Christmas pudding dates to the 14th century and began life as a savoury dish, often consisting of beef and mutton with prunes, wine and spices. It was often eaten as a last big meal before a period of (relaxed) fasting before the Christmas feasts of Yuletide. Over the years it was adapted to become a much more indulgent and sweet dish (incorporating eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit) earning the name 'plum pudding' despite, as plum was a Victorian word for raisin. It was eventually incorporated into Christmas Dinner as 'afters'.
In order to allow the fruit to soften, the spices to mellow and the brandy to soak fully into the mixture (ensuring a full, rich flavour) the pudding is traditionally made several weeks before Christmas; that date has now become the last Sunday before advent and is known as Stir Up Sunday. For many, the making of the pudding is a family affair and everyone in the household gives the mixture a stir for luck. At the same time, a sixpence is added to the mixture ready for the dish to be eaten on Christmas Day. The lucky diner who finds the penny is believed to receive good luck and the prospect of wealth in the coming year.
What you’ll need:
450g dried mixed fruit – golden raisins/sultanas/raisins/ currants
25g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
55g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
110g shredded suet (vegetarian and wheat)
110g soft, dark brown sugar
25g whole shelled almonds
You may also need:
1 small, peeled, cored, grated bramley apple
1 lemon, ½ juiced and zest grated
1 orange, ½ juiced and zest grated
110g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 large, fresh eggs
6 tablespoons of brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
1) Lightly butter a 2 ½ pint pudding basin
2) Place the dried fruits and candied peel from bag 1 together with an apple, orange and juice of half a lemon and orange zest in a very large mixing bowl. Add brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate for a few hours
3) Stir together the contents of bag 2 – flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, the suet, sugar, nuts, along with breadcrumbs and lemon and orange zest in a very large mixing bowl, until all the ingredients are well mixed. Finally add marinated dried fruits and stir again.
4) Beat the eggs in a small bowl then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have fairly soft consistency
5) Take turns with the family to add coins and stir
6) Spoon the mixture in a greased pudding basin, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of the spoon. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper and baking parchment, then a layer of foil and secure it with string
7) Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam for 7 hours. Make sure the water doesn’t boil dry. It should be a deep brown colour when cooked.
8) Remove the pudding from the steamer and let it cool. Remove the paper, prick it and pour a little brandy. Cover with greaseproof paper and leave it till Christmas day!