Classic Christmas Pudding

It is difficult to imagine that our present-day Christmas pudding has its origins in a medieval porridge, or pottage, as it was once called! It was the Victorians who introduced the dried vine fruits and candied peel that are used today. I think prunes are marvellous in Christmas puddings, and this recipe includes pitted prunes and prune flakes. The latter is a useful baking ingredient as it provides fibre and a rich dark colour. Concentrated apple juice is used as a sweetener, together with the honey and marmalade and can be bought from healthfood shops, as can the nut oils, which I use in place of suet.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz / 230 g pitted prunes
  • 8 oz / 230 g seedless raisins
  • 8 oz / 230 g sultanas
  • 8 oz / 230 g dried apricots
  • 4 oz / 110 g prune flakes
  • 4 oz / 110 g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 2 oz / 60 g chopped almonds
  • 2 oz / 60 g flaked almonds
  • 2 oz / 60 g ground almonds
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest or 2 tsp sweet orange oil
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground mace
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 3 tbsp walnut oil
  • 4 tbsp concentrated apple juice
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 4 eggs
  • fl oz / 70 ml brandy
  • ¼ pt / 140 ml oloroso sherry

Method

Prepare and chop the dried fruit. Put all the dry ingredients and the apple and orange zest or orange oil in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly, either with a large wooden spoon or your hands. Put the marmalade, walnut oil, juice, honey, eggs, brandy and sherry in another bowl or in a blender or food processor, and beat until well blended and frothy. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients. Mix again until the mixture is moist. Cover and let it stand for a couple of hours, at least, and, if possible, overnight to let the spice flavours develop. Oil or butter a 3 pt / 1.70 1 pudding basin, and spoon in the mixture. As the pudding contains no raw flour, it is not going to expand very much during cooking, and you can fill the mixture to within ½ in / 1 cm of the rim. Take a large, square piece of greaseproof paper, oil or butter it, pleat it, and tie it over the top of the pudding basin with string.

Place the basin in a saucepan, standing it on a long triple strip of foil to help you lift the hot basin out of the saucepan once cooked. Pour in boiling water to reach halfway up the pudding basin, cover the saucepan, and bring it back to the boil. Lower the heat to keep the water at a steady simmer, and steam the pudding for 5–6 hours. Make sure the water is kept topped up and boiling. When the pudding is cooked, allow it to go completely cold before removing it from the basin and wrapping it in fresh greaseproof paper and foil. It will not keep longer than 2–3 months as there is so little added sugar.

When you want to serve it, steam for a further 2 hours.

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