Rather than make one big pud, this year we decided to make loads of little ones. This is because we found some small plastic pudding basins in our favourite cook shop, Cooksmill on Regent Road in Salford. I could quite happily spend an hour just mooching about in there, fantasising about what I could do with an industrial-size food processor and mixing bowls the size of hot tubs.
This mixture made about 10 small quarter-pint puddings, or you could use one enormous 3 pint bowl (that’s just over 1.5 litres in new money). The quantities below were made up of the dried fruits we had in the cupboard, but as long as you get 450g in total you could put in whatever you like. The prunes are important though – they add a nice squidgy texture. As with Christmas cakes, bear in mind that you need to assemble your ingredients well in advance of making this, as the longer you leave the dried fruits soaking the better it will be. Pedro Ximenez sherry tastes like liquid Christmas pudding anyway, so it’s a perfect thing for soaking Christmas pudding fruit. The other thing to remember is that the first time you steam your puddings they will need about 3 hours if they’re all in small bowls, or up to 5 hours if it’s one big one, so do it on a day when you don’t need to stray much from the house.
- 150g currants
- 125g dried morello cherries
- 75g prunes
- 50g dried cranberries
- 50g dried figs (figgy pudding,innit…)
- 175ml Pedro Ximenez sherry, or brandy, or a mixture of the two
- 100g plain flour
- 125g breadcrumbs
- 150g vegetarian suet
- 150g dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 1 medium cooking apple, peeled and grated
- 30ml honey (2 tablespoons)
- butter for greasing the bowls
Cut up the dried figs and prunes into small pieces (scissors are best for this), and put them in a bowl with the other dried fruits. Pour over the sherry/brandy, mix it about a bit and then cover the bowl in clingfilm. You can leave the fruit to soak up the alcohol for anything up to a week.
When you’re ready to start making the pudding, set up your steamer or double boiler, or just a big pan of water with a trivet in the bottom would do. Get the water simmering. Then grease your bowl or bowls with a bit of butter, not forgetting the lids if your bowls come with them. If they don’t have a lid, you can improvise with a piece of greased baking paper, a double thickness of foil, and string to tie it onto the top of the bowl.
Use a big mixing bowl and mix together all the ingredients except the dried fruits – it’s easiest to start with the dry ingredients, then add the eggs, mix well, then add the lemon zest, apple, and honey last. Then add the dried fruit mixture and all the sherry/brandy juices, and mix well. At this point it’s traditional to ask every member of the family to stir the pudding and make a wish, especially if you’re making the pudding on Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. Divide the mixture between the individual pudding bowls or just plonk it in t.he one big bowl if that’s what you’re using. Press down the mixture so that there are no air gaps, and put on the lid. Place the pudding bowls in the steamer/double boiler/big pan and allow them to steam for a couple of hours for the small puds, or up to 5 hours for one big one. Check the water level every hour or so to make sure it doesn’t boil dry. Leave the puddings to cool after the appropriate cooking time, then take them out of the pan, dry off the outside of the bowls and put them somewhere cool and dark until you need them.
On Christmas day you can either set them to steam again for a couple of hours, or stick them in the microwave for 5 minutes until they’re piping hot (although I wouldn’t recommend using the microwave method for a single big pudding). Turn them out of their bowls onto a plate, pour over a bit of heated brandy and set it alight
(although vodka seems to light better than brandy, it doesn’t add anything to the taste). Traditionally served with a sprig of holly for decoration, and brandy sauce.