Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. The days are shorter and the weather colder and inviting to stay at home, a time of conviviality and intimacy. Lovely smells of wood burning on the fireplace and sweet spices coming from every kitchen. Christmas is the perfect time to start baking cookies and cakes, time to spend kneading dough in the kitchen and see how it sensuously rises under white linen by the heat of the oven.
Thankfully, Christmas does not need to wait until December. November is when the Christmas spirit starts to take hold of the season, and I am not talking about shops being decorated for Christmas as soon as Halloween is over. I mean, November is when the Christmas baking starts. If you want to enjoy a homemade Christmas pudding, you will need to start your preparations in November. Whether a Christmas pudding, a Christmas cake, cookies for our friends, gingerbreads for the children... the baking needs to start well ahead of Christmas day.
What is a Christmas pudding?
A Christmas pudding is a traditional desert served on Christmas day in Britain. Basically, it is a steamed pudding, with lots of dried fruit, nuts and suet. Made with black sugar and black treacle it has a dark appearance. It is served warm, usually moistened with brandy or any other liqueur and flambé.
Christmas puddings originated in the early 1400s but it only became popular as we know it today during Victorian England.
My first Christmas pudding
When I got married in Scotland only a few months after arriving there, my English teacher gave me a cookery book as a present to get me familiar with Scottish cookery. The book, by Claire Macdonald turned out to be more than just a collection of recipes but a guide to seasonal cooking in Scotland. And what better way to know a culture than by its food? Despite all these years and moving around different countries, I still carry around with me my book of Seasonal Cooking. It reminds me of cold and dark Scottish days, of whisky flavours, the smell of smoked fish and the taste of gorgeous hot puddings. This recipe of the Christmas pudding has always stuck in my mind as Lady MacDonald tells us that she uses her baby's bath to mix the ingredients rather than any other kitchen dish!
Christmas pudding recipe.
This recipe belongs to Claire Macdonald of Macdonald, winner of the Glenfiddich Award for Cookery writer in 1982.
For one large pudding you will need:
- 350 gr. shredded suet 350gr. sultanas
- 350gr. raisins (stoned and halved)
- 175gr. currants
- 175gr. chopped candied peel
- 75gr. flaked almonds
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
- 6 eggs
- 1 wineglass of brandy
- 200ml. of milk
Use a large container to mix together all the ingredients, stirring well. Traditionally everyone in the household, or at least every child, gives the mixture a stir, and makes a wish while doing so.
Put the mixture into a 1 ½ litre basin, or if you prefer, into two smaller cooking basins and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper. You can also use clip on lid basins if you have them. Otherwise use a cloth and knot the corners on top so they do not trail in the water. Put the basin in a saucepan and half fill with boiling water. Steam the pudding for 5 to 6 hours. Take care not to let the water boil dry. I have forgotten mine in the past and it is not very pleasant to clean raisins from your kitchen ceiling!
When ready, keep your pudding in a cool place, ideally a larder. Christmas puddings are often dried out on hooks for weeks prior to serving in order to enhance the flavour.
To reheat your pudding on Christmas day, steam again for 1 ½ hours. Serve warm, only very small portions as the pudding is very heavy. Serve with a brandy sauce, cream or custard. If you are looking for a stunning effect, and there are no children around, you can douse your pudding in brandy and flambé it.
Classic Christmas Pudding
Classic Christmas Pudding
- Christmas cakes
Every country has its own Christmas foods and desserts. Whether it is the Italian panettone, the British Christmas pudding, the French Buche de Noel or the Spanish polvorones, now you can enjoy them wherever you are this Christmas.