Something about pudding
I find it very odd that after so many years of moving around in the country, I had never had Christmas Pudding. Christmas cake, now that you'll find. Packaged, gourmet, freshly baked and all sorts. But pudding? That has been hard to find. Some restaurants do serve pudding, but I can never be sure if what they served is steamed or baked, and a true pudding is always steamed. So I set out to do what I usually do, make one on my own.
I am sucker for food with history, and this pudding, well this comes with a legacy. Christmas pudding has been around since medieval times. It existed in a very different form and our modern day puds are derivations of those recipes that originated in ancient English kitchens. In contemporary puddings, you still have the dried fruits, the breadcrumbs, the alcohol, and in many cases, the suet whereas the earliest puddings were made out of the dried fruit, bread, spices, meat, stock and were more of a broth or jelly than a true pudding. If you take a look at what went into those age old puddings, you'll be glad of our modern day adaptions. When trade and travel took off, the English were introduced to more variety of fruit and recipes started evolving.
In the medieval times, the pudding started life as a way of preserving the bounty of summer - the (dried) fruit and as substantial, rich meals to fight the cold, hard English winters. The pudding has been known by some interesting names - plumb porridge and even plum pottage (I read that twice and it's not a spelling mistake). Whether it had any real plums, or dried ones at that - is a mystery. Oliver Thring says that it was called 'plum' because of the dried currants.
The Pudding is made on Stir Up Sunday - traditionally the day to make a Christmas pudding so it has time to mature. The term is from the Book of Common Prayer - "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded."
It's true what Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall says "whatever your religion, if you like to cook, they're stirring words"
Still want to read more? Well here you go -
Consider Christmas pudding by Oliver Thring
The history of 'plumb porridge' at Christmas by Laura Mason
When to make the Christmas pudding? on Food Timeline
A Dessert With a Past by Kate Colquhoun
The essentials for the best puddings by Dan Lepard
Adapted from Lesley Waters on BBC
This recipe is for those who want to make the pudding very close to Christmas. It's easy and comes together very easily. I specifically chose one with butter because, well, suet is not something I was willing to use and I didn't want to substitute. The recipe does have eggs - because eggs bind everything together when cooking. Use whatever dried fruit you like - there is no real combination. Also my pudding was not as dark as I had hoped it would be - it needs to steam much longer than the time given (steam it for 3-4 hours) to get that deep dark colour (I read somewhere that it's the long steaming time that makes it that lovely dark colour)
You need -
450g mixed dried fruit (such as figs, apricots, raisins, cranberries, currants, almonds, hazelnuts and cashew nuts)
150ml dark rum (or brandy or whiskey)
1 orange, grated zest and juice
110 butter, softened, plus extra, melted, for greasing
110g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
55 gm plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
55 gm fresh breadcrumbs
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
vanilla custard, thick cream or ice cream
To make the pudding -
1.Chop the dried fruit roughly and place them in a large bowl. Add the grated orange zest to the fruit, then pour over the orange juice and the alcohol you are using (or replace the alcohol with some marmalade or more orange juice).
2.Mix all of the bowl contents together until well combined. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a cool place overnight.
3.The next day, lightly grease the pudding basins with the melted butter and place a disc of butter paper into the base of each.
4.In a very large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy using an electric whisk (this will take about five minutes).
5.Whisk in the beaten eggs, a little at a time, incorporating each addition into the batter before adding the next.
6.When all of the eggs have been mixed in, add the soaked fruit and and leftover juices, then stir well to combine.
7.Add the flour and the breadcrumbs to the mixture and stir to combine.
8.Add the nuts and spices and mix gently until well combined. (The mixture should be of dropping consistency.)
9.Spoon the mixture into the prepared pudding basins and cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper and a single sheet of aluminium foil. Tie with string.
10.Prepare a steamer and steam the puddings for 1.5 -2 hours. You can eat the puddings at this stage, or you can cool them completely and store them, in their basins, in a cool dark place, re-steaming them for 1/2 an hour before serving.
11.To serve, carefully remove the puddings from the basins and turn each out onto a serving plate.
12. Garnish each serving with a few extra cherries and serve with custard, thick cream or ice cream.