Coming back to the current day, I thought I'd have a look at currants.
Until this moment I'd never really thought about which grape was used to make currants. A little research tells me that these local currants are produced from drying either Zante or Carina grapes. Carina is a seedless red grape developed in Australia by the CSIRO whereas Zante is a tiny dark purple grape.
I do think currants are a most under-rated dried fruit - they very much play second fiddle to the more popular sultanas and raisins and are more likely to be used to combination with other dried fruit.
But there is one recipe that I've always wanted to make that very much is a showcase for the currant. It is that classic English pudding called Spotted Dick.
I'm going to err on the side of caution and have renamed this dish Spotty Richard - I don't want to fall foul of the google sensors. This isn't without good reason, in the middle of last year, all my photos on this site were classed as unsafe - if you were using image search unless you turned safe search off you wouldn't be able to find my photos. I only became aware of this a few months ago and thankfully after approaching google, they have all been classed as safe again.
The recipe I've used comes from The National Trust of England - they have a seriously good series of books containing classic dishes from their various properties - this particular recipe can be found in Good Old-Fashioned Comfort Puddings. You've got to give praise when it's due but the English really do make some of the best desserts you can find - and if you love them as much as I do, then these books are a must have.
Spotty Richard[Makes 2 puddings]
220 grams self raising flour
20 grams caster sugar
120 grams butter, softened, cut into small cubes
175 grams currants
¾ cup milk, approx
Soak the currants:
Place half of water to boil and when boiling add in half a cup of brandy. Pour this over the currants - this should cover them but if not, just add more water.
Let this sit overnight to soak.
Make the puddings:
I've made two small puddings using 2-cup sized pudding basins - you can make one large pudding but you would need a 1.2 litre/2 pint bowl.
Sift the flour and caster sugar together into a bowl. Add in the slightly softened butter and rub this into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Drain the currants and add them to the mixture - I then use a plastic knife to stir it roughly through the mix.
As all flours absorb liquid at different rates, begin by pouring in half the quantity listed. Use the knife to mix the milk in. You will need to add enough milk to form a batter that has a soft dropping consistency.
Butter your pudding basins well and place half the mixture in each - there needs to be a gap to the top of the basin as this mixture will rise.
Cover with baking paper and then either tie it in place with string or use silicon bands to hold in place.
These will take about 40 minutes to steam - if you're making one large pudding, that could take up to 2 hours.
You'll know when it's cooked, the top will feel firm and if you insert a skewer it will come out clean.
Let the pudding sit for a minute or two, before turning out.
It smells wonderful, you really do get the aroma of brandy coming off it. It almost spongy in texture and inside
it's packed with all those lovely currants. So simple but oh so delicious.
This is best served with clotted cream or a good traditional egg custard.