For all of us ancient Archers’ fans, we remember Jill gathering the whole family together to stir the Christmas pudding mix - they probably made a wish as well. And, in those old days, there were silver sixpences mixed in too to delight the eventual finders. We don’t have any currency so attractive anymore and a foil-covered 50p piece rather lacks charm.
I don’t bother with pouring over flaming brandy as it is just too dangerous for those who don’t see. If you are feeling brave, warm the brandy in a pan before lighting and watch out for your eyebrows.
You can make this weekend ready for Christmas and it will make enough puddings to last a year. Reheat by steaming again or on Defrost in the microwave: 5 minutes for the large one and 3 minutes for the little one. I have to ration my sous-chef to one a month.
brandy and rum to cover.
450g soft brown sugar (or honey).
335g chopped cherries.
110g dried apricots
55g dried apple (optional)
225g chopped almonds
2 small apples – peeled and chopped.
1 orange, zest only.
1 lemon, zest only.
225g suet (can be vegetarian).
110g self-raising flour.
225g white breadcrumbs.
2 level teaspoons mixed spice.
half teaspoon nutmeg.
2 good pinches cinnamon.
Soak the raisins, sultanas and currants in the brandy and rum for a few days.
Mix all the ingredients (leave overnight if time).
Place mix in individual 0.15 litre heat proof basins.
Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper then a layer of tinfoil and make a single pleat in the three layers. Place the layers (foil on top) with the pleat over the middle of the filled pudding bowl. Tie the layers to the bowl with string and knot tight. Trim the paper and foil to about half an inch below the string.
Place plates or other heatproof items in pans to keep the bottom of the bowls away from direct heat.
Top up the pans with water to about two thirds up the height of the bowls and cover the pans.
Simmer and steam for three hours.
Cool and store.
This amount made 11 small (0.15 litre which feeds two comfortably) and 2 family size (0.5 litre) puddings. The larger puddings were cooked for 4 hours.
Cut strips of greaseproof or baking paper wide enough to lap over the top of the bowl on all sides once folded in half. Cut squares of cooking foil to do the same. Take a break and cover and tie down all the covers, trim off any excess and refrigerate (up to 24 hours) any puddings you aren’t cooking immediately.
Use silicone mats or make your own heat diffuser for inside the pan: place all the paper and foil trimmings in an envelope of foil, crimped all around the edges. Switch off the heat at the end of the cooking time and remove the puddings once they are cool enough to handle.
Once cooked and cool enough to handle, when completely cold: clean the bowls; re-trim the paper and foil; top with a plastic lid; store in a cool place for up to a year.