STIR UP SUNDAY: CHRISTMAS PUDDING RECIPE
This Sunday is Stir up Sunday – the last Sunday before Advent and the traditional day to make your Christmas pudding. To help us make the perfect pudding this year, we’ve enlisted the help of food writer Debora Robertson, the Associate Food Editor of Red magazine who’s also just written her very own book, Gifts from the Garden: 100 Gorgeous Homegrown Presents. Visit her blog, Love and a Licked Spoon for more inspired ideas for Christmas entertaining.
Over to Debora:
This recipe is based on the Christmas pudding in Arabella Boxer’s excellent Book of English Food (Penguin/Fig Tree, £20). It contains no flour and is simply bound together with breadcrumbs and eggs, which makes it lighter than some traditional puddings.
NOTE: If you would like to make your own mixed peel – and it’s incredibly easy to do – there’s a recipe on my blog here.
500g dried vine fruits (raisins, currants and sultanas, or you can use just raisins if you prefer)
200g pitted prunes, halved
340g soft white breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest of an orange and a lemon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves 225g cut mixed peel
200g glacé cherries, halved
120g coarsely chopped blanched almonds
340g shredded suet
12og light muscovado sugar
8 eggs, lightly beaten
TIP: Have some softened butter to hand, for greasing the pudding basins
1. Put the dried vine fruits in a large, Parfait-type jar and sprinkle over 200ml of the brandy. Give it a shake and let it sit for a few days, turning the jar over from time to time to ensure the fruit is evenly soaked. You can ditch this phase if you don’t have time, but even a couple of hours sitting in the brandy will increase the succulence of the fruit.
2. In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the zests, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until well combined. Add the vine fruits, prunes, mixed peel, cherries, almonds and suet. Stir in the eggs, Guinness and brandy. Leave for a few hours or even overnight for the flavours to develop.
3. When you’re ready to cook the puddings, grease three 825ml pudding basins with softened butter. Cut small circles of baking parchment and place them in the bottom of each basin. If you’re adding charms or sixpences to the puddings, wrap them in foil and add them to the batter now. Don’t fill the bowls too full – you want about 2.5cm free at the top of the bowls to allow the puddings to expand as they cook.
4. Cut large circles of greaseproof paper, big enough to cover each basin generously. Butter one side of the paper and fold a pleat in the middle. Cut circles of tin foil the same size as the paper circles. Cover each pudding with paper then foil. Secure with string and trim off excess paper and foil with scissors. Tie loops of string to the string securing the paper and foil lids to make a handle – this will make it easier to lift the puddings out of the pan later.
5. To simmer the puddings, you will need a large, lidded saucepan or several saucepans. Place an upturned saucer or small cake tin under each pudding basin to act as a trivet and keep the base of the bowls off the bottom of the pan/s. Fill the pan/s with boiling water from the kettle until it comes halfway up the sides of the basins. Boil steadily, covered, for 6 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time.
6. When the puddings are cooked, carefully lift them out by placing a long wooden spoon through the loops of string. Leave to cool then remove the paper and foil coverings. Pierce the tops all over with a fine skewer and feed the puddings with a little brandy. Cover with clean, unbuttered paper and foil and tie securely with string. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas.
On Christmas Day, the puddings should be boiled again in the same way for 4-6 hours. To serve, turn out onto a flat dish and stick a sprig of holly in the centre. Gently warm the remaining brandy in a small saucepan, set it alight with a long match and pour it over the pudding just as you’re about to bring it to the table. Each of these puddings will serve 6-8 people; but 2 larger ones – or one giant – can be made if preferred.