Her griddlecakes done to a golden-brown hue and queen Ann's pudding of delightful creaminess had won golden opinions from all because she had a lucky hand also for lighting a fire, dredge in the fine self-raising flour and always stir in the same directions, then cream the milk and sugar and whisk well the white of eggs though she didn't like the eating part when there were many people that made her shy and often she wondered why you couldn't eat something poetical like violets or roses...
Ulysses, James Joyce
Summer is the season to invest in a long book. I have a more regular reading pattern in winter, spending time each day curled on my couch, or an hour or two with a book in the bath. But in June, the long days and balmy weather suggest picnic blankets, Pimms and weighty tomes - stories to gobble up in big chunks on days off. Last summer, in the oppressive heat of Marrakech, it was The Goldfinch. This month, I'm finally getting my teeth into Ulysses, and am absolutely loving it. Exactly 111 years after the book is set - 16 June 1904 (now celebrated annually by Joyce fans as Bloomsday) - I spent the day gripped by Leopold Bloom.
Bloomsday this year was a particularly glorious one. It fell on a Tuesday and I, conveniently, had the day off work. I went for a swim, then lay in the sun for hours, reading Joyce and making plans to recreate multiple meals featured in the book (though the kidney breakfast hasn't made the list). It wasn't until I reached Gerty MacDowell's musings on marriage, hominess and Queen Ann's pudding that I was motivated to rise from the grass and make a move toward the oven. I am very glad I did.
ps, There is every likelihood that you came here via this article in the Guardian yesterday. If not, do check it out - I'm thrilled to bits that my favourite newspaper has featured some of my pictures.
Queen of Puddings
80g crustless fresh white bread (torn into chunks)
600ml whole milk
40g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
Use the jam in this recipe - you'll need about 225g of strawberries and 225g of sugar
3 egg whites
180g caster sugar
Mixing bowl (preferably stainless steel or glass)
Two roasting dishes
Electric hand whisk
Disposable piping bag
1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease your baking dish with a little extra butter. Tear up the bread into chunks (smaller chunks than mine will work, but I like the texture of the bigger chunks), drop into the dish and set aside.
2. To make the custard, warm the milk over a low heat. Bring almost to the boil, then turn off the heat and whisk in the sugar and butter. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale, then pour the warm milk over them, whisking continuously so the yolks don't scramble. Pour this custard over the bread and allow to sit for fifteen minutes so that the bread absorbs some of the liquid. Transfer to the oven until the custard is set, but still wobbles slightly in the middle - around 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3. In the meantime, make the jam (following the directions in step 1 here). For this recipe, I think a soft-set jam is best, so do try and make your own if you can, or thin jam from a jar with a dash of water over a low heat before using. Once the jam is cool, spoon it over the custard, being careful not to plop it on so heavily that it breaks through - you want to retain the layers.
4. Prepare the meringue. Clean your bowl and rub a cut lemon around inside it, to ensure it is clean of any fat residue. Beat the egg whites until foamy, then start slowly adding the caster sugar, beating all the time. Continue on a high speed until the meringue forms stiff peaks, and the bowl can be held upside down without anything falling out of it. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag, and snip the end off to leave a hole about a centimetre across. Pipe small peaks of meringue over the top of the jam. If you don't have a piping bag, you can simply spoon the meringue on top.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned and crisp. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.