Stir-up Sunday is coming, people! I absolutely love this weekend as, for me, it properly signifies the start of Christmas. The kitchen is filled with the warming scents of orange and spice, and there’s lots of stirring and steaming: all my favourite things! If you fancy making your own Christmas puddings this year, I’ve added the ingredients list nice and early so you can make sure you have everything ready. Remember that, if you follow this recipe, you’ll actually need to start on the Saturday as I recommend steeping the fruit overnight – also, do remember that steaming the pudding takes about five hours, so don’t start everything too late or you’ll be steaming when you should be sleeping! So, seeing as I’ve called it an easy Christmas pudding recipe, I’ve kept it simple: no figs, no apricots, just a lot of cranberries and plenty of spice. Here’s how to do it:
A quick note about ingredients:
As usual, as long as you stick to the quantities, you can use more or less whatever dried fruit you like: cranberries, sultanas, dried peel (I’m not a fan, but feel free), raisins, dried apricots, prunes or anything else you fancy. Just make sure larger fruits are stoneless and snipped into small pieces. I use self raising flour because I’m lazy. If you only have plain, remember to add a teaspoon of baking powder. With the booze, I just feel that Pedro represents Christmas, but use brandy, whisky or whatever else you have. Don’t forget you’ll need a pudding basin too!
The Christmas pudding recipe
1 orange or 2 clementines
1 heaped tbsp glacé cherries, halved
100ml black tea
100ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
3 eggs (large, free range), beaten
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp black treacle
1 Bramley apple, grated
100g self raising flour
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
150g veggie suet
150g dark muscovado sugar
25g almonds or pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
You will also need:
1 large pudding basin (I use an enamel 3 pint/18cm diameter basin) or 2 smaller ones
Greaseproof paper or baking parchment
Day 1 – steep the fruit
Weigh out the dried fruit, then pick up little handfuls and let it fall through your fingers, looking out for any woody stems, which are unpleasant to crunch on. Place it all in a large non-metal mixing bowl.
Zest the orange, 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 sherry. Add in the cherries and the cinnamon stick and stir together. I love this bit as it smells divine. Cover with cling film and leave to steep overnight, or at least a few hours, stirring occasionally if you remember.
Firstly, remember to remove the cinnamon stick. Beat the eggs and add them to the fruit mixture along with the honey, treacle (love the smell of black treacle!) and grated apple (leave the peel on).
Weigh out all the dry ingredients and combine them in a huge bowl. The muscovado sugar can be a bit lumpy so run it through your fingers and disperse any lumps.
Add the dry ingredients and give it a really good stir (get everyone to take a turn to stir and make a wish).
Now, to steam your pudding
Butter your pudding basin(s) and spoon in the mixture. Lay out a piece of foil on a flat surface, slightly larger than the top of the basin, than lay a piece of greaseproof paper over that. Fold a pleat into the middle of the two layers. Butter the greaseproof paper, than put that side down onto the top of the pudding. Press down the edges well. Now for my top tip: use a couple of sturdy elastic bands to go round the top – it will keep the seal really tight. I tie over the top of the bands with string just in case they break.
Either use a steamer, or just use a huge saucepan. Place an old saucer or something heatproof (even a flat, clean stone will do) in the bottom so it’s not 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.
Let the pudding cool then store in a cool, dry place (don’t unwrap it!) for Christmas day when it will 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).
When it comes to flaming your pudding, carefully warm some vodka on a ladle over a low heat, then set it alight and pour over your pudding. Be especially careful if you want to dramatically walk into the room with your flaming pudding (I say this from bitter experience). Finally dollop on your preferred topping – we like brandy cream, but go with what you love.
Et voila! Puddings made, and now it’s gin o’clock, no?