Okay, okay, so we’ve missed Stir-up Sunday, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. If you still fancy doing a bit of lovely therapeutic stirring in the kitchen for Christmas, and filling your house with delicious Christmassy smells, there’s plenty of time. PLUS this one’s so easy I absolutely, faithfully promise you that it will turn out absolutely perfectly. How about that for a guarantee?
As usual, feel free to tweak the recipe. Last year I had loads of time and spent ages snipping up dates and dried apricots. This year I’d kind of decided not to bother and then changed my mind, so actually just bought a 500g bag of luxury mixed fruit from Waitrose. Yup, it was that easy.
Remember, if you don’t want to add booze, substitute with fruit juice (or more tea), and if you need the ressup to be Gluten-free I’ve added tips for that too. If you really must eat peel, though (bleurgh, devil’s toenails), 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 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 used Pedro Jimenez sherry, but you can use rum, brandy… whatever
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 – thanks as always to the lovely Pippa for the help regarding gluten)
100g fresh white breadcrumbs (or again, ground almonds if you need to keep the recipe gluten free)
150g veggie suet
150g dark muscovado sugar
25g almonds or pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
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.
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.
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 sieve to break up any lumps.
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).
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).
Now butter a big basin (3 pint/1.7 litre) or two small ones and bung in your mixture. I’ve got a fabulous new Mermaid one which is non-stick, non-scratch and non-whatever else. It’s also got a nice rim around the top perfect for tying your string round it. Check out www.mermaidcookware.com.
Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper and butter it well. Tie around it with string. Then cover with foil and tie again (this way, you guarantee no water will get in to ruin your pudding). Or you can tie it in a muslin, or use one of those special circular moulds.
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.
And that’s it, you’re done. 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 cook it the day before and *gasp* just microwave it on Christmas day. Much easier, but possibly a little sacrilegious.
BTW: If you want to make little mini puddings instead, remember to put a teeny piece of buttered greaseproof paper in the bottom of your ramekin, otherwise you’ll never get the buggers out. Then you can just cover them with foil, put them on a deep baking tray, add boiling water to half way up the sides of the ramekins, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes on 180/gas 4.
BTW 2: Nigella advocates vodka rather than brandy to flame a pudding – apparently the flame is better and lasts longer. Just mind your eyebrows
Off you trot, then. Smug in the knowledge that you made your own puds. Just don’t let me down with the peel. Barf.