9 December 2013

Christmas Pudding

Towards the end of November every year I make the Christmas Pudding.  This traditional end to an English Christmas Lunch is a firm favourite with everyone in the family.  Here in Astana  Christmas is celebrated in January per the Orthodox calendar so we celebrate twice, this means that I cook up two puddings, one for our small family celebration in December and a larger one for the January Christmas when we usually have friends over to celebrate. 

There is no hard and fast recipe for pudding so it is very forgiving if you cannot get the main ingredients.  I usually throw together 450g of dried fruit (in the UK I use currants, sultanas, candied peel and prunes) with a wine glass of Mead,  Madeira or Sherry.  Leave the dried fruit to soak for 2-3 days before throwing in 100g plain flour, and 275g mix of suet and breadcrumbs, 150g muscvado sugar, lemon zest, a peeled and grated apple, 2 tablespoons of molasses, treacle or honey depending on what I have in the cupboard, 3 large eggs and mix well.  I also add koekkruiden (a mix of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, Ground Cloves, Ground Nutmeg, Ground Ginger, ground Cardamom, ground Star Anise and Mace my sop to my Dutch heritage) but traditionally a pudding would contain cinnamon and cloves.

English tradition calls for every member of the family to stir the pudding and make a wish while they do so.  It is also traditional to put sliver charms into the mix for example a wishbone for luck or an anchor to give people safe harbour in the coming year.  When in the UK I trawl antique shops for a set of charms, I could buy a new set but that would take some of the fun out of the hunt.  For the moment I use coins, (cleaned thoroughly in coca-cola before putting in the mix).

The mix then goes into one large or two small well greased pudding basins, I use a traditional ceramic basin which means I need to  seal the top with cling and muslin or with foil but it is possible to buy plastic basins that come with their own lids.  Mine is plain but I covet a beautiful patterned basin just for Christmas.  Mason and Cash, a famous bakeware manufacturer in the UK designs a new Christmas pattern every year but I have never been able to justify the expense when I have a perfectly good basin, after all the pudding is served on a plate so I am the only person who would see it.

Once the pudding is transferred and safely in the basin it needs to be steamed.  This can be done on the hob but that takes up space and needs to be monitored to make sure that it does not go dry.  I tend to steam in a low (110/120 degree C) oven, leaving the puddings for about 6 hours for the first steaming.  On Christmas day I will either steam the pudding for an hour or two while we eat our meal or, if we forget, I put it in the microwave. 

When it is time to serve the pudding goes onto a plate and we warm some high percentage alcohol in a metal ladle (a lighter is better than matches for this).  When the alcohol starts to smoke we pour it over the pudding, turn out the lights and set it on fire.  The flickering flames look spectacular.

Christmas Pudding set alight and ready to be served.
The pudding is traditionally served with brandy butter - a mix of butter, icing sugar and brandy but I usually swap the same liquor I used in the pudding for the brandy.

Click on the picture for more posts on the challenges of  the expat kitchen.

Ersatz Expat