I ADORE making Christmas pudding: it’s my first real Christmas job (because I’m lazy with the Christmas cakes) and the house just smells divine. Actually, because I soak the fruit overnight, I tend to start on Stir-up Saturday (what? it’s a thing, honestly), but you could start in the morning, soak the fruit all day and make the pudding in the evening too…
So first things first: shopping.
Have a look at the ingredients list now so you’ve got a chance to put anything you don’t have on your shopping list before Saturday. And don’t forget the pudding basin!
The best thing about listing the dried fruit in one 500g item is that you can tweak the recipe as you see fit. I HATE dried peel, so you won’t see any of that in any of my christmas baking (it’s made of the devil’s toenail clippings, don’t you know?) but I love the glistening gold that little snipped up bits of apricot add, so I always add in some of those. You can just buy a 500g bag of mixed fruit if you’re in a rush too.
Remember, if you don’t want to add booze, substitute with fruit juice – cranberry juice is lovely (or more tea), and if you need the recipe to be gluten-free I’ve added tips for that too, although only you will know exactly what you can eat and what you can’t. If you really must eat peel, though (bleurgh), I shall never speak to you again. Just saying.
Oh and quick tip: tick off the ingredients as you put them in, which will save you doing what I did last year and forgetting the spices.
Right, here we go then:
500g dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates, dried apricots snipped into small pieces… whatever you like.
1 tbsp Maraschino cherries, halved (optional, but it’s nice to see a little glistening bit of red when you cut it open)
100ml black tea
100ml booze – I’ve used Pedro Jimenez sherry, Morgan’s Spiced Rum.. whatever you have.
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 again, ground almonds if you need to keep the recipe gluten free)
150g veggie suet (or GF suet or butter)
150g dark muscovado sugar
25g almonds or pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
So on to the recipe then:
1. Weigh out the dried fruit, then have a good pick through and get rid of any stems, they’re yucky if you crunch on them. I let them fall through my fingers into the bowl a handful at a time. If you’re using larger dried fruit like prunes or apricots, make sure they’re stoneless and snip them into small pieces.
2. Finely grate the lemon zest, then juice it as well. Add the zest and juice to the fruit then brew up the tea (one tea bag is fine for that amount of water) and pour it over the fruit, along with the rum/brandy/whatever. Add in the cherries and the cinnamon stick and stir it all up. Cover with a plate and leave the whole shooting match to steep (make sure it’s not a metal bowl) overnight, stirring occasionally if you remember.
3. The next day, then, weigh out all the dry ingredients and combine them in a huge bowl. Don’t forget the spices! The muscovado sugar can be a bit lumpy so you might need to sift it to break up any lumps. If you’re using butter, you’ll need to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
4. Take the steeped fruit and remove the cinnamon stick pieces. Add the eggs (give them a quick mix with a fork first), honey, treacle and grated apple (leave the peel on).
5. Stir well, then you can add all that into the dry ingredients. Give it a really good stir (get everyone to take a turn to stir and make a wish).
6. Now butter a big basin (3 pint/1.7 litre) or two smaller ones and bung in your mixture, pressing it down well and filling as near to the top as you can.
7. Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper, bigger than the top of the basin/s, then add a layer of foil. Tie the two layers tightly just under the basin rim with string, leaving lots of excess to make a handle. Now there is some weird way to loop the excess string underneath the basin to make a handle, but I’ve never managed it as I didn’t pay attention at Brownies. If you want to be extra sure no liquid gets in, add another layer of foil and tie again. Or you can use a basin with a lid, or tie it in a muslin, or use one of those special circular moulds.
And that’s it, you’ve made a Christmas pudding! Pause here a minute to give yourself a quick round of applause.
To steam it, you can use a steamer if you’re posh, but I haven’t got one so I just use a huge saucepan and balance the basin inside it on a circular metal pastry cutter so it isn’t sitting on the bottom of the pan. This will also stop it burning if you inadvertently let it boil dry. Add boiling water about halfway up the basin and put the lid on the saucepan. Steam for 5 hours, making sure you go back every so often to top up the boiling water.
I rewrap it with fresh greaseproof paper and foil, but you don’t have to. Keep it somewhere cool 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 you could *gasp* just microwave it on Christmas day. Much easier, but possibly a little sacrilegious.
To serve, just warm some booze gently, then at the last minute, pour it over the pud and set it alight.