Of the many stories about Smock Alley, for there are many, one of my favourites is about the Italian craftsmen who created our beautiful suspended ceiling. They were brought to Belfast to work on an ill fated ship, and once that worked dried up, giggle, they moved south and came to be employed in the former church. Hundreds of ropes keep the ceiling hanging above our heads everyday, so this pudding is for them. Perhaps not as mama used to make it but still a nice little dish.
This baked bread pudding originates from a 1661 recipe book and is something that we’ve made in the theatre, with some slight alterations for the modern palate. We omit ‘half a pound of beef suet’, the ‘marrow of two bones’ as the original recipe calls for along with cloves and mace and ‘half a pound of Raisins of the sun stoned’. Instead we add some cinnamon, vanilla pods and that is the only difference. A drizzle of Highbank Orchard Organic Apple Syrup is the only adornment this fragrant, rich and comforting pudding requires.
200g of diced bread
Half teaspoon of cinnamon
1 vanilla pod
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons of sugar
6 dates, finely chopped
1 tablespoon rose water
250 ml cream
In a bowl, mix the eggs and cream together, add in the spices, rosewater and sugar and whisk well until all incorporated. Be careful when adding the rosewater, it can go from subtle note to suffocating fragrance very easily.
Add the chopped dates and the bread crumbs in and gently stir until coated in the mixture. Lightly grease a baking dish with butter, sprinkle with a little sugar, slice the apples and lay flat. Spoon over the bread mixture, add a little sugar and bake in an oven, 170 degrees, for 20-25 minutes.
I drizzled some beautiful apple syrup over it and savoured the delicious aromas and flavours. Also perfect with good quality vanilla ice cream. De-lish!