In some households the Christmas pudding is the Marmite of Christmas – some don’t like it, some absolutely love it. Happily most fall into the latter category. Yet it is the most versatile of puddings. Once cooked, you can have it cold, hot, fried...you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some have it with custard after dinner. Some have it with bacon and ketchup for their Christmas breakfast. So if you’re thinking of making one for this Christmas, then you’d be well advised to get your pudding bowls out soon and get cracking. And who better to tell us how than Catherine Fulvio, fresh from great success at last night’s Bord Gais Book awards.
Tips for cooking a Christmas pudding
Soaking the fruits in your chosen alcohol overnight and the following day before cooking will give them lots of extra flavour as they can absorb more of the liquid.
When pour the Christmas pudding mixture into the bowl, gently press down for an even texture.
Spoon a few tbsp of brandy / or sherry over the top before you begin to cook it.
Use good quality ingredients – even if you just make a small Christmas pud.
Fill the streamer with boiling water from the kettle, check the water level every half hour.
On Christmas Day
Tip: Brandy butter – keeps very well in the fridge for 2 – 3 weeks, piped into small rosettes, decorated and frozen – ready to melt into the warm Christmas pudding.
Steaming is the best way to reheat the pudding, and helps the rich dark colour to develop. Steam the pudding for 2 hours to reheat thoroughly.
To flame, place the pudding on a warmed serving plate, place holly on top and place on table. Heat the brandy in a small saucepan or even a ladle and pour around the base of the pudding and ignite. Serve with brandy butter.
Important : Holly is very flammable, so we poured the brandy around the pudding, rather than over the top, so that the flames crept up around the pudding, but do not set the holly alight. Also do not try to carry a pudding while it is alight in case the flames blow back and burn you.
Ginger and Orange Christmas Pudding
Makes 1 x 1.7litre
The beetroot and cranberries add a great moistness and beautiful colour to the pudding and the ginger a little sparkle to the recipe.
A day or 2 before you cook the pudding
300g mixed fruit (raisins, currants and sultanas)
4 ready to eat dried figs, chopped
3 tbsp mixed peel
10 dried apricots halves, finely chopped
2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
4 tbsp dry sherry
220ml orange juice
100g dark brown sugar
To complete the pudding
50g flaked almonds, roughly chopped
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
100g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 small to medium size beetroot, peeled and grated
1 orange, zest and juice
2 eggs, beaten
80g chilled butter, finely diced
Crystalised ginger and candied orange slices, to decorate
To prepare a 1 x 1.7 litre pudding bowl, butter the bowl generously and sprinkle with a little flour. Place a small circle of parchment in the bottom of the bowl.Combine all the ingredients for steeping, cover and leave in a cool place for up to 2 days.To make the pudding, mix the almonds, breadcrumbs, flour, cinnamon and mixed spice together into a large bowl. Stir in the soaked fruit.
Add the grated beetroot, orange juice and zest. Stir in the beaten eggs. And finally, gently mix in the chilled butter.
Spoon the mixture into a 1.7 litre pudding bowl. Then cover the bowl tightly with a well-fitting lid or a layer of baking parchment and foil. Secure with string, ensuring to cross the string over the top of the bowl. This forms a handle (otherwise it is difficult to lift the steamed pudding from the saucepan later). Place the bowl in a saucepan of rapidly boiling water. The water should reach a level, just below the lid of the bowl. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 6 hours. Keep topping up the water as requiredAllow to cool and store in a cool dry place. Spoon over a little sherry from time to time. On Christmas day, reheat by steaming again for up to 2 hours.
Turn out the Christmas pudding and decorate with ginger and orange sliced and serve with orange cream or cinnamon and orange butter.
Tip: Candied orange slices – 100ml caster sugar, 80ml water, 1 medium orange, sliced.
Add the sugar and water to a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until a thin syrup has formed, carefully add the orange slices and simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. Gently lift the slices onto a cooling rack with parchment underneath to set.
Traditional Christmas Pudding (with a twist)
75g mixed peel
4 tbsp dried apricots, finely diced
1 tbsp candied ginger, finely chopped
65ml Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur or brandy)
75g dark brown sugar
To complete the pudding
45g caster sugar
30g flaked almonds
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ orange zest and juice
75ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 egg, beaten
75g suet or chilled butter, grated
Holly and berries to decorate
Combine all above listed steeping ingredients, cover and leave in a cool place for up to 3 days.To make the pudding, mix the caster sugar, almonds, breadcrumbs, flour and cocoa powder together into a large bowl. Stir in the soaked fruit.Add the orange juice and zest. Stir in the beaten egg. And finally, gently mix in the suet or grated butter.Spoon the mixture into a 2 pint pudding bowl. Then cover the bowl tightly with a well-fitting lid or a layer of baking parchment and foil. Secure with some string, ensuring to cross the string over the top of the bowl. This forms a handle (otherwise it is difficult to lift the steamed pudding from the saucepan later). Place the bowl in a saucepan of hot water. The water should reach a level, just below the lid of the bowl. Cover and simmer very gently for 4 hours. Keep topping up the water as requiredThen allow to cool and store in a cool dry place.On Christmas day, reheat by steaming again for up to 2 hours.
Turn out the Christmas pudding and dust with icing sugar. Decorate with holly leaves and berries and serve with orange cream
Ballyknocken Christmas Fruitmince
Makes about 380g
I like to finely chopped apples as we have some great apple trees near the house. This is a fairly quick recipe for the fruitmince, if you add suet instead of the butter – cook the fruit first for about 20 minutes then add the chopped suet and roast in the oven (170°C/ Fan 150°C/gas 3) for about 40 minutes, stirring while cooking and then stir while the Christmas mince is cooling down and the end result will have those traditional little cylindrical pieces of suet you see.
50g dates, finely chopped
1 granny smith apple, peeled and finely diced
3 tbsp mixed candied peel
3 tbsp ground almonds
1 lemon, zest only
180ml apple juice
100g soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tbsp honey
Combine all the ingredients in a large heavy saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir from time to time. Spoon into sterilized jars, seal and store in a cool dark place until required.
Tip: exchange the lemon zest for orange and add 4 tbsp chopped dried cherries.
Sour Cream Pastry
250g flour, 130g butter, 130ml sour cream, zest of 1 lemon.