Sunday, October 28, 2007

Christmas Pudding

It’s time to make the Christmas pudding!!! Actually, it’s a little late if anything but the barbecue thing got in the way for the past couple of weeks… So cancel your plans for next weekend and stay in to make this recipe instead. It’s a bit of a mission, will require at least one special trip to the shops as well as a desperate plea for help to 7Days’ shopping guru Ingrid Howell-Jones when you realise that Spinneys don’t sell butter muslin (but why would a specialist expatriate supermarket sell ingredients and equipment essential to Christmas after decades of experience serving homesick émigrés?) and means staying in for at least a day but it’s all well worth it, believe me. This, then, really is a traditional recipe from back in the days when people had the time to truly invest in food and didn't spend the time messing about with blogs and things...

Making the pudding isn’t the end of the story, though. It’s like a food tamagotchi - feed it, nurture it and leave it lurking like a forgotten dipsomaniac in a corner of the ‘fridge for the next couple of months and you’ll have the perfect finish to your Christmas day. Or you could always boil that pathetic little blob of cheap fat and breadcrumbs that came in the hamper from Aunty Doreen in Stroud…

No. Don’t do it. Cook this and take my earnest counsel: this is the only way.

My dad always calls this ‘plum duff’ much to my mum’s horror. She takes her food seriously does mum and the very idea of calling a carefully assembled mixture of the very best the world can offer cooked up lovingly and then fed with plentiful high quality hooch for months, if not years, a ‘plum duff’ is fundamentally horrific for her. Which, of course, is precisely why he calls it ‘plum duff’.

So here is Ma’s Plum Duff. This recipe has been tested to keep, properly ‘fed’, for five years. And yes, the end result five years later is a remarkable experience!

Oh! This makes two puddings, each one litre (ie: it fills a 2 pint, or 1 litre, pudding basin). Why? One for this year, one to keep for next year or the year after! You can always make up one pudding by halving the ingredients.

You’ll also need string, greaseproof paper and plenty of good quality butter muslin, two roomy pans and some tinfoil. You’ll need to make this at the weekend as it takes two days (one to make the mix and leave it settle, one to boil the puddings).

Doddle, eh?


  • 250g sultanas
  • 250g currants
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 125g candied mixed peel, chopped
  • 60g chopped almonds
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 125 g self raising flour
  • 250g bread crumbs
  • 250g suet
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 350g muscovado or demerara sugar
  • 2 tbsp date syrup or treacle
  • 4 tbsp brandy
  • 3 large fresh eggs, whisked
  • 500ml Irish stout or good brown ale
Sift the flour and spices into very large bowl then add the suet (you can use vegetable suet, by the way!), breadcrumbs, sugar, sultanas, raisins, candied peel and the fruit zest and then give it all a good mix. Warm the date syrup or treacle slightly until it’s runny, add the stout and the spirit and then pour it over the dry mix. Give this a stir around then mix in the eggs and the fruit juice and give it all a stiff mixing. When I was a kid, for some reason, at this stage everyone in the house was press-ganged into having a mix of the pudding for good luck or some such mumbo jumbo, but you might like to just walk around the mixture seven times widdershins and kill a black cockerel instead.

Cover the mixture with a cloth and leave in the fridge overnight.

A day later, it’s time to mess about with greaseproof paper, muslin and string. Butter two pudding basins well and spoon in the mixture, dividing it equally between the two (da). Cover each pudding with a double layer of greaseproof paper (you can do it with sloppy folding or you can carefully cut circles using the pudding basin as a template, depending on whether you're a human being or Delia Smith) and then top this with butter muslin, which you need to tie down tight over the lip of the basin with string. The smart trick is to tie this up with a loop in it so that you can stably lift the basin by the string - this makes lifting it into and out of pans of boiling water a great deal easier. Trim any bits and pieces of muslin that are sticking out, hanging down or just generally surplus to requirements.

Make two pads about 1/2cm thick by folding layers of tinfoil, slightly larger than the base of the basins so that they can sit on them and place these in the base of two large, roomy pans and put the basins on top (alternatively, you can use an old upended saucer – the idea’s to keep the basins from contacting the floor of the pan). Pour a kettle of boiling water around (not over!) each pudding until it’s almost to the lip of the basin and then place them on a low to medium heat to simmer, covered, for a good six hours. You’ll need to top up the water every now and then: don’t just leave it or it’ll boil dry. Alternatively, of course you can make the puddings in relays if you’ve only got the one pan.

Remove the puddings to cool and, when they’re quite cold (probably the next morning), remove the muslin and greaseproof and stab holes all over it. Spoon in as much brandy as you like and then cover with clean greaseproof and muslin. I can’t be bothered to tie it again at this stage and just use masking tape, by the way. Now push it into the ‘fridge to lurk drunkenly in a corner. Every week or two, take it out and top it up with brandy by repeating the stabbing trick. At the last, tie it properly to steam it on the day – you’ll need to do the whole roomy pan/tinfoil pad thing again and it needs to steam for a solid two hours.

You’ll also need to make a crucial decision – whether to serve the pudding ‘au naturel’, with Crème Anglais or custard or indeed with brandy butter as an accompaniment. I’ll try and remember to post up the relevant recipes before Christmas!

When the pudding’s cooked, you need to remove the coverings and upend it on a warmed roomy plate or dish, then pour over a couple of slugs of brandy (or rum) over it before setting light to it and bringing it triumphally to the specially darkened dining table. Do try not to set fire to yourself as we don’t give refunds here at The Fat Expat…


Rose in Dubai said...

Got a great recipe for Dubai Christmas pudding if you're interested.....?

Alexander said...

Bust out then!