In my family we traditionally make our Christmas Puddings and Christmas Cake on Mix-up Sunday (some call it Stir-up Sunday) which is the last Sunday in November. It’s a great family occasion when everyone gets to stir the pudding mixture and make a wish and a great chance to get children involved in some festive cookery. This recipe will make two good-sized puddings that serve 6 – 8 people, we tend to have one at Christmas and keep the second one to celebrate with on Easter Sunday.
110g candied peel, chopped
225g golden caster sugar
225g vegetarian suet
110g plain flour
110g white breadcrumbs
55g flaked almonds (optional – if you leave these out just add a little more fruit)
1 lemon, zest only
5 medium sized free range eggs, beaten
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp mixed spice
5g/1 level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
150ml brandy or rum
The night before:
- Carefully prepare the fruit. You may be surprised at how dirty fruit can be, with pieces of twig and dust. Having measured the fruit in one bowl I transfer it one handful at a time into another bowl, carefully watching out for anything I wouldn’t want to eat!
- I like to make the pudding rich and dark by soaking the sultanas and raisins in strong cold tea overnight. This really plumps up the fruit and gives the pudding a great richness. Just cover the fruit with cold tea and then put a tea towel over the bowl and leave it for 12 to 24 hours in a cool dry place.
On Mix-up Sunday
- If you soaked the fruit in tea overnight now is the time to drain it. You don’t want any excess tea making its way into the mixture. I recommend you tip the fruit into a colander and leave it to drain for 30 minutes while you weigh out the other ingredients.
- Grease 2×1.2 litre (2 pint) pudding basins with a little butter.
- Mix together all the dry ingredients.
- Stir in the eggs and brandy and mix well. The mixture should now be rich and sticky; if it seems wet and runny this may be because there is more liquid from the tea (or the brandy) than was needed. Just mix in a little more plain flour until the mixture is rich and sticky.
- Spoon the mix into basins. Put a circle of greaseproof paper and foil over the top of each basin and tie securely with string. Make a string handle from one side of the basin to the other so it is easier to pick the basin out of the pan after cooking.
- Put the basin in a large pan on an inverted saucer (don’t use a good saucer because the long cooking process is likely to damage the glaze) on the base. Pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides of the pudding bowls. Cover and steam for 6 to 7 hours.
- Allow the puddings to cool down. The cooking process will have killed any bacteria that would affect the pudding during storage. Some people say you should replace the greaseproof paper and foil but I think this risks adding bacteria to a sterile environment and might spoil your pudding during storage.
- At this stage I’ve usually had enough for one day, so I leave the puddings to cool on the worktop overnight.
- The next morning store the puddings in a cool cupboard until Christmas Day. Do make sure it’s a cool cupboard or pantry; avoid cupboards near a cooker, over a kettle, toaster or radiator where heat or steam may affect the contents.
On Christmas Day
- You need to repeat the above cooking process for at least two hours. Personally I think it’s very hard to overcook a Christmas pudding. The flavor develops with cooking. I find that putting the pudding on to steam at the same time as I start cooking the Turkey works well and is another job out of the way.
- When you are about to start serving the main course take the pudding off the heat and let it cool for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
- Traditionally Christmas Pudding is served with Brady Butter or Custard. I usually offer guests a choice between Custard or a good quality vanilla ice cream which I think gives a nice cool, light contrast to the richness of the pudding.
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