In the early 1960s when I was a very young child my mum and I used to visit my grandparents, Fred and Esther Neville, on Saturday afternoons. We travelled by bus to the Crooked Billet in Walthamstow and then we must have walked along Billet Road to their house which ( I think) was number 349.
One of my memories of these visits is the wonderful rich fruity smell of bread pudding baking in the oven. My grandma used to make it regularly and it was a real treat – dark and moist, packed with dried fruit, warm with spices and topped with a liberal sprinkling of sugar.
The photo shows me aged about 3, with my granddad, Fred, and my grandma, Esther, on holiday at Canvey Island. We probably took a bread pudding with us!
Grandma’s bread pudding recipe wasn’t written down but this is a good approximation of a real old-fashioned bread pudding:
8 oz/225 g stale (at least a day old) bread, broken up into smallish pieces
1/2 pt/300ml cold water
3 oz/75g soft brown sugar
1 egg (beaten)
2 oz/50g currants
2 oz/50g raisins
1/4 pt/150ml milk
1/4 tsp mixed spice (I use more than this to get more flavour)
Put the bread in a bowl and add the cold water.
Allow to soak for 1 hr.
Drain the bread and squeeze out any excess water (using your hands!)
Mix the bread with the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into a greased 8″ square baking tin
Cook at 180C/gas 4 for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours until firm to the touch and brown on top.
Allow to cool for 30 mins or so in the tin, before cutting into squares.
Serve warm or cold.
I’ve since learned that bread pudding is regarded as a traditional treat from London’s East End – but I enjoyed it long before I knew anything about my family history. Going to grandma’s always meant a slice or two of just-warm, spicy bread pudding. I loved it – and still do, although we don’t have much stale bread these days!