It would be fair to say that I got this passion for cooking from my mother’s side of the family.
Hailing from the south coast of the island, from my grandmother to my aunts and my mother, I come from a long line of passionate and gifted cooks whose second nature is stirring away at cauldrons bubbling away in the kitchen. These were tall, graceful women, wise women whose hands carried the sort of magic that made everything they touched turn to gold. These are the kind of women who got the healing touch, soothing whoever they touched, who are at one with nature and whose green thumb was well known for the nurturing of all things green and whose intuitive cooking was deemed nothing short of witchcraft. These are the temperamental women who simply “knew” things, who wore their hearts on their sleeves, whose sensitive hearts are easily bruised and who loved with their entire souls or did not love at all.
These are the headstrong tribe of women I grew up with.
I grew up watching my mother in the kitchen, wanting to create the kind of magic that sparkled at her fingertips. I grew up on the kind of food, the rare kind that combined nutrition with taste that I grew up strong and healthy and full of vitality to pursue the dreams that I want to pursue. My mother would have been glad to see me developing an interest in the culinary arts from a very young age – they do say that I have the touch. But if I have inherited at least a modicum of their talent, their larger-than-life personalities or their ridiculous lust for life, I’d say that I am very lucky indeed.
The reason for that long rant? I am going to write about my mother’s amazing bread pudding today.
Ever since I have taken over the sweet department of our household, mother has taken a break from the sweets and have ventured on to the savories instead. But occasionally when someone comes over and I am feeling too lazy to make any sort of effort at making food (I do have my “can’t cook” moods and “can’t be bothered” days), she steps in and whips up something miraculous. Because God forbid that anyone who crosses our threshold be treated with anything short of a grand feast!
That’s another thing with this family. There are no simple, minimalist lunches or dinners where guests are concerned. It is the norm to pull out all the stops and throw a King’s buffet of everything under the sun at the unsuspecting guests. It is the unwritten rule in the household that it is better for the food to be left over, than for it to not have enough. And we are well known for our magnanimous portion sizes. My husband still teases me about this that I will never understand the concept of small portions.
This Sri Lankan bread pudding is also something my mother pulls out of her sleeve when I am in a no-cook mood and when guests are due. I do have a confession to make – I’d sometimes pretend to be in a no-cook mood just to get her to make this delicious pudding. This right here is my idea of comfort food.
Now I have my own version of the Sri Lankan bread pudding and I must admit that it tastes very different than my mother’s version.
Amma's Sri Lankan Bread Pudding
- White bread - 1 loaf
- Whole milk - 2L
- Jaggery - 400g, grated
- Sugar - 200g
- Eggs - 5
- Vanilla - 1tblsp
- Lime zest - 1tsp, grated
- Warm the milk slightly and dissolve the jaggery in the milk. Leave to cool.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened. Combine the milk mixture and the egg mixture and beat together thoroughly. Add in the vanilla and the lime zest. Mix thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into a greased baking tin of your choice. Break the bread in little pieces. Soak it in the liquid. Pack the baking tin thoroughly.
There are two methods of cooking this. One is steaming. If you are steaming steam until the surface of the pudding seems firm.
If you are baking this, place the bread pudding in a shallow pan and fill it with water. Cover the pudding with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the middle is firm to the touch.
Et voila! Do dig in my lovelies.
This is a mushy, beautifully moist dessert that packs in so much of flavor that you’ve never even thought was possible with simple bread. The overall milkiness of it all is the soothing canvas upon the bread pudding shines. The lime zest gives a refreshing tang while the vanilla with its sensual warmth fragrances and serenades the senses with its exotic tango. The jaggery gives an earthy intensity akin to burnt caramel that cuts through the milky sumptuousness like a delicious dagger.
Here is a dessert that is so easy to make but so comforting, elegant in all its simplicity.
- Use good quality jaggery for a good quality pudding.
- My mother always uses day old bread. This absorbs liquid better and provides a sturdier base. Besides, why waste a good load of bread when you can make something so magical out of it?
- Lime zest is a must to cut through all that richness. Not lemon, not orange, simply lime.