Pudding pie is an ancient dish from Kent that is traditionally made during Lent but, believe me, it tastes lovely at any time of the year. In fact, what could be better than a pudding in a pie crust? Actually, this is a bit of a twist on the classic recipe that I'm entering in the grand final of the Best of British blogging challenge, sponsored by New World Appliances. The details of the challenge can be found on The Face of New World Appliances and the final is being hosted by London Unattached.
For the Best of British final we can choose any area of the country we fancy and I felt strangely drawn to Kent and its fine produce. A plain pastry (usually shortcrust) is used for this dish most of the time but I wanted to celebrate the wonderful cobnuts grown in Kent by using them in my pastry.
In case you’re not familiar with them, cobnuts are a form of hazelnut with a long and illustrious history in Kent. I once asked a cobnut grower what the difference was between Kent cobnuts and imported European hazelnuts. His answer was: ‘Hundreds of years of careful growing and the English Channel’. Most cobnuts are sold green and fresh these days and very lovely they are too, but at this time of year some stored nuts are available and can be shelled and ground for baking. Before grinding them you can enhance the flavour by lightly roasting the shelled nuts for around 30 minutes at 130°C (but be careful to avoid burning them). If you don’t have access to the glorious cobnuts of Kent, then you can, of course, use hazelnuts. Either way, grind the nuts quite finely and ensure that there are no lumps.
It’s traditional to add dried fruit to the pudding pie but, at this time of year, the apples and pears of Kent are excellent and I used a Kent Conference pear instead. Frangelico liqueur, however, is neither British nor traditional but it does work really well in this recipe. If you don’t want to add alcohol, a little hazelnut syrup would be a good alternative.
35 g ground cobnuts
150 g plain flour
100 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
40 g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 – 2 tbsp cold water
For the pudding filling
470 ml whole milk
40 g ground rice
80 g unsalted butter, softened
50 g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 lemon, very finely chopped
3 tsp Frangelico liqueur
½ a ripe but firm pear, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
First make the pastry. You can do this either by hand or in a food processor. The processor will be quicker but be careful to avoid overworking the dough.
Put the ground cobnuts in a bowl or processor and sift the flour over them. Add the cold butter and either rub in by hand or pulse in the processor until thoroughly combined and the mixture turns to crumbs. Stir (or pulse) in the sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix in briefly. Add the water in ½ tablespoon amounts and work in (or pulse) until the mixture comes together in a soft but cohesive dough. (You may not need all the water.) Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Lightly butter a loose-bottomed cake or flan tin of around 23 cm diameter. Roll the pastry out and line the tin. (It’s not particularly robust, so handle it carefully.) Trim off any excess pastry and chill the lined tin in the fridge for a further 30 minutes.
While the pastry case is chilling, you can start to make the pudding filling. Add the milk and rice to a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to simmer very gently until it thickens – this should take no more than 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover the surface with some baking parchment or greaseproof paper and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line the chilled pastry case with baking parchment and fill it with baking beans. Blind bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and return the tin to the oven for a further 3 minutes to dry the base a little. The case is now ready for the filling.
While the pastry is baking, you can finish making the filling. (Use a stand mixer for this stage if you have one – it makes the job a lot easier). Place the softened butter and the caster sugar in a bowl and beat thoroughly until the mixture is very pale and fluffy. Gradually whisk the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture. The filling may not look too promising at this stage, but trust me. Add the cooled rice and milk mixture, the lemon zest and the Frangelico and whisk the whole lot together thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into the blind-baked pastry case and scatter over the pieces of pear, pushing them lightly into the filling. Bake in the oven for around 40 – 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling feels reasonably firm to the touch. (It shouldn't be too firm – a little wobble is a good thing in my view). Let the pudding pie cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes before removing and allowing it to cool completely.