I can’t believe it is the beginning of December tomorrow! November has just flown by. I saw the Christmas Coco Cola advert last night. You know it’s nearly Christmas when that appears on the TV, and even though I’m not a coca cola fan I love the advert – it always makes me feel festive and brings back memories of excited anticipation of Christmas approaching when I was younger. What do any of you associate with the start of Christmas? Putting up your tree, a song or on the radio or a bite of your first mince pie? I personally began feeling rather festive when I backed my Christmas cake last weekend. If you haven’t baked yours yet, don’t worry there is still time.
This year I decided to also make a Christmas pudding, something I have never attempted before. For those of you who may not know, a Christmas pudding is a sort of cross between a Christmas cake and mincemeat (the kind found in mice pies not bolognaise!). Your soak your fruits in alcohol before using them, like a Christmas cake, but you then mix these into a spiced cake batter than contains suet, like mincemeat (vegetable suet). The mix is then placed into a pudding basin and part boiled, part steamed in a pan of water for several hours. This produces a very moist and soft pudding, that has all the flavours of Christmas cake only slightly more spongy and less densely fruited. The pudding is kept for several weeks to allow the flavour to mature and develop. Then on Christmas day the pudding is heated, doused in Brandy and set alight. The lights are quickly turned down and people ‘ohhh’ and ‘arrrrh’ as wispy blue flames dance around the pudding giving a spectacular end to the Christmas meal.
Last week I saw this recipe for a Christmas pudding in a supplement given away with the newspaper. It’s based (apparently) on the Christmas puddings they sell in Bettys of Taylors and Harrogate. I have always been impressed with their bread and cakes whenever I have visited and the pudding sounded quite straightforward so I decided to give it a go. The pudding does require 5 hours of boiling/steaming, but don’t let that put you off. As long as you check the water level a couple of times during cooking, it can be left to its own devises. The actually making of the pudding is very quick and easy.
Obviously I haven’t tasted it yet, but it looks very moist and smells very traditional, warming spices, boozy fruits and a hint of citrus. It doesn’t look all that appetising before you cook it, but it transforms into a lovely looking pudding after its steam session. It’s currently wrapped up tight and hidden away under the stairs until its big reveal on Christmas Day. I’ll try and catch a shot of it on fire to show you later. It’s just occurred to me how odd it sounds to want to purposely set food on fire!
I nearly forgot, don’t forget to give your Christmas cake its weekly feed of one tablespoon of your chosen booze. It appreciates some festive spirit too *groan* couldn’t resist!
Bettys Traditional Christmas Pudding
50g glace cherries
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
15g flaked almonds
25g chopped hazelnuts (my addition)
50g vegetable suet
30g wholemeal breadcrumbs
50g plain flour
90g light soft brown sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
The day before, place all the dried fruits into a bowl. Grate the orange and lemon zest over the top and pour in the Brandy. Give everything a good stir, cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside for 24 hours to allow the fruits to plump up and absorb some of the Brandy.
The next day, place all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Add the soaked fruits, scraping in any leftover juices. Mix together lightly with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly combined.
Place a small disc of parchment paper in the base of a 1½ pint pudding basin. Fill the basin with the pudding mix, pressing down lightly. Place another disc of parchment on top and cover the top of the basin with a sheet of foil. Fold a little crease into the middle of the foil to allow it to rise with the steam.
Tie a long strip of string around the top rim of the pudding and then secure it over the top of the basin from one side to the other to form a string handle. (This will help you retrieve the pudding from the pan later without burning yourself).
Place a trivet or small unturned saucer in the base of a deep saucepan – it must be wide enough to hold your pudding.
Place the pudding on the upturned saucer, boil the kettle and fill the pan with the hot water until it reached half way up the side of the pudding basin.
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover with the lid and leave to simmer gently for 5 hours. It does not need to boil rapidly.
Every 2 hours lid the lid of the pan to check the water level. Add more boiling water if it’s looking low.
Once the 5 hours is up, lift the pudding out of the pan with the help of the string handle. Place on a cooling rack, remove the foil and leave until cool. Leave it in the basin and with the parchment disc still on top. Once cooled, wrap tightly in clingfilm and store in a cool dark place until required, the longer the better.
On Christmas Day, steam the pudding again for 2 hours to heat through thoroughly. Turn out onto a serving plate that has a rim. Carefully warm a ladleful of Brandy until it ignites and quickly pour it over the pudding to flambé. Take it to the table and serve with Brandy butter or custard once the flames have extinguished. Alternatively, heat the Brandy in a pan, pour it over the pudding and set light to it with a lighter.
Makes 1 pudding, to serve 6 – 8 people