Every year I post my recipe for Christmas Pudding. It works. I hope you attempt to make it rather than buying one of those ready-made affairs from the shops. It's not especially difficult and for those who like this sort of thing, there's nothing like watching their eager little faces as you carry it through to the dining room, set well alight. Here's the post:
Believe it or not, it's time to make your Christmas Pudding. Here in London, Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier. The television advertising spree has begun, and suddenly our screens are full of earnest, eager types wrapped up in noddy hats and woolly scarves, grinning kiddywinks, and beaming Old Dears. Teflon snowflakes are having a field day. The lights have gone up in Sloane Square too, yet the leaves are still on the trees. Look, I love Christmas, please don't get me wrong: I'm no Scrooge; but often the expectation is, truthfully, more enjoyable than the actual event itself. But London is particularly pretty in those two weeks leading up to Christmas, and I can't think of a better place in the world to be at this time.
Right now is the time to start making your Christmas Pudding; and if anything it may even be a bit on the late side. Traditionally, the Christmas Pudding was made on "Stir-Up Sunday", which was the last Sunday before Advent, (about four to five weeks before Christmas Day), but in our family we used to make it as early as late October. I love Christmas Pudding. The way your spoon plunges into the moist (you hope!), rich, fruity mass; and the contrast with the smooth, rich, alchohol infusedbrandy butter.
Here is my tried and tested recipe for Christmas Pudding. It's based on our age-old family recipe (which I suspect was nicked from Cordon Bleu), but I've "improved" it with the addition of Guinness and Black Treacle. It went down extremely well with my brother-in-law, who gobbled down the lot, and apparently, declared it "one of the best Christmas Puddings he had ever tasted"; in fact- "never was there such a pudding". Incidentally, as an experiment last year, I added Scotch Whisky instead of the traditional brandy- and it sort of worked, although the resulting smoky taste was not really that appropriate. So back to good old Cognac it is.
Here's the recipe:
Stir up all the following ingredients in a pudding basin:
350g Mixed fruit and peel (this means crystallised peel, dried apricots, currants, saltanas, raisins, grated lemon rind, and grated orange rind)
50g Chopped glacé cherries
25g Flaked almonds
50g Dried suet (you can't get the proper stuff anymore- the EU has made it illegal)
35g White breadcrumbs
35g Plain flour
70g Moist dark brown sugar
A dash of mixed spice and grated nutmeg. Some weirdos add carrot- but very sensibly, I leave this one out.
Once you've stirred all the ingredients together, mix in the following ingredients:
Two beaten eggs
The juice of half a lemon and half an orange
Two tablespoons of a dark stout (ie Guinness)
A tablespoon of black treacle
A dash of decent Cognac (ie Brandy or Armagnac)
Stir it up like mad. Now's the time to add the mixture to a basin. Recently, I've had this thing about those old-fashioned ball-shaped puddings- the ones you see in the Victorian illustrations of Phiz and in Walt Disney. A few years ago, I managed to track down a ball-shaped pudding mould from Divertimenti in the Fulham Road, and used that- but a traditional ceramic pudding basin is just dandy.
Smear the inside of the basin with butter. This will stop the pudding sticking to the side. Pour in the mixture. Top off with a piece of buttered greaseproof paper, ideally cut down to fit. Finally, place a cloth over the basin, and tie it off at the top with a bit of string.
Steam it for five to six hours. This means getting hold of a large pan, filling it about a quarter full with water and bringing it to the boil. Place the pudding in the middle of the pan, and put the lid on. The steam will rise up within the pan, and cook the pudding. Once it's cooked, leave it in a cool place with a piece of tin foil on top. It will mature in the run-up to Christmas. On the great day itself, you will need to steam it for a further three hours.