Fergus Henderson is almost idolized by many chefs around the world for his gutsy cooking at the St. John restaurant in London, where he is known for nose-to-tail cooking (using every bit of the animal) and his signature dish of bone marrow and parsley salad.
The late Anthony Bourdain recalled the first time he ate at St. John: “After my meal I remember tottering unsteadily into the kitchen, getting on to my knees and bowing down in front of Fergus,”he said in a 2014 interview. “It really was the restaurant of my dreams.”
For Bloomberg, Fergus has offered a traditional British dessert of bread-and-butter pudding. If you are into healthy eating, you are out of luck. It is loaded with double cream, whole milk and sugar. It is also packed with flavor, which makes it difficult to resist.
I’m diabetic, trying to lose weight and I live alone, so I attempted a half-sized version of the dish, which normally serves six-to-eight people. I also left off the butterscotch sauce and ice-cream that may accompany it at St. John and its sibling, St. John Bread and Wine.
I was surprised by how deceptively light this pudding appeared. It broke the laws of my diet in a very specific and limited way.
A version of the recipe appears in “The Book of St. John,” by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver. It doesn’t specify if the butter should be unsalted. (I’ve since learnt that it should be, but I used salted and enjoyed it.) The recipe also doesn’t specify the quantity of bread because much depends on the type and freshness. I used four thick white slices for my mini-version, which was enough for me.
Day-old white bread, to loosely fill your baking dish
Butter, for spreading
Two generous handfuls of raisins
6 free-range eggs
500 milliliters (17 fluid ounces) of double cream
500ml of whole milk
85 grams (3oz) caster sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
Zest of ½ a lemon
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
Liberally butter slices of bread, cut to the thickness of a thumb, and put them in layers, scattering raisins evenly among them.
Beat the eggs well and mix with the cream, milk, sugar and zests. Pour the mixture over the bread and leave overnight. (Although, unless you are eating it for breakfast which is an excellent idea, you should start this process before you go to work and be filled with anticipation throughout the day.)
Sprinkle demerara sugar over the surface then bake in a medium oven (180C/350F/Gas Mark 4) for about 40 minutes until the custard is set. You can tell when the moment is right by poking in a butter knife and pushing it aside to give a little viewing hole into the center. There should be no wet custard visible.
This is a fairly solid bread-and-butter pudding. Extra custard for pouring or a generous scoop of ice cream is therefore essential.
Richard Vines is Chief Food Critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.
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