Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Christmas pudding

This is my mother's mother's mother's recipe. Some years other pudding recipes have been tried but we have always returned to this one because it is so damn good.

185 gbutter
1 1/4 cupsbrown sugar
grated rind of one orange
1/2 cupbrandy
2 cupsbreadcrumbs from day-old bread
1granny smith apple, peeled and grated
1carrot, peeled and grated
500 graisins
750 gmixed fruit (see note)
1 packglace cherries, quartered
1 cupself-raising flour
4 heaped teaspoonsmixed spice
1 heaped tablespooncocoa (or a splash of Parisian essence), to darken the colour

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the salt and the rind. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the brandy, breadcrumbs, apple and carrot, and blend well. Stir in raisins, mixed fruit and cherries. Sift in the flour, spices and cocoa and mix thoroughly. At this point, if you are my mother or me, you taste the mixture and decide to add a bit more brandy, and just top up the flour if it gets too sloppy. And then maybe you add another handful of raisins and a splash more brandy. You get the idea.

Grease well two three-pint pudding basins, or some other combination of sizes. Fill them with the pudding mixture to about an inch from the top. If you are using those super-convenient plastic basins, just grease the inside of the lid and pop them on. If you are using glass or china basins, cover them with two layers of greaseproof paper, greased on the inside, and then a layer of alfoil, all tied on tightly with string. Put each pudding in a saucepan, and fill the pan with water to about 2/3 of the way up the side of the basin. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, adding more water as necessary. For a three-pint pudding, boil for about 4 hours; for a two-pinter, about 2 1/2 - 3 hours; and for a 1-pinter or indeed a coffee cup if you have really planned things badly and got just a dribble left over, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. My mother says that you cannot spoil a pudding with too much brandy or too much cooking, so if in doubt cook it a little longer rather than the other way around.

Puddings should be made at least a month before christmas, and then left to mature. On the day you plan to eat them, have them at room temperature, then boil them again follow the instructions above, splitting the time in half, so for example a three-pint pudding will be boiled for two hours. Serve hot.

Note: I don't know that this is really necessary, but it is traditional: when using packaged dried fruit mixture, we always sit down for half an hour or so and pick out about half of the peel and discard it, before weighing out the 750 g. It's the sort of job you give to the children to do, if you can get some interested.

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