Christmas Plum Pudding with Fresh Orange, Walnuts, Ginger and Cloves

The original Christmas plum pudding, like mince pies, contained a substantial amount of meat. The meat was combined with prunes (the dried plums that gave the pudding its name), raisins, currants, spices and brown bread. The flour was a much later addition and I find that breadcrumbs and the absence of sugar make a far lighter pudding which is even popular with children (the fruit makes it sweet enough). Serve with brandy butter and cream or crème fraîche. If you want to make a round pudding you can buy special moulds, or I use a foil-lined Chinese rice steamer.

Ingredients

  • 350 g/12 oz pitted prunes
  • 100 g/4 oz crystallized ginger
  • 40 g/ oz walnuts
  • 225 g/8 oz raisins
  • coarsely grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
  • 125 g/ oz fresh brown breadcrumbs
  • 125 g/ oz shredded vegetable suet
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons brandy

Method

Generously butter a 1.7 litre/3 pint pudding basin. Cut the prunes into fairly small pieces and roughly chop the ginger and walnuts. Put the prunes, ginger and walnuts into a large bowl with the raisins, grated orange rind, breadcrumbs, suet and ground cloves. Stir to mix. In another bowl whisk the eggs until frothy and thickened and stir into the dry ingredients. Lastly stir in the orange juice and brandy (and silver charms if liked). Spoon the mixture into the buttered pudding basin and smooth the top. Cover with a double layer of buttered foil and tie tightly with string, making a handle to lift the basin. Put a metal biscuit cutter or inverted saucer in a large saucepan and stand the pudding basin on top. Pour in enough boiling water to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the basin. Cover the pan and steam gently for about 6 hours, checking now and then to see if the water needs topping up.

When the pudding is cold, put away in a cool place until Christmas Day. Then replace the foil with clean buttered layers of foil and steam for another hour or so before serving. To serve, turn out on to a warmed serving plate, stick a sprig of holly on top, pour bubbling brandy or brandy mixed with sherry round the pudding and set alight.

,