled and with cream if preferred.

Ingredients

  • 75 g (3 oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 300 ml (½ pint) milk
  • 300 ml (½ pint) single cream
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 50 g (2 oz) butter
  • 3 large eggs (size 1), separated
  • 150 g (5 oz) caster sugar
  • 500 g (1 lb) fresh apricots, halved and stoned
  • 75 g (3 oz) soft light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Butter a 1.5-1.8 litre (2½-3 pint) oven proof baking dish and sprinkle the fresh white breadcrumbs evenly in the bot tom. Put the milk and cream in a saucepan with the lemon rind and butter and heat until just warm. In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks lightly with 75 g (3 oz) of the caster sugar, then gradually beat in the heated milk and cream. Pour this mixture into the baking dish over the breadcrumbs and bake in the centre of a preheated oven, 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4 for about 25 minutes or until set to a light touch in the centre.

Meanwhile, put the apricot halves in a saucepan with the brown sugar and lemon juice and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 10—15 minutes or until the fruit is mushy. If a lot of juice has emerged from the fruit remove the lid and bubble fiercely to reduce it to a thicker syrup. Remove from the heat and leave on one side.

When the custard and breadcrumb mixture is ready remove the dish from the oven and gently spoon the apricots evenly on top. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until stiff, then fold in the remaining 50 g (2 oz) of caster sugar. Pile the meringue on top of the apricots and return to the oven for another 15 minutes until the meringue is golden brown and crisp on top.

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