Through the generations

After quite a bit of procrastination, last weekend I finally got around to making the traditional boiled pudding for the big family dinner on Christmas eve.

Are you finding that as the years go by you’re inheriting responsibility for some of your family’s traditions? Perhaps some of the tasks that used to be your mum’s or your aunt’s are now your job? For me, it’s the pudding and I must say at five hours cooking time (plus about an hour and a half to prep) it’s an epic labour of love that is quite unlike anything else that I cook at any other time of the year. For a start it has a bunch of ingredients that I just never use at any other time – figs, mixed spice and chunk ginger for a start. And I get to go to the bottle shop and buy odd booze – last Thursday at 10.30am, there I was at the local with a trolley of brandy and stout.

Despite all the effort required, I don’t mind ‘pudding day’. Somehow it makes me feel more important, slightly higher in the family pecking order. And now that I make it, I get to serve it, which means I get to slosh over the hot brandy and set the thing on fire! Now THERE is something that I don’t do any other day of the year.

If you haven’t inherited any of these tasks yet, maybe this is the year to force your way in and learn the nuances of how they’re done. It’s kind of sad to realise how many of these ‘women’s’ skills are disappearing as the supermarket seduces us with an easy way out. There’s something hugely satisfying about serving up something home made to your nearest and dearest. Even if it’s not as perfect as something you could have bought, it really is love on a plate.

So here’s my recipe for a traditional Christmas pudding – it’s not too late to give it a try, although really they should have been made a few weeks back. It’s based on a Joan Campbell recipe, but with quite a few tweaks as I’ve varied it over the last few years. If you’re daunted, make it on a day when I’m on Facebook and I’ll talk you through any problems.

STEP 1: Buy booze and soak the fruit for as long as you've got...


Joan Campbell’s plum pudding (with a couple of changes!)

1300g mixed dried fruit (any mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, glace cherries, peel, figs, crystallised ginger TIP – definitely used figs, they are sweet and sticky and help hold it all together)
1/3 cup beer (stout is good)
1/3 cup brandy
250g butter at room temperature
225g sugar
5 eggs
50g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2/3 of a stale loaf (unsliced) white bread (remove crusts, make breadcrumbs in food processor)
1 carrot, peeled, grated
Rind 2 oranges
Rind 1 lemon
125 blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Add all the fruit to a glass or plastic bowl; pour over the beer and brandy. Leave to soak for a couple of hours or overnight (if you remember).

Cube the butter and add it to a mixmaster bowl. Beat for a minute or so before adding the sugar slowly. Continue beating until you have a creamy consistency – this takes a while. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time. Beat in the flour, spices and salt.

Tip contents into an extra large bowl. Add the fruit, breadcrumbs, carrot and almonds. Fold everything through until well mixed.

STEP 2: At this stage it looks a bit like spew, but perservere...

Cut a circle of baking paper and pop it in the bottom of a large greased pudding bowl (so that the top of your pudding won’t stick when you turn it out). Pour in the mixture and flatten the surface.

STEP 3: Now you've starting to get somewhere... awwh, looks pwetty..

Now for a bit of origami. Get a double layer of foil (you’ll need to buy the extra wide stuff). Do one ‘z’ fold of 2-3cm in the middle (so that it can expand when the pudding is hot and cooking). Place over the top of the basin and secure around the rim with kitchen string (wrap around a couple of times, knot with a slip knot, then tie over the top so that you have a handle and tie again). Place in a large saucepan. Pour boiling water ¾ of the way up the side (use a funnel). Cover, bring to a strong simmer. Cook for 5 hours. YES, 5 hours!!!! You will need to check it every hour or so to see if you need to top up the water (you don’t want to pan to boil dry).

STEP 4: the 'z' fold in the foil to allow for expansion during cooking...

Keep it covered (I’ve just removed the foil below to photograph it). Store in a cool place (spare fridge is best) until Christmas.

STEP 5: Sneak peak - the cooked pudding can sit for a few weeks to brew.

On the day, pop the pudding back in the pot, with water up the side again and reheat on a strong simmer for 2 hours.

Turn out onto a serving plate. Remove the paper. Serve with brandy cream and icecream.

For the full festive flambé…. Gather the family to attention… Pour ½ glass brandy into a mug, microwave it for 20-30 seconds. Pour over the pudding and immediately (and CAREFULLY) set it alight (use a gas stove lighter). Watch family ooooohhhhh and aaaaaaahhhhhhh.

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Bec Rey said,

    So tempted to try this w GF flour and bread… It looks incredible!

  2. 3

    Kassy said,

    I am interested to see how the gluten free recipe goes as well , because next year I have to make the gluten free version!


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