One of my favourite things about Christmas is the cooking. For a lot of the sweet dishes like Christmas cake and Christmas puddings , preparation starts months in advance – they improve with age and have a long shelf life. They should be made at the very least a month in advance (ideally much longer) and when cooked and stored properly they can last for a couple of years. I made the ones in the photos under the guidance of the master chef in my house – my mother – on a visit home to the farm in September but we have often eaten puddings made the previous year and they taste fantastic. In other words, it is never too early to start making them for next Christmas!
Most of the “sweets” in a traditional Irish Christmas are made with a generous helping of alcohol and Christmas puddings are no different, brandy being one of the key ingredients which gives the puddings a distinctive sweet but strong taste. Even the traditional accompaniment for the puddings, when they are served at Christmas in Ireland, is Brandy Butter, which is made by whipping together butter, icing sugar, and a good dash of brandy.
The original Christmas pudding or “plum pudding” has medieval origins, with plums being used to describe any type of dried fruit at that time. Originally, meat was included in the recipe and many recipes still use suet (hard animal fat), but it is not necessary and we have always used butter instead, with great results. Much like mince pies, which also contained meat originally, over time meat gradually disappeared from the recipe and now the main ingredients are centred on dried fruit.
This recipe makes four large plum puddings, each of which can serve 8 people.
Yields 4 large christmas puddings
Christmas pudding (plum pudding)
30 minPrep Time
6 hrCook Time
6 hr, 30 Total Time
1,350 grams sultanas
450 grams mixed peel
450 grams butter
450 grams brown sugar
110 grams Golden syrup or honey
The grated peel and juice of one lemon
170 grams self-rising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
450 grams fresh brown breadcumbs
1 wine glass of brandy
100 ml milk
60 grams butter
120 grams icing sugar
1 tablespoon of Brandy
Mix the butter and sugar together and beat well until soft and fluffy
Add the eggs, one by one beating each one into the mixture
Stir in the honey and the grated peel and juice of the lemon
Add the flour, breadcrumbs, spices and dried fruit
Combine the mixture well and add the brandy and milk, mixing thoroughly
Cover the mixture and let it stand overnight
Grease four Pyrex or porcelain bowls (around 16cm in diameter, 9cm high; suitable for being heated) with butter
Split the mixture evenly between the four bowls
Cut four square pieces of greaseproof paper, large enough that they can be folded once over and still comfortably cover each bowl.
Fold a crease into the middle of the greaseproof paper and place it over the bowls.
Tie the twine around the edges of the bowls (which should ideally have a rim to stop the twine sliding up and off the bowls). Run the twine across the middle of the bowls and tie to the other side and secure tightly so that you can lift the bowls without the cover coming off
Place each of the bowls in a separate pot and add water three quarters way up each bowl.
Bring to the boil and steam the puddings for 6 hours, adding a little water every now and then as otherwise it will boil off.
Remove from the bowls and let cool. The puddings will last for up to a couple of years if stored correctly in a cool dry place.
Steam the puddings again for 2 hours in the same manner before serving.
Meanwhile, for the brandy butter, beat the butter, icing sugar, and brandy together until completely smooth.
Serve the pudding with a generous dollop of brandy butter and another equally generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.
The crease you make in the greaseproof paper is essential as the mixture and steam may rise in the bowl during cooking.
Bringing the twine over the top of the bows gives you a handle with which to remove the bowls from the pot after they are cooked.