Sometime during my teenage years, Mum acquired a book called Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts. I’m not familiar with Bailey’s further contributions to the planet but this American cookbook encapsulated the simplicity of summer eating.
Photographs of seasonal fruit crisps and buckles, charlottes and shortbreads spoke of an effortless generosity, against backdrops of summer gardens in exuberant bloom. I am not sure we ever actually converted the US cup measurements to ml, but I loved perusing the recipes in a sunny corner whilst willing lunchtime on.
On reflection, Mum already took this ‘oh its just something I knocked up’ approach to food, almost as if the book had found her. After a languid summer lunch or evening barbecue with friends, when it neither looked like anyone could cram in another morsel nor as if she’d given it a thought, Mum would disappear into the kitchen for 20 minutes and return with some splendid pile of fruit in a wide glass bowl, loosely bound with a cloud of ice-cream, whipped cream or yoghurt, bearing a crown of crushed nuts or pieces of chocolate bar. Wondrous.
Inspired by all the best summer memories, this pudding is as simple and generous as you can get, making the most of the incredible fruit that is ready now. It takes no time at all. Get the ripest peaches, apricots or nectarines you can lay your hands on, so that you can easily peel and rip them from around their stones. Add plump raspberries, blackberries or de-stoned cherries. Whatever you – or whoever you love – loves.
For the base
Two large peaches or nectarines, or four apricots
Half a punnet of raspberries
2 teaspoon of cornflour, mixed to a paste with some water
For the cobbles
55g lightly salted butter, at room temp ( I used spreadable which gave extra lightness with a touch of oil)
20g caster sugar
115g self-raising flour
1 tbsp whole milk
Heat your oven to 170C.
Peel and tear the stoned fruit apart and put this into the bottom of a high sided ovenproof dish with the raspberries. Stir in your cornflour, which will thicken the juices as the fruit cooks. Leave it all happily to mingle. If its a bit firm, you can stir in a squeeze of lemon to macerate.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl then mix in the flour followed by the milk. Don’t overwork it, it should look like a shortbread dough. Spoon this in cobble-like dollops across the top of the fruit. Don’t worry if there are gaps.
Cook in the middle of the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the cobbles are pale golden and a knife comes out clean.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a cloud of your choice.