When is Stir-Up Sunday 2018 and what's the best Christmas pudding recipe?
PUBLISHED: 12:55 20 November 2018
Follow our recipe for a tasty Christmas pudding in 2018.
How is it Stir-up Sunday already?
I’m still waiting for the Indian Summer we were promised during the last week of August when I found myself on a wet beach in north Devon with my family.
Despite the jingly ads on TV, the swathes of tinsel decorating every inch of local shops, and multiple dates for Christmas events pencilled in my diary, I’m not quite ready for the festivities just yet.
By now I’ve usually cooked up and jarred pickles for the Boxing Day spread. A vat of rumtopf or some other curious-looking boozy concoction is steeping in an oversized bottle in the cupboard ready to greet (knock-out) guests passing over the threshold during December. And I’ve normally started stockpiling my favourite seasonal treat, Mozartkugeln (chocolate filled with almond, pistachio and hazelnut praline), like some kind of rabid squirrel.
So I’m hoping this weekend, as the aroma of drunken dried fruits, soaked in rum and citrus juices wafts through my house, I’ll start to feel a bit more in the mood for Christmas…and all that jazz.
Because, for me, it’s those little traditions such as stirring the pud and making the Christmas cake, carefully wrapping it in foil and tying it with string before stashing it at the back of the cupboard for ‘feeding’ later, which make the season. As I’ve gotten older I think less and less about the presents under the tree, and more about drinking in the ‘feeling’ of winter. The steaming hot chocolate enjoyed after a brisk, ruddy-cheeked stroll in the bosky scented local woodlands. Queuing up to collect the turkey on Christmas Eve on our local high street under the twinkly lights. Cutting into a fresh panettone on Christmas morning and cracking open a bottle of Champagne even though it’s 9am.
Now I’m not too prescriptive with my pudding recipe. The fruit you use is a personal choice- as is the alcohol – and I actually use a good quality margarine (Pure) instead of suet – controversial.
In my pudding I want fruits which become plump, luscious and melting upon steaming – sultanas, apricots, dates, prunes. I personally find dried figs too crunchy so they’re left in the baking drawer. And rather than whisky or brandy, I favour rum because not only do I like to have a swig of it at the kitchen counter while I’m cooking, but I just love the smell of it wooshing up my schnozzle as it cooks. Gorgeous.
I also add in a little fiori di sicilia extract. It’s hard to describe the perfume of this essence, which is used to flavour panettone. It’s floral and orangey with a hit of vanilla. Absolutely beautiful.
This pudding is dark and dense and melting with a clean citrus hit that will have you dipping in for more on Christmas Day. I serve it with dollops of brandy butter or cream infused with a bit more rum and icing sugar.
If you’re not quite in the spirit yet, join me this Sunday. Stick on the Buble album, get the mulled wine on the stove and whip out your biggest mixing bowl. I’m starting to feel a little bit Christmassy just thinking about it now.
Charlotte’s rum and citrus Christmas pudding
(Makes two puddings serving around 8 people each)
1100g mixed dried fruit (I use apricots, dates, sultanas, prunes and raisins)
1 grated apple (including the skin)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1/2tsp fiori di sicilia extract (available online from Infusions 4 Chefs and optional)
250g suet, grated butter or good quality margarine
250g dark brown sugar
100g local honey
6 eggs, beaten
250g wholemeal breadcrumbs
175g self-raising flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp each ground allspice, nutmeg and ginger
1/4tsp ground star anise
Pop all the dried fruits in a very large bowl with the sugar, honey, rum, grated apple and zests and juice. Cover and leave to steep overnight.
The next day beat in the suet or butter, flour, essence, spices, eggs and breadcrumbs.
Make sure you get everyone in your house to stir it from east to west, making a wish.
Prepare two 1.5lt pudding basins. Line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof which will stop it sticking on Christmas Day.
I use the metal basins from Lakeland Ltd which come with a metal lid that screws on top, saving all the fuss of wrapping and tying the pud.
But if you are going traditional, top your pudding with greaseproof, wrap in foil and cloth and tie around with string, making a string handle to lower and lift it from your pan.
Pop the puddings into large saucepans (I use pasta or preserving pans), add enough water to go up halfway on the basins, bring to the boil, cover and drop to a simmer, cooking for three and a half hours.
Allow to cool completely, take off the wrapping, rewrap carefully and store in a cool dark cupboard until Christmas Day, when you should steam for another three to four hours – or cheat and microwave it if you used a microwave-proof pudding bowl.
How to use leftover Christmas pudding
There are so many things you can do with leftover Christmas pudding.
1. Soften vanilla ice cream (do not allow to defrost completely) and stir crumbled pudding in, with a touch of brandy or rum. Pop back in the freezer and serve for Boxing Day brunch.
2. Chill your pudding, cut it into slices and cover in batter, deep frying until golden. Lovely with a citrus-based custard.
3. Make a sweet pastry base, cover with crumbled leftover pudding, top with a simple almond-based sponge recipe and bake in a roasting tray to make a tasty slice.
4. Mix equal quantities of Christmas pudding, double cream and melted dark chocolate, roll into balls and chill to make deliciously fruity truffles.
5. Crumble a little pudding, bake into crumbs and use to top a rich venison or beef stew – it really works.