Gingerbread pudding with red wine pears
At our old house at the foot of the Dandenongs, mum grew plums, pears, figs, berries of all sorts, and deep purple rhubarb. By the end of summer any remaining fruits would be poached, lightly sweetened, spooned into old marg tubs she had saved, and frozen. So in winter, puddings ruled. The fruit, defrosted and baked with a soft cake crust, turned to sauce underneath. While delicious and straightforward, there are tweaks that make your saucy puddings better. Getting the fruit mixture hot first helps to avoid the uncooked middle that drags the baking time out and over-colours the top. Also, keep the fruit quite liquid as the cake mixture will absorb moisture from it during baking. Finally, because the fruit gets cooked twice, try to keep some texture at first so it doesn't utterly disintegrate by the end.
FOR THE PEARS
6 rock-hard pears
350ml red wine
75g castor sugar
FOR THE GINGERBREAD TOP
100g unsalted butter
100g molasses sugar
1 egg (60g)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g crystallised ginger pieces, chopped
50g rolled oats
150g spelt or wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
extra oats for the top
1. Peel, quarter and core the pears and place them in a saucepan with the wine and sugar. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for about 40 minutes. The wine will only half cover the fruit, so stir it every 5 to 10 minutes so the pears get evenly cooked. Remove from the heat.
2. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Beat together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl then beat in the egg and spices. Add the ginger pieces and milk, stir well, then add the oats, flour and baking powder and mix evenly.
3. Bring the pears to the boil again and spoon them into a two-litre ovenproof baking dish. Spoon over the topping, adding a sprinkling of oats, and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the centre of the pudding is cooked through. Serve with thin pouring cream or a rich vanilla custard.
Lemon, ricotta and poppyseed steamed puddings
This mixture will hold at room temperature for hours covered, so you can mix it ahead and steam the puddings just before the meal. The great thing about steaming is that you can leave them 10 minutes more and they'll be fine as long as the temperature stays around 100 degrees. The ricotta helps the texture stay extra soft and delicate.
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g castor sugar
zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
2 medium eggs (60g each)
50ml lemon juice
2 tbsp poppy seeds
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
extra butter for the moulds
poached fruit, jam or marmalade for the top
1. Take six small metal dariole moulds and butter inside well.
2. Beat the butter, sugar, zest and ricotta until smooth then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the lemon juice, milk and poppy seeds, then beat in the flour and baking powder.
3. Place a good heaped tablespoon of jam or poached fruit into the base of each cup, then 3/4 fill with the pudding mixture.
4. Cover each mould with a foil lid and steam in a bamboo steamer or place the covered moulds on an ovenproof tray and bake in a 100C fan-forced oven for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer poked in comes out clean. To microwave, spoon the mixture ¾ full into well-buttered teacups, cover with cling film, and microwave for about one-two minutes. Leave to sit for a few minutes before serving.
5. To serve, invert puddings into bowls. Serve with thin pouring cream or a rich vanilla custard.
Makes about 6-8