The Best Christmas Pudding

‘Christmas?!?!?’ I hear you cry. Do not despair! The shops may already have baubles dangling and lights blinking but in most people’s minds, Christmas is far far away. Well, today it is officially less than two months until Christmas day! With that in mind, I thought that I would share my christmas pudding recipe, which, made two months in advance is deliciously dark and dense by the time it gets to christmas. If made in advance, you can ‘feed’ your pudding every week in order to saturate it with brandy – yum!

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If you are considering buying one I will give you my advice: homemade ones are far superior! They require a little effort, but if you have nothing to do on a lazy weekend, this is a great way to fill the time. The only faff is the steaming of the pudding (but it gives it a fab flavour!)

Obviously there is all the hoo-ha about which alcohol to use, and whether to use barley wine or stout and which suet… By the end of this to-doing you could have made the pudding already! My recipe is pretty much a classic Christmas pud, but has decadent flavours that will impress everyone on Christmas day. Some ingredients can be changed or substituted if not to your taste.

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The pudding is also very easy to store (keeps 6-12 months) and can be heated up easily in the microwave on Christmas day, which means no fuss. Then, when you produce, with a flourish, a dark sticky pudding, ablaze with turquoise brandy, your guests will be mightily impressed.

A quick note before I get going: do not be bamboozled by the amount of ingredients; they are easy to buy and find. Instead of using separate measures of currants, sultanas, raisins and mixed peel, I buy a bag of Sainsbury’s mixed dried fruit (found by the raisins), which contains all of the above ingredients. If you use this, then you need about one 500g bag (possibly a little less).
Without any more ado:

The Best Christmas Pudding
Fills one 2 pint basin (easily doubled)
You need:
110g/4oz shredded suet
50g/2oz self raising flour
110g/4oz white breadcrumbs
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
225g/8oz soft brown sugar (light or dark)
75g/3oz raisins
75g/3oz sultanas
200g/7oz currants
30g/1oz mixed peel
30g/1oz chopped, blanched almonds
1 small cooking apple: peeled, cored and finely chopped
zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon
2 eggs
3 tbsp rum
125ml/4.5oz stout
You will also need: greaseproof, foil and string

1) In a large bowl, mix the suet, flour, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Then gradually add all the dried fruit, peel and almonds, followed by the apple and the orange and lemon zest.

2) In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Next, mix in the rum, barley wine and stout. Mix into the dry ingredients and give a good stir (lots of elbow grease!). If the mixture is too thick, you may need a little more stout (the mixture should fall from the spoon when tapped against the side of the bowl).

3) Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave overnight.

4) The next day, grease a one pint pudding basin (mine is plastic with a lid, from lakeland) with butter and cut a small circle of greaseproof to line the bottom. When in place, pack the mixture right to the top.

5) Cover the basin with a square of greaseproof paper and then a square of foil. Watch this video to show how to wrap the pudding.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/techniques/sealing_steamed_puddings

6) Once sealed, place the pudding basin in a pan of simmering water. This video shows you how to steam it:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/techniques/steaming_puddings
The water should come about two thirds of the way up the pudding. Steam the pudding for 6-8 hours. Keep topping up the water as some will evaporate. When cooked and cooled, cover with a fresh layer of greaseproof and foil and seal with a lid.

7) Store in a cool dry place. Every week running up to Christmas, prick the pudding with a skewer all over and feed about 2-3 tbsp brandy.

8) On the big day, either steam again for two hours of heat in the microwave (remove the foil first!) for 6-8 minutes on high. Dowse in brandy and set alight! Serve with brandy cream or butter.

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