You need no excuse on a wet November Sunday, to start planning your Christmas menu, this recipe creates a light and fruity pud, which will gently mature over the coming weeks and be perfect for Christmas day.
Stir up Sunday fall on 24 November this year. Traditionally the last Sunday before Advent when puddings were made to allow them time to mature before serving on the 25 December.
For my recipe, to make a pudding to keep and one to gift, you will need…
Make two puddings so that you have one for yourself and one to give away.
You will need 2 x 1 litre (2 pint) pudding bowls, baking parchment and muslin for steaming and then enough to replace the cloth for storage. You will also need a saucepan with a tight fitting lid large enough to hold each pudding along with a trivet or old saucer turned upside down in the pad to stand the puddings on.
The day before you wish to make your puddings, chop the Agen prunes into small pieces and soak in 150 ml (1/4 pint) port
200g (8oz) white spelt flour or plain white flour if you prefer
200g (8oz) ground almonds
200g (8oz) light soft brown sugar
200g (8oz) unsalted butter at room temperature (plus a little extra for buttering the pudding basins)
200g (8oz) fine cut Seville orange marmalade
400g (1 lb) pitted Agen prunes or dried plums chopped and soaked overnight in port
200g (8oz) sultanas
Zest of two unwaxed lemons
1 whole nutmeg grated
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 free range eggs – beaten together
150 ml medium cider – try to seek out a local orchard. We love Cranborne Chase cider.
Place extra butter in an oven proof bowl inside the simmering oven or use a microwave to melt gently. Brush the base and sides of the pudding bowls and cut a round of baking parchment to fit in the base of each.
Cut another circle of baking parchment to fit the top of each pudding bowl once the pudding is made. Prepare muslin squares to fit your bowls and make sure that you have everything you need for steaming.
Measure out the dry ingredients and using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, add the almonds, spelt flour, lemon zest and spices along with the eggs and mix until combined. Then add the marmalade and mix well.
At this stage you may need to remove the bowl from you stand mixer and continue mixing by hand. Add the cider, soaked prunes and the sultanas. Gather everyone around to give you a hand to stir and encourage them all to make a wish!
When the pudding is well and truly mixed, transfer to the prepared pudding bowls and pack the mixture down tightly. Cover the top of each pudding with a circle of baking parchment. Then tie the muslin squares (or use foil) over the top. Allow a pleat in the fold of the muslin (or foil) as the pudding will rise slightly as it cooks.
How to cook
Place each pudding in a steamer over a pan of boiling water and steam for six hours.
2, 3, 4-oven AGA
After placing the pudding in a large saucepan on a trivet or upturned saucer, fill the pan halfway up the pudding with hot water. Cover with the lid and place on the boiling plate, bring to the boil then transfer to the simmering plate for 15 – 20 minutes and then transfer to the simmering oven and cook for 6-8 hours.
After the puddings are cooked, removed from the pan and allowed to cool. Replace the muslin or foil along with the baking parchment and store in a cool, dark place to mature for Christmas.
When you want to re-heat the puddings, steam as before for two hours. Serve with spiced butter or whipped cream with a generous dash of Somerset cider brandy.
- When I worked as a private chef, I often sold Christmas puddings at the local farmer’s market, we found that the pudding was improved by letting it stand for twenty four hours in the ‘fridge and then cooked the following day. This is not necessary but if you are running short of time it may be easier to spread the task over a couple of days.
- When I have needed to cook several puddings at once I have used a large roasting tin, lined with newspaper to act as a buffer between the puds and the metal tray. Then filled the tray halfway with hot water and steamed inside the AGA roasting oven (grid shelf on the floor of the oven). This method works well but you do need to be around to keep topping the water level up every hour or so. Once the puddings are hot they can be transferred (very carefully) to the simmering oven and left overnight.
- Lighting the pud is always easier if you preheat your spirit (we use vodka) and then carry this in a jug to the table separately. When everything is in place pour your hot spirit over the pud and then flame.
- Waste not, want not. Our favourite way to serve left over Christmas pudding is delicious cut into slices and pan fried in butter to serve on Boxing Day.