So tomorrow (23rd November 2014) is stir up Sunday. If you’d like to cook a Christmas pudding this weekend – or if it’s any other date and you’re arriving here from the future, in which case HELLO FUTURE PEOPLE! – here’s my easy peasy step by step way to do it.
First things first, please don’t spend a fortune. If you’ve got stuff in the cupboard, use it up. This year, my dried fruit is a bag of ‘superfruits’ that someone sent me, some dried cranberries, soft dried dates and sultanas. But you can use apricots, raisins, or cherries too. The Maraschino (or glacé) cherries are optional, but they add nice little dots of colour into, let’s face it, what is essentially a pretty brown pudding. For the nuts, walnuts, pistachios or almonds are great.
For the alcohol, I’ve used Pedro Jimenez sherry, but you could use whisky, brandy, rum… again, whatever you have. If you don’t want to use alcohol, use fruit juice.
If you don’t have a lemon, a clementine would be lovely, and a couple of eating apples will work just as well as the larger Bramley apple.
If you want to make the pudding gluten free, I’ve added substitutions for this too.
500g dried fruit
1 tbsp Maraschino or glacé cherries
100ml black tea
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp black treacle
1 Bramley apple, grated
100g self raising flour (or rice flour for gluten free)
100g fresh white breadcrumbs (or ground almonds for gluten free)
150g vegetable suet
150g dark muscovado sugar
25g nuts, chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
Method – the day (or morning) before
1. Weigh out your mix of dried fruit, picking through to make sure there aren’t any woody stems on anything. Chop any larger fruit into small pieces. Cut the cherries in half.
2. Zest and juice the lemon, then brew up 100ml of tea. Pour all this over the fruit along with whatever alcohol you’re using. Add in the cinnamon stick and give it a good stir. The smell is amazing. Cover the whole lot with a plate or some cling film and leave it to steep overnight, or at least a few hours. Give it the occasional stir.
Method – the next day (or later in the day)
3. Generously butter a big basin (3 pint/1.7 litre) or two smaller ones. Make sure you have greaseproof paper, scissors, string and foil ready.
4. Take your lovely steeped fruit, remove the cinnamon stick. Crack the three eggs into a bowl and beat gently with a fork, then add to the fruit along with the honey, treacle and grated (or finely chopped) apple.
5. Weigh out all the rest of the ingredients and combine them in a huge owl. Don’t forget the spices! Make sure there are no lumps in the muscovado sugar.
6. Add the fruit mixture and give it a really good stir (get everyone to take a turn to stir and make a wish!).
7. Now just fill the pudding basin(s) with the mixture. Press it down well and try and fill each one as high as you can.
8. Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper, bigger than the top of the basin/s, then add a layer of foil. Some people add a little pleat in the layers. Tie the two layers tightly just under the basin rim with string, leaving lots of excess to make a handle. There is a proper way to get the string into a handle shape, but I’m rubbish at this! Just do as well as you can. To make extra sure no liquid gets in, it’s worth adding another layer of foil and tying again, but you don’t have to.
Now stop. Have a cup of tea (or some of that booze) and congratulate yourself heartily. Your very own Christmas pudding is complete!!
Cooking your pudding(s)
Puds need to be cooked twice, one when they’re first made, and another on Christmas day.
I don’t have a steamer so I just use a very big saucepan and balance the pudding basin inside it by popping a pastry cutter in the bottom of the saucepan (don’t use one you love, they do tend to discolour). This will stop everything getting ruined if you accidentally let it boil dry. Now, pour in boiling water to about the halfway mark up the side of the basin.
Pop on a lid (mine has a small hole, but a normal lid will just wobble away and keep you entertained) and steam it for about five hours. The water around it only needs to be just rolling, not boiling fiercely. DON’T forget to keep an eye on it and keep the water topped up.
After it’s cooked, re-wrap with fresh paper and foil, then store somewhere cool (just the back of a cupboard – it doesn’t need to be in the fridge) until Christmas day when it’ll need to steam for about another 2.5 to 3 hours (don’t worry if it gets a bit longer, it won’t ruin it). Or, traditionalists look away now, you could just microwave it. Much easier, but possibly a little sacrilegious.
On Christmas day, just gently warm some vodka or brandy or something, then at the last minute, pour it over the pud and set it alight. Bring to the table with a flourish. NOTHING feels as good as presenting your family with something that you lovingly made!