There's something very comforting about a steamed pudding,
especially when it's drizzled with warm vanilla crème anglaise.
Serve it with seasonal fruit - we've gone for the pale beauty of
330 gmsoftened butter330 gm(1½ cups) caster sugarScrapedseeds of 2 vanilla beansFinelygrated rind and juice of 2 lemons4eggs1egg yolk70 mlpouring cream300 gm(2 cups) plain flour1 1/3 tspbaking powderVanilla poached pears440 gm(2 cups) raw caster sugar375 mllight dessert wine, such as Beaumes de Venise2vanilla beans, split and seeds scrapedJuiceof 1 lemon and 1 orange6ripe beurre bosc pears, halved and coredVanilla crème anglaise350 mlpouring cream150 mlmilk1vanilla bean, split and seeds scrapedThinlypeeled rind of ½ lemon4egg yolks80 gmcaster sugar
Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and rind in an electric mixer until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Scrape down sides of bowl, then add eggs and yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat until smooth. Combine cream and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside to curdle (1-2 minutes; mixture will separate into clumps). Add flour and baking powder to butter mixture and beat to just combine, adding cream mixture at the end. Beat until just smooth, then spoon into a buttered and floured 2.25-litre pudding bowl lined on the base with a round of baking paper. Cover with a buttered piece of baking paper and then foil, pleating in the centre, tie with string and place in a large saucepan lined with a tea towel (this provides insulation and prevents the pudding rattling around too much). Pour in boiling water to halfway up the sides of the bowl, cover and simmer until pudding is cooked through, adding water as necessary (3-3½ hours; it should feel springy in the centre and a skewer will withdraw clean). Remove from saucepan, remove foil and baking paper, stand for 15 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.
Meanwhile, for vanilla poached pears, stir sugar, wine, vanilla beans and seeds, juices and 250ml water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the simmer, add pears, cover with a piece of baking paper, then weight with a plate. Bring back to the simmer, reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are tender (20-25 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears). Set aside in liquid until required.
Meanwhile, for vanilla crème anglaise, bring cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds and rind to the simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl until sugar dissolves, pour cream mixture over and whisk to combine. Return to pan and stir continuously until mixture thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon (4-5 minutes), strain and serve with warm steamed vanilla pudding and poached pears.