Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas pudding

Christmas is coming and the geese are hopefully fat enough by now. If you haven't made a Christmas pudding yet, you may feel that a trip to the supermarket is the only option left. Think again. This recipe has been passed down several generations of my family and slightly adapted along the way (essentially by increasing the booze content). Although, it is true that Xmas pud is always better when left for a few months to mature, even if it's as new and shiny as your freshly unwrapped Christmas presents, it is guaranteed to be far more palate-pleasing than anything you'd pop in your trolley. AND, you can make two from this mixture and keep one under your bed until next year. This is, by far, the most delicious Christmas pudding I have ever eaten and I don't feel at all shy about saying so.
I have a strong aversion to candied peel and if you do too, you're in luck! This pudding contains none of the awful citrus muck. I have a theory that it is almost entirely the fault of candied peel that others have been put off this most traditional of festive fare. I have seen many who have professed not to like Christmas pudding because of the dried fruit,  forget all about their apparent fussiness when faced with a plate of mince pies. In my experience, the fussy only remain fussy when they refuse to try feared foods again. So please, if you think you don't like Christmas pudding, have another go this year and see if I can't change your mind.

Victorian Christmas Pudding

The quantities here make enough for two 2lb puddings, each feeding around 8-10. If you don't have two pudding bowls and don't want to fork out too much money, enamel bowls are an excellent and inexpensive choice.


Butter for greasing
1 large lemon
1 carrot, grated
6oz/150g fresh white breadcrumbs
2oz/50g self raising flour
6oz/150g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
8oz/200g currants
8oz/200g raisins (preferably Australian muscat raisins)
4oz/100g sultanas
6oz/150g ready-to-eat prunes, chopped
10oz/250g suet
2oz/50g flaked almonds
3 eggs
2 fl. oz/ 50 ml brandy
2 fl. oz/ 50 ml dark rum
4 fl. oz/ 100 ml ginger wine
1 tbsp Anostura bitters

  • Butter and line the bases of two 1 litre/ 1 3/4 pint) pudding bowls.
  • Pierce the lemon all over with a sharp knife and place in a saucepan of cold water. Pop the lid on and bring to the boil. Uncover and simmer for about half an hour or until the lemon is very soft. Drain and leave to cool enough to touch.
  • Cut the lemon into quarters, remove any seeds and then roughly chop.
  • Place the lemon in a large bowl along with the grated carrot, breadcrumbs, flour, sugar, and spices and stir together.
  • Add the currants, raisins, sultanas, prunes, suet and flaked almonds to the bowl and thoroughly mix until everything is combined.
  • In a separate bowl, place the eggs, brandy, rum, ginger wine and bitters and whisk together well.
  • Add the egg mixture to the fruit mixture and stir together.
  • Divide the mixture between the two basins and smooth over their tops.
  • Cut out a 13" circle from a double thickness of baking parchment. Pleat the circles and place over one pudding. Repeat for the second pudding. Cover each lid in a pleated circle of tin foil.
  • Wrap string twice around the basin and tie to secure the paper. Use more string to wrap over and under the bowl and knot to make a handle for each pudding.
  • Put each basin in the top of a steamer of simmering water for 8 hours. Top up with boiling water every 1-2 hours. OR, place each pudding on a trivet (or upturned, ovenproof dish) in a large saucepan. Add enough boiling water to come two thirds up the side of the bowl. Cover with a well fitting lid and simmer for 6 hours, topping up the water every hour or so.
  • Once cool, unwrap the pudding and re-wrap each pudding. This way you can ensure that no water has got inside. Cover each cold pudding tightly with foil and store in a cool, dark place until ready to reheat.
  • On Christmas day, each pudding will need to be steamed for 2 hours before serving with flaming brandy poured over the top and generous lashings of brandy butter. Merry Christmas!

If you're behind in your Christmas cake baking too, check out my Christmas cake recipe from last year.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Diving cake

I had a last minute commission for a diving themed 50th birthday cake last week from a woman who was organising a surprise party for her husband and so I made a little cartoon-like sugar diver, sharks, seaweed, and a clown fish - modelled on Finding Nemo. They opted for a lemon drizzle top tier and a chocolate and Guinness bottom - which they were nervous and excited by in equal measure. They emailed me earlier this evening to say they loved the cake and the birthday boy was thrilled. Hooray!