Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas Pudding for Stir Up Sunday!

Today is Stir Up Sunday – the official day to stir together a delicious mix of dried fruits and spices to make your Christmas pudding. Every year the last Sunday in November, the last Sunday before the start of advent, is the official day to make your xmas pud. It is a tradition that has been going on for decades, possibly centuries, and one I hope continues for many more to come. I love the thought that today people all over the country are today making a pudding for their friends and relatives to eat and enjoy on Christmas day. It’s the kind of unity and homely food based tradition that I love.

Christmas pudding is not too dissimilar to Christmas cake. Your soak your fruits in alcohol before using them, like a Christmas cake, but then combine this mix into a spiced breadcrumb and suet batter. I always made my own breadcrumbs from crumbling up some gluten free bread and use frozen grated butter in place of the suet (which is usually coated in wheat flour). This fruity, spicy mixture is placed into a pudding basin and part boiled, part steamed for several hours to create a densely fruited, rich, spicy and incredibly moist fruit pudding. It has all the flavours of Christmas cake only in a squishier, softer and more intense form. The pudding mix doesn’t look all that appetising before it’s steamed, but it transforms into a lovely dark and sticky pudding after its steaming session. You get the added bonus of it filling the house with a fabulous rich and spicy Christmas scent as it happily simmers away.
 

Like Christmas Cake, 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 creating a spectacular end to the Christmas meal. There can’t be many foods that people look forward to intentionally setting on fire! The only other one I can think of is Baked Alaska and that’s more of a gentle torching rather than dousing it in a flammable liquid and setting it alight! However, the actual flames last mere seconds, so no harm comes to the pudding itself, its too moist to get scorched or burnt.

The pudding requires 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. It’s quite relaxing pottering around the house and listening to it gently simmering, filling the kitchen with the warm spicy note of Christmas. I always like to line the base of the pan I steam it in with some paper. This protects the pudding from the direct base heat of the pan and stops it making too much noise from the pudding basin hitting the side of the pan as it simmers. It’s a great way to make use of some of the tedious junk mail and unwanted catalogues that always get pushed through the letterbox at this time of year.
 
This year I decided to place a thin slice of orange at the base of my pudding, which I hope will give a pretty top when turn out. I’d only got the one orange and when I came to slice it I found it was rather a unique orange in that the inner segments formed more of a random mosaic pattern than the usual triangular segments! While not quite the effect I was after, I think it will certainly look pretty on the pudding so I used it anyway. I’ll let you know how it turns out! Right now it’s wrapped up tight and awaiting its final steam on Christmas day.

Gluten Free Christmas Pudding
Ingredients
230g raisins
125g sultanas
50g glace cherries (check they are GF)
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
100ml Brandy (I used Amaretto)
20g chopped pecans
50g grated frozen butter
30g gluten free brown breadcrumbs (crumbled from 1 slice of GF bread)
50g gluten free plain flour
90g dark soft brown sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground star anise (or clove)
½ tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method
The day before (or up to 3 days before), chop the cherries in half and place into a bowl along with the rest of the dried fruits. 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 (or up to 3 days) 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 or spatula until everything is evenly combined.
Place a small disc of parchment paper in the base of a 1½ pint pudding basin. Place a thinly sliced disc of orange in the base (optional).
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 that you have folded a pleat into the middle of, to allow the pudding to rise during steaming.
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).
Lay sheets of newspaper (or junk mail) in the base of a large saucepan. (This protects the base of the pudding from the direct heat from the stove and stops it rattling around inside your pan.) Place the pudding on the papers before filling the pan with boiling water from the kettle, until it reaches halfway up the side of the pudding basin.
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to the merest of simmers, cover with the lid and leave to simmer gently for 5 hours. It should be barely bubbling.
Every 2 hours lift 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 the whole pudding, basin and all, 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, then set light to it with a match or lighter and quickly pour it over the pudding to flambé. Serve with Brandy butter, Brandy cream or custard once the flames have extinguished.
Makes 1 pudding, to serve 6 – 10 people

3 comments:

Choclette said...

That orange slice is a nice idea Katie. Christmas Day is not so far off now. Don't want to wish the time away, but I do like Christmas dinner - AND pudding :)

Johanna GGG said...

Goodness can't believe stir up sunday was last weekend - I love a good rich pudding - wonder how will the orange slices fare with lighting the brandy flames on top - will they caramelise - I am a little scared of lighting the pudding as it is not a tradition we have ever kept in my family.

The Caked Crusader said...

You're way ahead of me - I've not even thought about my christmas cake yet.
Love that weird orange!