On the Fourth Day of Christmas, The Country Kitchen baked for me… …Christmas Pudding
With Christmas Day over for another year and the fridge well stocked full of leftover turkey, ham, vegetables, stuffing, chutneys and whatever else made it onto our tables this Christmas, I turn my attention to the one thing that truly takes centre stage on any Christmas table after the main meal; Christmas Pudding.
So, hands up who ate more Christmas Pudding than they initially planned on this year? Maybe with an extra spoonful (or two) of that delicious Brandy Sauce eyeing you up from the side of table… Don’t be shy, go on put those hands in the air!
But the question I am really wondering is if you took the time to make your Christmas Pudding from scratch, or did as most of us do and buy one in to save hours of stirring and steaming? Personally I am not one to judge on either decision you made, as (hold your breath) I don’t actually like Christmas Pudding. Yep, cannot stand the stuff. I know, I know how can I say that? Especially over Christmas when we eat over 7,500 tons of the stuff according to a very informative article in The Daily Mail on the Derbyshire based firm Matthew Walker. Now that is a lot of pudding!
Now I am not ashamed of disliking Christmas Pudding, in fact I know many people who are of the same opinion as I am. I don’t care how much brandy sauce, custard of cream you put on the top of it, I am not going to eat it.
To be honest, I am not quite sure what it is that I don’t like about Christmas Pudding, as all of the ingredients used to make them are actually some of my favourites – raisins, sultanas, apples, currents, citrus fruit, brandy… I don’t know, maybe it’s some weird childhood thing where I tried it once and didn’t like it, and now there is some underlying psychological belief that I don’t like it. Anyway, that’s not to say I don’t respect them. I have a lot of respect for a Christmas Pudding and the amount of time and effort that goes into making one of these traditional yuletide desserts. But just don’t expect me to have even one bite of one should you ever serve me a piece on Christmas Day! I may turn into one of those children that wrinkle their noses up and pushes their plate away as if it were full of vegetables. And we all know how annoying that is…
This year, I was asked to make three Christmas Puddings for a gentleman who wanted to give them to his children over Christmas as presents. If I am to be totally honest with you, I was rather worried about making them as I had never done one, let alone three, before and knew they were a lot of work. And a lot of work they were! But the finished result was something I am extremely proud of, and I am so glad I made the effort to learn how to do these properly.
In order to do that, I spent days going through multiple cookery books, programs and articles, both on-line and in my local library as well as at home, until I decided that traditional really was the best way to go. I decided to use a recipe that was over 150 years old and written by the first cookery writer of the 19th century for domestic cooks, rather than professional chefs. I am of course talking about the famous Eliza Acton. This amazing woman was the first real ‘culinary goddess’ of modern cook books, even preceding the brilliant Mrs Beeton who most of us home bakers are more familiar with. Her version of Plum Pudding, as it more traditionally know, is one of the best, if not THE best, around, and has proven the test of time on multiple occasions. Did you know that the legendary The Carved Angel Restaurant in Devon even uses this same Victorian recipe for their luxury Christmas Puddings, which have been rated as the best in the Country? It’s true, and you know your onto a winner when you find that out!
During my research into Christmas Puddings and the best recipes to use for both flavour and appearance, I stumbled across a brilliant article in The Telegraph written by Xanthe Clay, the woman behind the ‘Readers’ Recipe’ column. She took it upon herself to test out five recipes for Christmas Puddings, and see which one really was the best. Believe it or not, the recipe from dear Eliza came out on top, beating the more popular contenders such as Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith! I guess the saying
if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ”
really does ring true on this occasion!
So onto the recipe itself, which I adapted slightly from an amazing cook, writer and inspiration to all us home bakers, just trying to make the world a little more appetising, one bite at a time.
The Country Kitchen’s Christmas Pudding
- 75g Plain Flour
- 75g White Breadcrumbs , fresh
- 180g Beef Suet, shredded
- 120g Apples, weight when peeled and cored
- 180g Raisins
- 180g Sultanas
- 150g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
- 25g Candied Orange Peel
- 25g Candied Lemon Peel
- 1 tsp. Mixed Spice
- 1 tsp. Nutmeg
- 1 tsp. Cinnamon
- A pinch of salt
- 175ml Brandy
- x3 Free-Range Eggs
- Get a large mixing bowl and combine together the flour and breadcrumbs, then add in the shredded suet and mix briefly.
- Peel, core and small chop the apples and add to the mixture along with the raisins and sultanas. Stir with a wooden spoon until the fruits are coated in the breadcrumbs etc.
- Next add the sugar and give a quick mix, then throw in the candied citrus peels and stir very thoroughly until everything is totally combined.
- Now is the time to add the spices and salt. Measure them out in a separate bowl first and blend together so they are mixed into one another, then add to the bowl and mix again.
- Make a well in the centre of your mixing bowl and measure out 175ml of Brandy, approximately one small wineglass. Pour into the well and mix into the fruits, starting from the outer edges first and gradually working your way into the centre with every 2 turns of the spoon around the bowl – this will allow the brandy to soak evenly into the fruits, rather than just the ones in the middle of the bowl. Mix very well then leave to stand for 30 minutes.
- While the mixture is resting, grease the sides of your pudding basins well with butter, as this will stop them sticking and allow them to slide out easily after steaming.
- Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add to the pudding mixture, using the same technique you used for the brandy by making a well and mixing from the outside in.
- Spoon into the pudding basin leaving about a 5mm space from the top, and flatten the top down so the mixture is packed in well. Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper and cover the top of the pudding with it, then make a lid of foil over this and tie a string handle around the edge of the bowl, so that you can easily lift it in and out of the pan. If you are using plastic pudding bowls, simply clip the lid on and you’re done!
- Bring a deep saucepan of water to the boil and gently place the pudding in the middle, so that the water comes 2/3rds of the way up the sides of the bowl.
- Bring back to the boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Put a lid on the saucepan and simmer for 4 hours, topping the water up every 30minutes or so as necessary. It is important that the water level stays the same, as too low and the pudding will not cook properly, yet too high and the fat from the pudding will escape.
- Once the pudding is a dark mahogany colour and has set nicely in the bowl, remove from the saucepan and allow to cool.
- Discard the greaseproof paper and foil lids and replace with new ones, making sure the sides of both the greaseproof paper and foil come down the bowl long enough for you to turn the edges up so they are sealed. Retie the string handle around the edge of the bowl and store the pudding in a cool, dark place until Christmas Day.
- To serve, boil the pudding in the same way as before for 1- 1 ½ hours and then carefully remove the foil and parchment lids. Turn out onto a serving dish and pour over hot brandy, then light with a match as you bring it to the table. Serve with Brandy Sauce and a glass of dessert wine.
So next Christmas, why not turn up your sleeves and have a go at your very own Christmas Pudding? It really is a lot more fun than you think, and you could even make miniature ones and give them away as presents. There really is no better gift than that of one made with personal thought and imagination.
Merry Christmas to one and all and may you enjoy the rest of 2013 and look forward to your very own home-made Christmas Pudding next year!
Happy Baking x