Friday, 30 October 2015

October’s bake of the month

The Christmas pudding, or plum pudding as it’s sometimes called, has a history dating back to Medieval England.

The pudding would be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity; it would contain 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 disciples and every family member would give it a stir from east to west to honour the Magi (the Three Wise Men) on their journey. 

Unlike the Christmas pudding we know today it was actually a savoury meat dish with consistency similar to porriage. By the 14th century citrus fruit and exotic spices had started to be added, and by the end of the 16th century the addition of eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit made it more in keeping with what we know of today.

Contrary to its name, the pudding has never had plums in it. In Victorian times dried fruit, such as raisins and currants, were called plums, which was why it was called ‘plum pudding’.

Christmas pudding is traditionally made on ‘stir-up Sunday’, the last Sunday in November. Each family member would gather round take it in turn to give the pudding a stir then make a wish.

I’d always wanted to make a Christmas pudding but steaming it for hours and hours then doing the same thing on Christmas day kept putting me off. Shortly after buying ‘Captain Slow’ (our slow cooker. Yes I know we’re terribly sad at giving things names....) I came across a recipe in a slow cooker cook book for a Christmas pudding. There was no stopping me now !!!!!

Christmas pudding 
(adapted from a Delia recipe)
  • 4oz (110g) shredded suet
  • 2oz (50g) self-raising flour
  • 4oz (110g) white bread crumbs (roughly three slices of bread)
  • 1 level tsp ground mixed spice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg (either freshly grated or dried)
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 8oz (225g) soft dark brown sugar
  • 4oz (110g) sultanas
  • 4oz (110g) raisins
  • 10oz (275g) currants
  • 1oz (25g) mixed chopped peel
  • 1oz (25g) almonds, chopped
  • 1 small cooing apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • Grated rind of ½ large orange and ½ large lemon or 1 small lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp brandy or rum
  • 5fl oz (150ml) stout or dark ale – not beer as it’s too bitter
  • Lightly grease a 2 pint (1.2 litre) pudding basin.
  • Pre-heat the slow cook on high for about 20 minutes.
  • The day before you want to make the pudding take a large mixing bowl and add the suet, breadcrumbs and sugar. Sift in the flour and spices then mix everything together thoroughly.
  • Gradually add the grated orange and lemon zests and apple.
  • Break the eggs into a small bowl then add the rum/brandy and stout/dark ale. Beat everything together thoroughly.
  • Pour the egg liquid over the other ingredients and thoroughly mix together. Now is the traditionally time for everyone to have their turn at mixing the pudding and making a wish – but don’t tell anyone your wish or it won’t come true.....
  • The mixture should be a rather sloppy consistence - it should instantly fall off the spoon when it’s tapped on the side of the bowl. Add a little more stout/dark ale if necessary.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea-towel and leave overnight.
  • The next day pour the mixture into the greased pudding basin. Cover with a double sheet of greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil then tie securely with string.
  • Have the basin standing by the slow cooker as you wait for the kettle to heat up. Once the kettle has boiled put it next to the basin. You need to have everything ready on hand so not to lose too much of the cookers heat once the lid is removed.
  • Place the basin into the centre of the cooker and add the boiling water to about ¾ of the way up the basin. Don’t let the water touch any overhanging greaseproof paper as it may seep into the pudding. Quickly replace the lid.
  • Leave it to cook on high for about 10 hours, checking on it every now and then to see if it needs the water topping up, and if so, fill it back up with boiling water.
  • Once the pudding is cooked, allow it to go cold then replace the greaseproof paper and foil for fresh pieces. Store it in a dark, cool place until the big day.
  • To re-heat it on Christmas day repeat the cooking instructions (eg pre-heat the cooker etc) and cook on high for four hours. Serve with brandy/rum sauce or custard.
  • I find it best to chop the apples last so not to let them go brown. You could also pour a little lemon juice over them as the lemon stops them from discolouring.
  • If you like your pudding a little more alcoholic then substitute some of the stout/dark ale for brandy or rum. Not all of it though as you don’t want it 100% proof!!!!
  • As there’s such a lot of ingredients I find it best to tick off each one off as I’m weighing them out, and also as I’m adding them to the mix, so nothing gets forgotten about.
  • Make a handle with the string to help lift the basin out (the internet will show you how to do this. I’m hopeless at tying knots – mine always come loose – so I just use oven gloves....).
  • Any leftovers can be re-heat on Boxing day in the microwave or how about making some Christmas pudding ice-cream. Yum, yum !!!!

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