The original comfort-food recipe, as made by my brother, and remembered fondly by my family. The only recipe I know which specifies going for the cheapest, most basic ingredients available.
Ingredients – to serve 4 people
- half of a value white sliced loaf
- 125g/4 1/2oz butter (half a pack of value butter)
- 8 onions (at least!)
- 3 eggs
- 425ml (0.75 pint) milk
- salt and pepper
- 100g/4oz of value cheese, grated
- Yes – that does read “value” versions!
- The heart of the dish is cooking lots of sliced onions, very slowly, in the butter; try for at least 20 minutes on a slow heat, so they are just starting to turn gold.
- In a well buttered dish, place a layer of sliced bread, then a layer of cooked onions and their butter, and a generous sprinkle of grated cheese. Repeat, until dish is full.
- Make an egg and milk custard and pour over the pudding – use a fork to encourage the bread to soak it up. Use these proportions to make as much as necessary; season generously, with at least lots of fresh ground black pepper; maybe also 1 tsp of mixed dried herbs, or a couple of generous pinches of fresh grated nutmeg, or a teaspoon of dried mustard.
- Bake in a moderately slow oven (160C, 350F, Gas 3) for 35-40 minutes.
As tweaked last night
This version provided a wonderful supper dish – savoury with the sweetness of garlic toasted in olive oil, and onions gently fried to light golden sweetness. The contrast of crusty crunch, and unctious custard-soaked softness.
Not at all bad for an improbable assortment of leftovers and odd bits. Damn it … a winner!
All because I had been a little careless with a batch of bread which hadn’t risen well; the result was close-crumbed and heavy. Tasted good – but oh so heavy. What to do with it? I tweaked memories of my brother’s recipe for savoury bread pudding.
Ingredients – for two
- 3 thick (2cm, 3/4 inch) slices of wholemeal bread
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 4 medium onions
- a handful of flat leaf parsley
- 2 eggs
- 200ml milk (almost 1 cup)
- salt and pepper
- a good grating of strong cheddar
- Preheat the oven to 180C, 375F, Gas Mark 4.
- Peel and slice the onions; set to fry very slowly in some oil, so that they are golden-brown and sweetly tender in about 25 minutes.
- Cube the bread slices, and pop into a pyrex dish. Chop the garlic and sprinkle over the bread; add a sprinkling of mixed dried herbs (or similar – for me chopped fresh thyme next time), and a grinding of black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss to mix and coat. (And that last sad, slightly over-ripe tomato in the vegetable rack? Cut it into 6 or 8 wedges, and nestle them between the bread cubes.)
- Put in the oven to toast for 20-25 minutes – turn the cubes about half way through.
- About 5 minutes before your bread and onions will be ready
- Chop and add the parsley stalks to the frying onions.
- Beat the eggs and milk, season well with salt and pepper, and add the chopped parsley leaves.
- When your bread cubes are a reasonably even golden brown, remove from the oven. Add and mix in the golden-brown, slightly caramelised fried onions. Pour over the egg custard, and cover with a generous grating of cheese.
- Pop back into the oven until the custard is set – about 25 minutes? Depends on your dish – a deeper one will take a bit longer.
As tweaked tonight …
Same as above, except that I replaced the parsley. Instead, I let 4-5 “blocks” of frozen spinach defrost just enough to be able to chop them. Added this to the golden-caramelised onions, with a chopped red pepper, and fried for an extra five minutes to get rid of excess moisture.
I reckon this would work … with mushrooms? Maybe tomatoes and courgettes? A piece of yellow fish? A sausage or two?