Friday, 28 February 2014

Wet Nelly Goes South

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that today is Global Scouse Day. In celebration, here's an alternative dish from Liverpool - sort of. A while ago I read this post about the Wet Nelly of Liverpool on the very fine blog Lola and Finn’s Mum. Shamefully, despite a shedload of visits to Liverpool, I'd never heard of Wet Nelly. While I was back there last year and cruising along Speke Boulevard at the regulation 40 mph with the wind from Widnes blowing through what remains of my hair, I suddenly remembered Wet Nelly and thought I must have a go at making one.

It turns out that Wet Nelly is essentially bread pudding from Liverpool. It might have pastry on the top and bottom and, then again, it might not. I don’t think that there’s any doubt that it’s one of those puddings designed to use up whatever you have left in the cupboard when there’s not much money to go around. I can remember eating bread puddings made from various leftovers as a kid (in London not Liverpool) but I have to admit that they were moderately terrible. So I was keen to see what would happen if I made one now.

I'm a fully qualified southern softie and I just don’t have the same sort of leftovers these days that we had when I was young. Looking round the kitchen, I had leftover brioche, some speculoos biscuits (or Biscoff, as they seem to be called in the UK these days) and butter rather than suet. (When did I become so ridiculously middle class? I think I'm becoming unduly influenced by Damien Trench.) Anyway, this is my attempt at a Southern Wet Nelly or slightly eccentric (and probably woollyback) bread pudding. As it turns out, there’s nothing at all wrong with that idea and the result is so much better than anything I ate as a kid. In fact, it’s decidedly moreish.

One more thing, in Liverpool I was told that Wet Nelly should always be cut into squares before serving. No other shape would be right. I advise against asking why that should be, you might well get the answer, ‘Act soft and I’ll buy you a coalyard’.

Southern Wet Nelly
You don’t have to use rum to soak the sultanas - orange juice, black tea or even water will do. On the other hand, if this dish is a tribute to Nelson as historians suggest, then I'm sure that he would have chosen rum and so would I. If you use stale bread to make this dish, it will probably need some additional soaking time. Brioche is normally softer and needs only 10 minutes or so.

300 g brioche, torn into chunks (it can be less than perfectly fresh)
200 ml milk
150 g sultanas
3 tbsp dark rum
4 speculoos (biscoff) biscuits (or whatever spicy or gingery biscuits you have)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
50 g butter, softened plus a bit extra for the tin
70 g light brown soft sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp marmalade
2 tsp demerara sugar, to sprinkle on top

Put the brioche chunks into a large bowl and pour over the milk. Squidge the brioche and milk together a little and set aside. Place the sultanas in a bowl and pour over the rum. Set aside while you get the rest of the ingredients together.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Butter an oven tray or cake tin – I used an 18 cm square tray with a depth of 5 cm. Break the speculoos (or other biscuits) into random chunks. (I put mine into a plastic bag and bashed them on the worktop a few times.) Add the sultanas and any residual rum to the soggy brioche, then add all the other ingredients, except the demerara sugar. Stir the whole lot together thoroughly. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 – 45 minutes until the top is browned but not burnt and the pudding feels springy but reasonably firm. You can either cut the pudding into squares and serve immediately with some custard or allow it to cool and reheat later (a microwave will do the job fine, although Mr Trench might disagree). Or, if you're like me, just eat it cold whenever the urge takes you.

21 comments:

  1. Now this is fascinating, as my Norfolk grandmother also used to lay claim to something similar called Wet Nelly or Nelson's Pudding, Nelson's Slice or Nelson's Cake, which is essentially a bread pudding by any other name! As a bread pudding addict, never mind the name or from where it hails, this is something that I would very much enjoy! Oh yes, Happy Scouse day too, Karen

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    1. I think your grandmother has a very valid claim to Nelson pudding/cake since Nelson was a Norfolk man and that's almost certainly where the pudding got its name. Why the naval hero was honoured with a variation of bread pudding is still a bit of a puzzle to me, though.

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  2. love a bread pudding, this looks delicious

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  3. I haven't yet found a bread pudding that I like, but I'm very tempted by this one. I think you have lifted it out of it's humble origins though, which might be regarded as cheating!

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    1. It's definitely cheating - I admit it. I have no pride - who needs pride? But come to think of it, wasn't Viscount Nelson lifted out of humble origins?

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  4. This is such a good name for a pudding- I wonder who Nelly was?!

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    1. I really wish I could say that I'd met someone called Wet Nelly strolling down Broad Street, but, sadly, I think Horatio Nelson is the inspiration. Although, I've never seen him on Broad Street either.

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  5. Oh, I don't know! I think there's a distinct possibility that there are a few wet Nellys down Broad Street on a Saturday night!!!

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  6. Wet Nelly is a slightly unappetising name for any kind of pudding!
    Your "middle class southern softy" version sounds wonderful and I feel compelled to try it.
    I will have to pick my moment as my other half has similar bad memories of bread pudding and loathes the stuff in any guise, on principle. This is mainly due to his mother's inability to get to grips with the idiosyncracies of the various Agas and Rayburns she had to use in the vicarages they inhabited for all of his childhood. As soon as the poor woman mastered one of them they would be moved to a new parish and a different oven!
    My mother, on the other hand, made a heavenly bread pudding, using her ancient but at least constant gas oven. Happy days.........

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  7. Not sure that I like the name but as we both love bread pudding....... Mmmmmm. Have a good week. Diane

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  8. I love bread puddings, and this one is definitely a grade A pudding. Strange name, not very inviting, but would definitely eat your pudding.

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  9. Looks like a deliciously comforting pudding, so inviting, Phil : )

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  10. I love that you have included speculoos biscuits! I have so many of them and it never crossed my mind to bake them into a pudding. I've only ever tried bread pudding with bread or croissants but I might just have to buy some brioche to try this (and use up all my speculoos biscuits!).

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  11. Although the name sounds most unappealing, this really does look rather delicious. I've never made bread pudding with marmalade before, or indeed rum. In fact I haven't made bread pudding since I was a lass, so I'd better sort this lack out I reckon.

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  12. I am pining up Wet Nelly and that not an aphorism. I just adore bread pudding and made it my lunch diet for a while until I wasn t able to run enough to erase the consequences.

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  13. Nice recipe, i think i'm gonna treat my leftover bread this way later on!!!

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  14. Never heard of Wet Nelly either - but I think it sounds delicious Phil!

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  15. I grew up in North Liverpool (well, Crosby actually, which probably makes me dead posh), where my mum was from, and I never heard of Wet Nelly - even more surprising given that my Dad is of Naval stock (although in fairness he's from Edinburgh rather than Liverpool) so you'd have thought a pud combining both sets of heritage might have crossed our dinner table. Love that you have brioche rather than just bread as left overs.

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  16. Just discovered this blog post Phil and I have to say that I believe that this is a very posh looking wet nelly indeed. It has to be renamed Elizabeth it is that posh. If you don't mind I will put a link to this posh version in my kind of down at heel version, so they will be like siblings separated at birth, Blood Brothers stylee.

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    1. I think you're being too kind to me. I don't think I can do posh. Let's face it, your version has real, proper pastry and was inspired by a stately home. That sounds pretty posh to me. Posh or not, I'm delighted to be associated with your fine recipe,

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