I love all the traditions and memories that Christmas celebrations bring to our family. Growing up with a mother who loved to bake, October was the month for preparing the cake and pudding, a much more arduous job than it is today. All the individual fruits had to be thoroughly washed, dried and stoned, unlike the easy-to-open packets available today. The fruit was soaked in either Sherry or ‘Hospital’ Brandy. When the day came to make the cake and pudding, the butter was left out to soften, butter papers saved to line the cake tin, and it was ‘all hands on deck’, to grate the suet for the pudding, and mix the ingredients for both. Everyone got to stir the cake mix and make a wish.
The silver threepences or sixpences were sterilized, ready to be stirred into the pudding. Sadly we can’t use today’s coins because of their metal content, The Royal Australian Mint, has an on-line store where you can buy bags of vintage threepences and sixpences.
Last year I made this fabulous pudding from Luke Mangan’s book, At Home & in the Mood, and love it, so am making it again this year. I had made an extra one and stored it in the fridge for a ‘Christmas in July’ celebration, and it was even better with age. Smaller puddings make fantastic gifts too, so get cooking early.
Makes: 2 x 1.5 kg puddings, or 3 x 1 kg puddings, or 6 x 500g puddings,
For the Fruit Mix
- 500g raisins
- 350g sultanas
- 115g currants
- 235g dates, chopped
- 235g prunes, chopped
- 80g mixed peel
- 60g glace cherries, chopped
- 60g blanched almonds
- 45g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 150ml dark rum
- 150ml brandy
To make the Pudding
- 500g unsalted butter
- 250g plain flour
- 115g ground almonds
- 300g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 stubby Guinness, flat
- 300g dark brown sugar
- 8 free-range eggs
- extra butter for greasing, castor sugar and a little extra breadcrumbs
1. Roast the hazelnuts in a 160C, preheated oven, for about 10 minutes. Place them in a clean tea towel and rub well to dislodge the skins and then chop them. It really makes a huge difference to the texture and flavour when you do this.
2. Combine all the ingredients for the Fruit Mix in a large bowl or storage container and mix well. Pour over the brandy and rum and soak for at least a few days, the longer the better.
To make the pudding
1. Grease the pudding basins with melted butter and dust with castor sugar mixed with breadcrumbs, getting rid of any excess of this mix.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave on Med Low for about 5 minutes or until just melted. Cool a little.
3. I find the kitchen sink, very well cleaned and dried, is the best place to mix large quantities of pudding and cake mixes. Plenty of room to stir the mix, and very easy to clean afterwards.
3. Sift the flour over the soaked fruits, add the ground almonds, breadcrumbs, Guinness, sugar and eggs. Add the melted butter.
4. Mix well with a wooden spoon, or don some disposable gloves and use your hands – so much easier.
5. Spoon the pudding mix into the prepared bowls, press in well and smooth over the top.
5. Cover the top of each pudding with a circle of greased baking paper, then cover again with a double layer of foil. Tie the foil securely with butchers twine, ensuring a very tight fit.
6. When ready to cook, put a trivet or up-turned small plate in the base of the pot, place the pudding bowl on top, and fill the pot with boiling water to come three quarters of the way up the side of the pudding basin. Cover with a secure fitting lid.
KEEP THE KETTLE READY WITH BOILING WATER
7. Simmer for about 5 – 6 hours, for a very large pudding, about 5 hours for the smaller ones. Check every hour or so, and top up the boiling water when necessary.
8. Remove the pudding from the pot. When cool enough to handle, remove the foil and paper and allow the top of the pudding to dry overnight, this will help prevent any mould forming, especially if you keep the pudding for several months. Definitely recommended.
9. To store until Christmas, re-cover the pudding with fresh paper and foil, and store in a cool dry place, or in the fridge is you have the space.
To Reheat on Christmas Day, Steam again in a large pot about for 2 hours.
OR – MY PREFERRED WAY
Remove the pudding from the basin, place on up-turned plate on Microwave turntable. Splash with a little water and Microwave on Medium for about 15 minutes or until warmed through – so much quicker and far less messy.