A Traditional Christmas Pudding
This is quite definitely the best and, like the Christmas cake, has been made and loved by a cast of thousands over forty years.
If you’ve never made a Christmas pudding, please don’t be put off by the eight hours’ steaming – it isn’t any work, it just sits happily on its own getting the long slow cooking which is what gives it such wonderful flavour and character. If you can't get barley wine (pubs usually have it), use extra stout instead. The best way to use what's left over, if you don't want to drink it, is to add it to my Beef in Designer Beer recipe to give it a beautiful rich sauce. We have also included instructions to make it gluten-free
This recipe is from Delia's Happy Christmas. Serves 10-12
Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding.
Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don’t forget to tick everything off as you go to make sure nothing gets left out.
Next in a smaller basin, measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients and begin to mix very thoroughly. It’s now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish!
The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency – that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout.
Cover the bowl and leave overnight.
Next day stir in the sifted flour quite thoroughly, then pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double layer of baking parchment and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string (you really need to borrow someone’s finger for this!). It’s also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan filled with simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours.
Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water straight from the kettle about halfway through the time. When the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold, then remove the baking parchment and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easy manoeuvring.
Now your Christmas pudding is ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from the light. Under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place.
On Christmas Day: Fill a saucepan quite full with boiling water, put it on the heat and, when it comes back to the boil, place a steamer on top of the pan and turn it down to a gentle simmer. Put the Christmas Pudding in the steamer cover and leave to steam for 2hrs 15 mins. You'll need to check the water from time to time and maybe top it up a bit. When you are ready to serve the pudding, remove from the steamer and take off the wrapping. Slide a palette knife all around the pudding and turn it out on to a warmed plate. Place a suitably sized sprig of holly on top. Now warm a ladleful of brandy over direct heat and, as soon as the brandy is hot, turn out the flame and ask someone to set light to the brandy using a long match.
Place the ladle, now gently flaming, on top of the pudding - but don't pour it over until you reach the table (if you don't have a gas hob, warm the brandy in a small saucepan). When you do, pour it slowly over the pudding, sides and all and watch it flame to the cheers of the assembled company! When both flames and cheers have died down, serve the pudding with Christmas Rum Sauce, Cumberland Rum Butter or Brown Sugar Brandy Butter - see below.
If you have any left over, it will reheat beautifully, wrapped in foil, in the oven next day.
If you want two smaller puddings, use two 570ml basins, but give them the same steaming time.
If you want to make individual Christmas puddings for gifts, this quantity makes eight 175ml pudding basins. Steam for 3 hours, then resteam for 1 hour before serving. They look pretty wrapped in baking parchment and muslin and tied with attractive bows and tags.
To make this recipe gluten-free: Replace the suet with either gluten-free or gluten-free vegetarian suet. Use gluten-free white flour and breadcrumbs made from gluten-free bread, and replace the stout and barley wine with the same amount of sherry. If you are using gluten-free flour, you will need to add a pinch of baking powder to the gluten-free white flour.
You will also need a 2 pint (1.2 litre) pudding basin, lightly greased, baking parchment, foil and string, and a traditional or fan-type steamer