Christmas Pudding

A Pudding for July?

And so we come to July. And, with the sun beating down through the windows in my dining room*, it’s time to fish out a favourite recipe of mine and begin the preparations for a White Christmas. It seems somewhat anachronistic at this time of year - the fact that it’s Summer means that I’m actually about 6 months late in making this particular recipe; perhaps the grim cold of January would have felt more appropriate. But that’s what you get for moving house early in the year, taking up all of January and February, and a good couple of weeks in March. The remaining time I have no excuse for. Unpacking and settling into my new kitchen?

But all of that doesn’t matter because today is a very special day. Today I’m cracking out the most decadent PX sherry I can find, chopping nuts and dried fruits, washing out my pudding bowls and starting the festive season.

That’s right, I’m making Christmas puddings!

I had planned to make these at the start of the year so that they’d have a full year to mature (last year I only got around to making them in October so they only had a couple of months… admittedly they were still pretty incredible!), but now they’ll just have a few months. I think they can handle it.

I have already informed my husband that he’d better make sure he’s around tomorrow to stir the mixture before their first steaming - the more people stir the mixture the more luck the puddings will bring to your home in the new year. A silly old tradition, for which he laughed at me, of course, but I can’t help but think that it’s very appropriate for a Christmas recipe; Christmas is all about Joy and Peace and Goodwill and Love and spending time with family and enjoying your home, so I want to start all that off with a really good dose of love and luck in my insanely delicious puds.

The recipe is actually one I ended up creating myself last year. I was frustrated by the pickings of those on offer from famous “TV personality” chefs and “traditional” British cook books. One had no figs (since Christmas Pudding is also known as “Figgy Pudding” this was clearly a non-starter!); another called for copious amounts of barley wine (hard to get hold of); one had barely any dried fruits (nary a glace cherry in sight!); another was even suet-free! I took ideas from about a dozen recipes, and my own idea of what a Christmas Pudding should be, and so my very own recipe was born.

Now, I know that this is probably the highest FODMAP recipe you’ll ever see on this site, and I did agonise over whether or not to include it here (dried fruits are one of the worst for me, especially cherries), but decided that, since I would still be partaking of this particular delicacy come 25th December (and a handful of other dates in December thanks to various far-flung family parties), I could assume that at least one other low-FODMAPper would join me in allocating 26th December a “stay-at-home-in-baggy-pyjamas-eating-only-cucumber-all-day” occasion, thus it would be unfair of me to deprive everyone else of its deliciousness!

It’s not difficult to make - it just takes a while. You steep a load of nuts and dried fruits in a generous glass of sherry overnight, mix in the rest of the ingredients, and you’re golden. The most complicated aspect in the prep work is making sure that the pudding bowls are lined and wrapped properly (and re-wrapped after cooking!, see separate post on wrapping steamed puddings), and you do need to keep an eye on the water level whilst you’re cooking, but apart from that it’s pretty straightforward.

I’ve split the ingredients and method into two days. This is simply because the fruits and nuts need to be soaked overnight in the sherry, and this should help you plan your Christmas Kitchen and shopping trips - especially if you’re making lots of other Christmas goodies and it’s getting near to December! You can make it all in one day if you start very early in the morning so that the fruit etc. still has a good long soaking time - but don’t forget that you’ll need to steam them that same evening as well. I can only steam two at once in my kitchen which means I need two rounds of steaming totalling 7 hours! This 7 hours (or 14 if you only have one steamer) is a perfect excuse to stay in all day or all evening and get lots of other kitchen “stuff” done - stay tuned for lots of lovely Christmassy biscuits, crackers and sweet treats to follow to help you fill this time. I promise that at least some of these will be much more FODMAP-happy! (Brownies are Christmassy, right?!)

Once you’ve made the puddings and they’ve had their initial steam they can sit in a dark cupboard for months, or in the freezer for years, a cute little row of perfectly wrapped packages awaiting their final steam (another 3 ½ hours!) on The Big Day before they’re covered in flaming brandy and holly leaves when everyone is a little bit merry and we all put aside our inhibitions and tunefully demand more food “and a Happy New Year”.

*actually I’m fibbing here. The warm-ish sun went in a few hours ago and the heavens opened. This is still British Summer Time, after all. We probably won’t have a White Christmas either, but a girl can dream!


Casey’s Christmas Pudding Recipe

Makes approx. 4x 2 pint puddings, each serving 8-10 (great for gifts, or ready-made for Christmases to come!)
FODMAP rating: not great - dried fruits, wheat flour and breadcrumbs. Assess your own tolerance and decide whether or not you want to push the boat out for Christmas - I will!
Difficulty: easy
Time: a couple of days (minimum actual effort, honestly)

Ingredients:

Day 1:

  • 700g combination raisins, sultanas and currants
  • 150g combination chopped dates and figs
  • 125g chopped mixed peel
  • 100g chopped dried apricots
  • 75g dark glace cherries, halved/quartered
  • 75g chopped almonds
  • 150ml Pedro Ximenez sherry (or any other rich sherry)

Day 2:

  • 350g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 250g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 250g suet
  • 100g ginger in syrup, chopped, plus 2tbsp of the syrup
  • 1tsp each: cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg, allspice, cloves (adjust to your preference)
  • 6x eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1x lemon, zest
  • 2x oranges, juice and zest
  • 2x apples or quinces, grated down to the core, including skin

Method:

Day 1:

  • Weigh out the ingredients on the first half of the list.
  • Place everything into a large mixing bowl and pour over the sherry.
  • Leave to soak for at least several hours and preferably overnight.

Day 2:

  • Grease your pudding bowls and put a circle of greaseproof/baking paper in the bottom of each to make it easier to get the puddings out on Christmas Day.
  • Weigh out and chop, zest, juice, grate and otherwise prepare the rest of the ingredients on the second half of the list to make sure that you have everything ready to go.
  • Hint: Grate the apples/quinces at the last minute when everything else is ready to be mixed together to minimise them browning too much. If they do brown a little this won’t affect the taste of the pudding, don’t worry!
  • Mix the Day 2 ingredients together, then add to the soaked fruit. Mix well, and rope in as many people as possible to help with the mixing.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared bowls - leave a little space at the top because this mixture will rise over the top of the bowls!
  • Cover the tops of the puddings with pleated greaseproof (to allow for expansion during cooking) and wrap the bowls in foil, tie securely with string and make a string handle (see guide on wrapping puddings).
  • Steam for 3½ hours on low/medium heat, checking the water level every now and then - do not allow to boil dry!
  • Allow to cool, remove foil and greaseproof. Re-wrap exactly the same way again again, including the pleated greaseproof. Store in a dark, cool, dry place (back of a cupboard is good if you can spare the real estate in your kitchen!).

The Big Day: Plan ahead!

The pudding needs another 3½ hours to steam today, so don’t leave it until the last minute!

  • Take the wrapped pudding out of the cupboard and steam for a further 3½ hours, as before.
  • Turn out of the bowl onto a serving plate (don’t forget to remove the circle of greaseproof from on the top!), pour flaming brandy over the top and serve with brandy sauce.