My household is going to be very busy over Christmas this year – with various family and extended family members coming to stay, and dozens more popping in over the season, which I am hugely looking forward to, because feeding people is one of the things I love to do the most. But Christmas Pudding is a divisive dessert; and when I asked my guests how they feel about it, reactions ranged from mildly unenthusiastic, to downright disgust. ‘You’ve never had my Christmas pudding’, I attempted to say, but nobody wanted to hear it. It was Stir-Up Sunday, and I was puddingless. And as much as I fancy my chances at eating an entire basin of dense, treacley pudding myself, it’s probably not the best idea.
So I took my standard, trusty Christmas pudding recipe, and I tweaked it and fiddled with it until I ended up with this. Mrs J is allergic to almonds, so I used chestnuts instead. I didn’t want the heady boozy tang of the usual brandy, so I replaced it with Guinness, hoping to tempt my Irish mother into a slice. And I couldn’t pay tribute to one of my parents without the other, so I swapped out the cherries for fat, juicy figs for my Cypriot father. I toyed with the idea of putting a little dark chocolate in it too, but I haven’t quite made my mind up about it, so I’ve left it out for now.
The result is a dark, rich and treacley pudding that looks like a Christmas pudding, but isn’t. I took the liberty of steaming a small portion to test it, and it’s absolutely heavenly. I hope the rest of the family think so too. For those avoiding alcohol completely this festive season, St Peters Without makes for an excellent Guinness substitute in this pudding.
Makes 8 individual puddings from 64p each, or 2 medium, or 1 very large.
200g mixed dried fruit and peel, 42p (£1.06/500g)
100g dried figs, dates, or combination of the two, 40p (£1/250g)
50g fresh ginger, 15p (£1.50/500g)
100g suet, 63p (£1.50/240g)
75g self-raising flour, 3p (45p/1.5kg)
50g sugar, 6p (£1.19/kg)
¾ tsp ground clove, 3p (£2.49/100g)
1 tsp ground ginger, 4p (59p/28g)
2 tsp ground cinnamon, 4p (59p/34g)
75g white breadcrumbs, 5p (55p/800g)
180g vacuum packed chestnuts, blitzed to smithereens, £2.25 (£2.25/180g)
50g marmalade, 2p (27p/454g)
50g butter or soft spread, 11p (55p/250g)
250ml Guinness, 92p (£1.83/500ml)
First grab a large mixing bowl. Weigh in your dried fruit and peel, and the figs or dates. Add the suet, and grate in the ginger. Sift together the flour, sugar and spices into the bowl. Finely chop the chestnuts, and grate the bread to crumbs, around three thick slices, or pulse both ingredients together in a small blender or food processor for faster results. Add to the bowl, and mix the dry ingredients together briefly but briskly.
In a separate bowl, cream together the marmalade and butter with a fork. Add a splash of Guinness to loosen it – it will look horrendous, but bear with it – and then a splash more, and then a splash more until it is almost completely liquid. The easier way to do this is to sling it all in a blender and pulse for a couple of seconds at a time – but the Guinness will froth up quite a lot, and it’s something else to clean, so I’ll leave it up to you. It does make for a better pudding, though.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet, mixing together to form a thick, stiff and fragrant batter. Heavily grease a clean mixing bowl with butter, oil or spread, and transfer the batter to it. Cover and refrigerate for 72 hours.
Remove and stir well. You can cook it several ways, depending on what you have at your disposal.
IN A SMALL SLOW COOKER: Heavily grease the bowl of a 1l slow cooker and set the temperature to HIGH. Fill 3/4s full with pudding mix and cover with the lid. Cook on High for one hour, and then Low for five hours, until a knife inserted into the centre comes out slightly sticky but mostly clean.
ON THE HOB: Cover your pudding bowl with parchment paper, and tie under the lip tightly with cooking twine or string. Wrap the whole thing two or three times tightly in kitchen foil to prevent any leakage. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Place the pudding in, making sure the water comes two thirds of the way up the sides of the bowl, and simmer, covered, for three hours. You will need to top the water up as you go along to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Smaller puddings will be ready in two hours, but anything to feed four or more people will need longer.
TO OVEN BAKE: Pour an inch of water into a deep roasting dish and place in the bottom of the oven at 160C. Place the pudding, uncovered, on the middle shelf, and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The water will create steam in the oven to give a similar result to a steamed pudding, without the babysitting. For small individual puddings, cook for 45 minutes. For large puddings, you may need to increase the cooking time.
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All text copyright Jack Monroe.
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