In sub-zero temperatures at the end of November; armed with an apron, bowl and wooden spoon, I bravely left my toasty warm house to embark on my first steps towards Christmas 2016. For me it's as symbolic as the lighting of the first candle of Advent, marking the start of the new festive season. Arriving inside the beautiful City Church in Redland, you are hit by warmth (physically and metaphorically speaking!), Christmas carols, fairy lights and the heady smell of spices, dried fruit, mince pies and mulled wine all mixed together! This amazingly well run event, of which this is my third year of attending, makes for a wonderful evening, but with the best gift at the end...a handmade Christmas pudding, made with love!
It really is child's play. 8 tables full of catering sized quantities of ingredients with cups and spoons with marks on, so you don't even have to weigh anything. Just scoop, pour, mix and keep on adding and mixing as you go around like a classroom carousel! Simple!
Well, yes it is....but not without its rookie errors! On my first year, I think the mulled wine hit me as I arrived at the 'alcohol' table. The smell of brandy and stout got me a little excited and whilst chatting poured in my cup of mulled wine instead of the brandy, that I had duly measured out! At least I didn't neck the brandy I suppose! The extra alcohol certainly didn't impair the taste or flavour that year, in fact, the more senior end of the Christmas table (all who were in-laws of my in-laws!) hailed it as the best Christmas pudding they had had since childhood. After such high praise, and as we had Christmas in Bristol on our own last year, I felt duty bound to send them last years offering as it had evoked such strong memories.
This year, I am in the driving seat and hosting Christmas here for the first time. Eeeeek! I felt this evening was symbolic at the start of advent to spend time with friends, chatting and making our puddings that were to be enjoyed around the table in 24 days time with my husbands family. I look forward to hearing their thoughts....my 7-year-old son is a big Christmas pud fan, I wonder what he will think of this year's efforts!
SO ....do you fancy having a go?! Look...I know we can buy Christmas puddings quite easily and they will taste good and Christmas is a busy time. But why not gather a few friends, multiply the recipe quantities by the number of friends that are coming/how many puds you want to make. One person could buy all the ingredients or divide them out and everyone brings a few ingredients and make an evening of it! If you all weighed out the big ingredients ahead of time, it will be quicker.....but maybe some mulled wine and a leisurely evening is what you need! You can get 3 x 1.2 litre steamed pudding bowl from Lakeland for just £5.99! And the difference will be amazing...homemade is always the tastiest...and this is my most fuss-free way! If that's not for you, whizz to the bottom to find out how you could win an extra one that I made!!!
Ingredients you will need to make a 1 litre/2 pint Christmas Pudding.
110g Vegetarian Suet
110g Wholemeal breadcrumbs
50g Wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 tsp Mixed spice
1/4 tsp Ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
160g Muscovado sugar
75g Glace cherries, chopped in half
(or leave them out if you don't like them!)
30ml Brandy or Rum
1/2 Orange-grated rind
1/2 Lemon-grated rind
1/2 Apple-remove core and grate
1. Place the measured suet, breadcrumbs and flour into a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar in the bowl, and mix together thoroughly.
3. Add the dried fruit and stir.
4. Measure the brandy and stout and add into the bowl and mix in.
5. Add the 2 eggs. Stir and combine.
6. Add the grated half apple, and zest of lemon and orange.
7. Now mix, stir, stir and mix. It should be a 'dropping' consistency.
8. Thoroughly grease your pudding bowl with butter (or it won't come out on Xmas day!)
9. Pour your mixture into the bowl, leaving about a 1-inch gap from the top. Cover with a disc of greaseproof paper (just cut it 1cm bigger than the diameter of the bowl) and on top of the pudding.
10. Get a piece of tin foil with 2 inches bigger than the diameter of the bowl. Fold a pleat across the middle of the foil. Place over the top of the pudding and secure with string tightly. Do not use the lid of the pudding bowl until the pudding is cooked and cooled and ready for storing.
So once you have made your pud, you need to steam it within 48 hours. You can do this either in a slow cooker or just in a saucepan. Whichever method you use, make sure you remove the plastic lid, you will need this to store the pud once its cooked. Leave the foil in place for steaming and ensure its a tight fit!
In the slow cooker, place the pudding on an upturned saucer in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour boiling water 2/3 of the way up the side of the basin. Switch your slow cooker to high and leave on for 13 hours. For peace of mind, check the water level on the odd occasion throughout the process. Best to be safe than sorry!
Similarly, in a saucepan, put the pudding on an upturned saucer in a deep saucepan, and fill the pan almost to the top of the pudding basin. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Leave to simmer for 8 hours. Make sure the water is just simmering.....this can take a little bit of tinkering with to get the bubbling right! Check the pudding every hour to make sure the water doesn't boil away and top it up with boiling water from the kettle if it does.
If that's all a bit too much, click on this link to be entered into my Christmas pud giveaway, as a thank you for reading my blog!
I'm happy to post the pud out before Christmas, so be sure to share my posts with your friends too around the UK too! Good Luck....and Merry Christmas! X