A good soak opera - Anchovy bread and butter pudding

The British are proud of their puddings but for some, bread and butter pudding is the king of nursery desserts, for others like myself it's the stuff of bad childhood memories.
As a child I had an abhorrence of bread and butter pudding. I was kept back at school dinnners long after my classmates had run off to the playground, defiantly sitting on that uncomfortable wooden bench with this bowl of indescribable matter in front of me.No matter how much coaxing from teachers, my feet were firmly ensconced under the table knowing that if I ate as much as half a spoonful I would be sick.I still will not eat this pudding today because of that childhood reference.Modern variations including scattering fresh grapes between the layers of bread, melting apples into the egg-milk mixture, and using unusual types of breads  such as brioche just make it even worse for me. They say lemon or orange peel will add a characteristic flavour. I don´t think so.
A few years back I made an Ottolenghi savoury bread pudding that was pure genius and so yummy.One of those dishes that you scrape the last morsels from the dish it was baked in before washing up.I know Nigella too makes a mean savoury bread pudding on the lines of a croque monsieur. So maybe savoury bread puddings I am ok with. Its the sultanas, raisins and citrusy custard that makes me heave.I´m the same about Queen of puddings.Boiled milk and breadcrumbs jam and meringue, absolutely not.I though I would put my own savoury bread pudding to the test.I started off with a traditional recipe for bread and butter pudding and deconstructed it.Out went the sultanas and raisins.In came black olives and capers in their place.Triangular bread slices remained. I added Ricotta cheese and Dijon mustard to the butter and spread that on the bread slices.For my custard I rendered down just the right amount of anchovys to intrigue but not overwhelm.
Having rendered them down to a paste, I then brought them to a simmer with milk, cream and thyme.When this was tepid I whisked the mixture into the eggs and egg yolks and whisked it until I had a smooth custard which I seasoned with parmesan, salt and white pepper.

Anchovy Bread and butter pudding
makes one large rectangular pudding or 24 mini puddings
The anchovy I put in was very subtle, just adding an intriguing salty background flavour; I've used chopped up fillets here, but anchovy paste can be used too.Allow yourself plenty of time as once assembled you need to give it at least one and half hours time to allow the custard to soak into the bread.If you can leave it in the fridge overnight even better.Press the bread down from time to tima and pour over a little more custard if you have some left over.
1 x 400g  Páo de trigo e centeio com sementes de sesamo
( mixed grain loaf, wheat and rye with sesame seeds)
4 large free-range eggs
4 large free-range egg yolks
200ml double cream
500ml whole milk
Tbsp dried thyme
1 small tin anchovy fillets
250g Ricotta cheese
75g Dijon mustard
25g unsalted buttter
50g Parmesan cheese 
80g black olives, finely chopped
20g capers rinsed
½ tsp salt
white pepper

Take one 27 x 21 x 6cm baking dish (10.5 x 8.25 x 2.25inches)
Butter your dish thoroughly. Make the savoury butter by beating the Ricotta, Dijon mustard and butter softened to room temperature.Beat it vigorously until well combined to a spreadable paste.
In a medium sized pan over a medium heat add the anchovies and the oil they were packed in.mash them into the oil, almost to a paste.They do not need to cook,they just melt, this only takes a few seconds.Add the cream, the milk and the thyme.Bring slowly to a simmer then remove from the heat and allow to cool.While it is cooling cut your bread,if not already, into slices.Grease the baking dish all over.Butter each slice over one side with the savoury buter. Lay the slices butter-side up in the dish, standing them up on an angle and overlapping.Repeat until you have filled the entire dish.
Now beat the eggs and extra egg yolks, the mustard, parmesan,olives and capers. Combine this mixture with the anchovy cream and whisk all together until you have a smooth custard.Pour the custard over the bread slices to almost cover pressing the bread down as you go.Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least one and a half hours but overnight would not be a bad thing.Check from time to time to see how the bread slices are absorbing the custard and if you have any custard left pour this over the bread and allow to soak in. When ready cover the dish with foil and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.Remove the foil and continue to bake for afurther 30-35 minutes or until the pudding starts to get a nice golden crust.Remove from the oven and serve immediately.


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