An exciting project I worked on is the forthcoming new Superquinn magazine called 'Savour'. It is due to hit the shelves in November and is packed full of Christmas! One of the things I contributed to in the magazine is a feature about the count down to Christmas. It is all about being organised in the lead up to the big day so that you can enjoy the main event itself. So don't freak out at my suggestion of getting your Christmas pudding made now - with time, it improves in taste and besides, making ahead will surely free up some time for Christmas partying.
Here is a recipe from my friend Jo Pratt in London. She wrote this for a book and programme we worked on for the BBC in about 2003 called 'Nation's Favourite Food'. I remember this as being a deliciously fruity pudding.
GRANDMA'S RICH CHRISTMAS PUDDING
This delicious Christmas pudding can make 3x 900g/2lb or 2x 1.5kg/3lb puddings.
50g/2oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
50g/2oz ground almonds
225g/8oz shredded suet
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
100g/4oz white breadcrumbs from a 2-day loaf
1.5kg/3lb mixed currants, raisins and sultanas
1 tbsp black treacle
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
1 orange, finely grated zest and juice
1 carrot, finely grated
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and grated
2 tbsp brandy or rum, plus extra for flaming
150ml/5fl oz dark ale or stout
4 eggs, beaten
flour and butter, for preparing the basins
1. Sift together the flours, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Stir in the almonds, suet, sugar and breadcrumbs, mixing well. Add the remaining pudding ingredients stirring well after each addition. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge or a really cool place for 24 hours or up to 1 week if possible, stirring a few times.
2. Grease and lightly flour either 3 x 900ml/1½ pint or 2 x 1.2 litre/2 pint basins and pack in the pudding mixture. Top the surface of the puddings with a circle of greaseproof paper, then cover with baking parchment or aluminum foil. Fold around the edges of the basin and tie with string, or tightly scrunch the foil under the lip of the basin. Place in a steamer of boiling water for about 6 hours, topping up with water every so often, making sure it doesn't boil away (if you don't have a steamer, you can place the pudding on an upturned bowl in the bottom of the saucepan).
3. Leave to cool and remove the parchment/foil and greaseproof paper and replace with a new lot. The puddings can now be stored in a cool, dry place. On the big day the pudding should be steamed for about 1½-2 hours, or covered loosely and heated in the microwave for about 6 minutes on high power, checking its progress every so often by inserting a skewer into the centre and leaving for a couple of seconds. If the skewer comes out piping hot, the pudding is ready to eat after standing for 1 minute. For more accurate timings it is best to check the manufacturer instructions.
4. To flame the pudding half-fill a metal ladle with brandy (or use as much as you want) and carefully heat over a gas flame or lit candle. When the flame is hot enough, the brandy will light. Pour the flaming brandy over the pudding. Make sure the lights are out when taking to the table for a grand entrance.