Savory Bread Pudding

It’s hard to believe that my time in London is coming quickly to a close. Two weeks from today, I will be back in Chicago (all too briefly) and then moving to Berlin for the academic year. If London was a trial version of what art-historians call “fieldwork,” then Berlin is going to be the real deal.

It’s been an amazing summer. There have been some frustrating days, of course, but I’m surprised at how pleasant it’s actually been. For the first time in my life, I kept regular working hours. Because I’ve been dependent on the schedules of collections (and because it’s easy to go crazy working on the same dissertation every day) I’ve gotten used to writing, reading and taking notes during the day and keeping the rest of my time sacred- something that I used to have trouble doing when there were less restrictions on when and where I could work. I’ve learned, for example, that if I write in three-hour stretches, then stop and switch to something completely different like data-entry for the rest of the work-day, I avoid that “what did I do today” feeling that so many of my lot complain about.

I’m going to miss London, and I hope I’ll be back soon. I’m especially going to miss my weekend grocery shopping at London’s outdoor markets, which became part of my usual Saturday-morning routine. I think when all this is over, the memories of these excursions will be just as valuable as the photographs and translations I have on my hard drive. Maybe writing, research and cooking are all closely linked, feeding off one another and ensuring the flow of ideas and prevention of boredom.

On my last trip to Broadway Market, I decided to stop moping about the less-than-exciting fresh vegetable selection (am I looking at the wrong places? or is London just more of a bread-and-cheese kind of city?) and to go for what really always looks good: the selection of cheeses. I came home with a slice of Cornish Yarg from Lynher Dairies of Cornwall: a semi-sharp, firm cow’s milk cheese. This cheese stand alone and there’s no need to do anything with it but eat it. But since I had just also bought a book of recipes using English cheeses I wanted to try one out, so I used the Yarg to supplement and enrich a dish using mostly the cheaper, more dispensable Red Leicester from my local supermarket.

This dish is especially good if you have stale bread you don’t want to throw away. I used some poppy-seed rolls I had that were just over a day old, but you can go older than that. You can also add other things to this dish if you want something more complex: asparagus, ham, peas, onions all come to mind.

Savory Bread Pudding* 

Ingredients

1/2 cup  sharp, white cheese, such as Cornish Yarg or white Cheddar

1 cup milder orange cheese, such as red Leicester

5-6 pieces of crusty bread (if it’s slightly stale, that’s great)

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tbs grainy mustard

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C).

Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks and grate the cheeses. Put the bread into a small, oven-proof dish and set the grated cheese aside. Beat the eggs and add the worcestershire sauce, mustard and peppers to the bowl.

Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring, until just scalded. Take the milk off the heat and add the egg and spices. Stir thoroughly and pour this over the bread pieces. Finally add the cheese so that it covers the surface of the mixture.

Bake this in the oven until firm and golden colored, about 45 minutes. This dish is excellent as a side with dinner, or for brunch.

                  

* Recipe adapted from Samantha Hardingham, A Recipe Book of English Cheeses (London, 1984).

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