Forced rhubarb; winter walks and a recipe for steamed ginger pudding

Food | Garden | Recipes

The farm has been looking so beautiful this week – carpeted in a light dusting of frost. My morning walks with my dogs have been a joy, and I’ve been savouring the moments of quiet contemplation.

The cold days have had me wanting warming, comforting food: soups and stews, and soothing poached fruits in the morning.

There is not huge amounts of fruit in the garden at the moment but forced rhubarb is one of England’s great joys, the bright pink stems adding a welcome splash of colour to the table. I love having warm, gently poached rhubarb for breakfast, or for pudding, perhaps with yoghurt or cream, but if you’re looking to make something a little more substantial this weekend, it’s also delicious with this steamed pudding recipe from my book Nurture.

The pudding reminds me of time spent with my family in Wootton; of wintry walks in the frosty woods, log fires and long Sunday lunches. Sticky, sweet and reviving, it is made for this chilly weather – best served with lots of custard and lingered over with a strong coffee or revitalising cup of tea.

steamed ginger pudding with poached rhubarb

Serves 8

1 x 454g tin golden syrup
570ml full-fat milk
225g fresh white breadcrumbs
225g plain flour
225g suet
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs, beaten
1 x 350g jar preserved stem ginger, drained and chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
custard, cream or ice cream, to serve

For the poached rhubarb
250g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
6 rhubarb sticks, washed and cut into 2cm pieces

To poach the rhubarb, make a syrup by combining 500ml water with the sugar and vanilla pod in a large pan. Bring to the boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the prepared rhubarb and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.

Grease a 1.2-litre pudding basin and line the base with a circle of baking parchment. Spoon a little of the golden syrup over the base.

In a large pan over a low heat, heat the milk and syrup together until the syrup has melted. Remove from the heat and then mix in the breadcrumbs, flour, suet and bicarbonate of soda. Add the eggs, stem ginger, ground ginger, mixed spice, baking powder and salt. Fold together until combined – the mixture should be quite runny. Pour the mixture into the prepared pudding basin.

Cut two large squares of baking parchment or foil and make a wide pleat in the middle of each one. Lay them both over the top of the pudding basin – the pleats will allow room for the pudding to rise. Secure the paper or foil with string tied tightly around the rim of the pudding basin, leaving a length of string to make a handle so that the pudding can be lifted out of the pan easily. Gently lower the basin into a large pan of boiling water – the water should come halfway up the basin.

Cover and leave to steam for 2½ hours. You may need to top up with more boiling water – do not let the pan boil dry. When the pudding is ready, very carefully lift the basin out of the pan. Cool a little then remove the foil or paper and loosen the edges of the pudding with a knife before turning out onto a large plate. Serve the pudding with the poached rhubarb, if you like, and custard, cream or ice cream.