Christmas cooking: making the pudding


The most complicated thing about making Christmas pudding is remembering everything that goes in it. For some reason anything to do with Christmas requires twice as many ingredients as a normal food project, so with this recipe I found it was best to measure everything out into small bowls at the begining, ticking them off the ingredients list as I went.

I have to say this made me feel like a domestic science teacher (those of you over 40 will remember that domestic science was what cooking lessons were called at school, I even have an O level in it) and gave me a smug satisfaction of having done everything ‘right’. So this is what organised feels like…

This is a no nonsense, fat full, traditional pudding, from the Reader’s Digest Cookery Year, cica 1970, none of your wimpy health conscious stuff here, it is unapologetically heavy-weight, it’s even got shredded suet in, for heavens sake.

From Friday’s recipe, put all the fruit, alcohol (about 4 big glugs), spices and nuts into a giant mixing bowl (you need a good amount of stirring space) and set aside to steep. Find two pudding bowls and butter them well, using the 50gs of butter from the recipe, put a small square of greaseproof paper also buttered, at the base of the bowl.

You need to cut a large circle of greaseproof paper to cover the pudding, butter it and fold a pleat into the top to allow for the pudding to expand a little. put to one side and also find a bit of string or a large elastic band to hold it in place over the bowl (try searching the pavements, our postie drops rather nice red ones everywhere he goes. Wash ’em before use, obviously).

Back to the pudding, put all the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir. I use giant heaped teaspoonfuls of the spices because I can’t ever get enough cinnamon and nutmeg, but do what ever suits you. The finished mixture needs to be softly droppy- falling off the spoon in a sloppy way. I think puddings can take quite a bit of abuse so don’t panic if you only have 4 eggs or half the suet, you could easily swap the rum for Guiness even leave out the sugar if you want it to be less sweet (all that fruit makes it pretty peachy anyway).

Most important is the stir-and-wish stage. Every member of the family gets to do it, it’s what Christmas is all about. I usually accompany this with a swift glug from the bottle of rum/brandy/whatever has been used.

When all is stirred, pile the mix into the two pudding bowls and wrap the paper over. Purists might like to put foil over the greaseproof too, but I’m not quite sure why, Mary Berry recommends it. The bowls now need to go into a saucepan, sit them on top of a jam jar lid to keep them from touching the bottom of the pan and then half fill the pan with water, put on the lid. Bring to the boil and turn the heat right down low, the pan needs to simmer very gently for about 6 hours. Yep, I know that’s a long time.

Smug gits with Agas and Rayburns can put the watery saucepans in the simmering oven over night.

If this sounds too painful, you can microwave it, cover with clingfilm -slit cut for steam- and microwave for 10 mins, works according to Marguerite Patten but I didn’t do this, so can’t comment. ‘Why didn’t I do this?’ is a very good question, I think I wanted tradition (and a nice smelling kitchen) over efficiency.

When it’s cooked it will have gone a glorious dark brown colour and your kitchen will smell like, well, Christmas. When cool wrap the puds in foil and store in a cool place, To heat, stick in a microwave for 2-4 mins, depending on your machine.

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