This might be the best Christmas dish ever. Or at least the best one I have ever made. It smells like Christmas, it looks like Christmas, it tastes like Christmas.
It turned out so well that I received the ultimate compliment. My mother tried it, liked it, and didn’t offer a single suggestion for the next time I make it. High praise indeed.
So let me tell you about this delectable little dish that has immediately moved into my favorites column.
I am a lover of all things fruitcake, but sadly I am alone in that estimation at my house. My husband has an allergy to tree nuts, and my kids have never gotten on to that rich dark taste that comes with the fruitcake. Since having it in my house is a no go I have been left to forage for it at other people’s holiday parties. As time goes by, I am having less and less success since it pretty much seems to be falling out of favor.
Enter the Christmas pudding, it’s a respectful nod to both my mother’s Newfoundland heritage and my paternal grandmother’s English roots. It’s dark and rich, a bit boozy, and prepared well ahead of the season, just like a good fruitcake. And best of all, nut free, so safe for my home.
Since I started this blog wanting to explore foods that take a while to make, Christmas pudding fits the bill perfectly. I actually stated this recipe back in early November and the main ingredient appears to be time itself.
The recipe itself is from Nigella Lawson, it’s her Ultimate Christmas Pudding. I figured if you are going to try a new recipe you might as well start at “ultimate”. I was right.
The critical element was the Sherry. The recipe called for Pedro Ximenez sherry, or to put it another way, sherry made with the Spanish wine grape variety called Pedro Ximenez. The bottle I found at the liquor store was double the price and half the size of the rest of the sherries, and worth every penny.
Now I don’t know a whole lot about Sherry except in my mind it’s what old ladies drink, and reminds me of the Cary Grant movie “Arsenic and Old Lace”. I have two other recipes that call for it, a french onion soup, and a slow cooker Mongolian beef recipe that is frankly quite delicious but calls for a less sweet sherry. Outside of that I draw a blank on what to do with it and wouldn’t typically consider drinking it except that I had a few drops of the Pedro Ximinez and could totally see that becoming a delectable dessert wine.
So back to the pudding, I ended up doubling the recipe and making two, one for me and one for my parents. The first thing I needed to do was find a container to keep it in as I steamed it and then kept it aside to work it’s magic for 6 weeks. You can actually buy a pudding basin that comes with a lid and is meant to protect the pudding as it’s steamed but they are harder to find here in Canada and fairly expensive for me to stock as a single use item in my kitchen. I Macgyvered my own version using stainless steel bowls, parchment paper, and tin foil. It worked like a charm.
Ingredients (I doubled the amounts below for a double batch)
- 1 ¼ cups currants
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup roughly chopped pitted prunes
- ¾ cup Pedro Ximenez sherry
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ⅓ cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 14 tablespoons coarsely grated vegetable shortening (freeze overnight to make it easier to grate)
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 1 medium apple (peeled and grated)
- 2 tablespoons honey
The currants, raisins, chopped prunes and sherry are mixed in a bowl, covered with cling film, and left to sit in a cool place for up to a week. In my case, I forgot and day 7 so the fruit ended up soaking for a week.
At this point I buttered the steel bowls so the pudding wouldn’t stick, and cut two circles of parchment paper for the inside top of the bowl.
In a large bowl I mixed all of the other ingredients, and then the steeped fruit along with every last drop of the sherried goodness in the bowl that the fruit had been in. After mixing everything thoroughly, I divided the lot into two bowls, pressed everything down, put the parchment paper on top and sealed the whole thing with two layers of foil.
The next step is steaming, which is why it was so important to make certain that the foil made a tight seal around the top. You don’t want water to get into the pudding. I sealed the pudding with a layer, added a second layer, and then finally a third.
The pudding was steamed twice. The first time, I placed each bowl on top on an inverted dessert plate inside a large pot. Each pot had about an inch or two of water and I boiled the water and kept it on a low boil/simmer with the pudding bowl on the plate, inside the pot with the lid on. For FIVE hours. I kept a kettle with hot water on hand as well to top up the water levels as needed until the five hours was up. I let it cool, removed the third outer layer of foil and stored the pudding without peeking at it in a cool dry place, until Christmas, 6 weeks later.
The second steaming was on Christmas day. My stove wasn’t big enough to hold everything and I needed all of my pots for Christmas dinner prep, so this time I went with the slow cooker. I added a fresh third layer of foil to the pudding, placed an inch or so of boiling hot water inside a slow cooker, placed the bowl inside and set it on high. The original recipe called for three hours of steaming, I wasn’t 100% certain the slowcooker wold work so I left it for another Five hours, basically most of the day.
Right before serving I made some vanilla sauce. The recipe called for “Eggnog Cream” using whipped cream and an liqueur that wasn’t available close to home. My mom said later that she made a brandy sauce for hers. I don’t think that it’s really possible to lose with any of these choices, I went with vanilla because it was quick and I had all of the ingredients on hand. I also hoped that my kids would be more open to trying it with a vanilla sauce. Which they weren’t, but I tried.
Oh my gosh, so good. You don’t need big pieces, it’s a rich dessert and a little goes a long way. I definitely will be making this one again. I loved that I could make it so far in advance and finish it in my slow cooker on Christmas day. I loved that it took a lot of simple ingredients and made something extraordinary. I loved that it tasted like something I would imagine to be out of an Olde English Christmas dinner complete with a reading of Charles Dickens and Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, every one!”