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Frieze London 2020

Max Rocha’s Comforting Rhubarb Pudding

A simple dessert recipe from the chef’s time at St. John Bread & Wine, London

BY Max Rocha in Frieze Week Magazine | 29 SEP 20

Lockdown for me was a complete shock to the system. When you work full time in a kitchen, you never stop moving — panicking about your prep or thinking about how to get through the next service. So, to have some time off was actually really beneficial, allowing me to reflect on what I want out of life and to think about the food I want to cook long term. This rhubarb pudding reminds me of the simple British desserts we made when I worked at St. John Bread & Wine. The process of tying it up like a Christmas pudding is so much fun; on the day I made it, it helped distract me from the terrible state of the world. It also contains suet, which is a very humble ingredient. For a while during lockdown, flour in shops was very limited but suet was everywhere. Meanwhile, I was getting weekly fruit and vegetable deliveries. So, I decided to put the suet to good use with the rhubarb from that week’s delivery. When I have a café of my own, it will definitely be on the menu. Especially served with custard, it’s the perfect comfort pudding.


170 g self-raising flour

56 g caster sugar

85 g beef suet

1 egg

6 tbs cold water

2 sticks rhubarb

40 g brown sugar

½ vanilla pod

Peel of 1 lemon 


Preheat the oven to 180C. Slice the rhubarb into 4cm sticks and marinate in the lemon peel, brown sugar and a splash of water.

Place in an ovenproof dish, cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in the tray and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the self-raising flour, caster sugar and suet with a fork. Make a well in the middle and add the whole egg. Add half of the water and combine to form a dough. Add the rest of the water as required until it comes together, but be careful not to overwork.

Grease your pudding bowl with butter and gently place the rhubarb in the bottom of the bowl followed by the sponge mix.

Using greaseproof paper, make a lid for the bowl by folding over the edges and tying around with string. Allow a little room for the sponge to expand.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, place a plate upside down and put the pudding bowl on top so the bowl does not touch the bottom of the pan. Pour boiling water into the pan until it’s just below the level of the pudding bowl.

Cook for 60–90 minutes, keeping the water in the pan topped-up to a consistent level. When the pudding is done, remove the greaseproof paper lid and turn out onto a serving dish.

Serve with custard.

Main image: Max Rocha by Marion Kadi