If you won’t be cooking on Stir Up Sunday try one of these locally made Christmas puddings

Will you be cooking this Stir Up Sunday? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Will you be cooking this Stir Up Sunday? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cole's Puddings, Lillypuds and pudd'Eng take the hassle out of festive baking.

Kitchen windows across the land will be steaming up this weekend as Stir Up Sunday rolls around. Traditionally observed the Sunday before advent begins, there's nothing more soothing or gorgeously scented than a day spent carefully chopping, stirring and making wishes.

But if you don't have time this year there are several delicious local options to turn to.

One of the oldest producers is Cole's Puddings, based in Saffron Walden and with a history stretching back to 1939, when founder AJ Cole would mix together simple, basic, wholesome ingredients.

This tradition continues. Now owned by Wilkin & Sons (makers of Tiptree jams and preserves) the team pays huge attention to detail – including baking their own bread for breadcrumbs, just as Mr Cole did all those years ago. Today the brand's range is available in independent food stores, farm shops and East of England Co-op stores, with flavours including Brandy Port and Walnut, a Champagne Pudding, and a free-from pudding made without gluten, nuts, alcohol or dairy.

To mark Stir Up Sunday this year a large pudding mix will be taken to The Courtyard Tea Rooms in Saffron Walden so customers can have a stir and make a wish.

When it comes to the perfect pudding, everyone is different. For Alison Lilly of Lillypuds, Christmas pud should be light, packed with fruit and made without excess sugar.

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The baker, who set-up her business two years ago after being inspired at Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, says the key to getting a pudding right is to not crowd it with sweeteners: 'Pack it with fruit instead. Make sure it's really fruity. I don't add things like mixed peel, which I generally dislike. Add fresh apples or fresh carrots instead. And don't steam it for too long. The longer you steam it the darker, more heavy and treacly it becomes. Christmas pudding has such a bad reputation for being heavy and claggy and we are trying to restore the face of it, keeping it light, fresh and simple.'

Alison's puddings are 50% dried fruit, contain only 5% added sugar, and use fresh citrus zest and juice as well as Brentwood Brewing's Chockwork Orange beer in the traditional pud, or gluten-free St Peter's ale in the gluten-free pudding, with both being fed with brandy and filled with lots of fresh apple. Both desserts are dairy-free and suitable for vegetarians. You can find them at Perrywoods garden centre in Tiptree, Spencers farm shop in Halstead, Suffolk Food Hall, Friday Street Farm Shop near Aldeburgh and Jarrolds in Norwich.

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If a deeper, darker, sticky Christmas pudding is more to your taste, seek out Norfolk-based pudd'Eng. Kate Lyons' Christmas pudding was named one of the best by the Independent this year and in the short time she's been in business, the foodie has racked up six Great Taste stars.

'My puddings not only look good they taste great,' Kate says. 'You've got a wonderful handmade pudding made with good ingredients. I'm trying to do something good with puds, and the Christmas pudding is just one example. When we moved to Norfolk I was definitely attracted to the food scene here and I knew I wanted to start a food business. I got really interested in the history of puddings and I felt there was a gap in the market for something you'd be proud to put on your table.'

The pudd'Eng Christmas pudding is, says Kate, deep, dark and packed with local ingredients including beer from Green Jack Brewery in Lowestoft, free-range local eggs and sourdough breadcrumbs from Bread Source.

'I really researched the beer I used thoroughly. I took myself along to The Real Ale Shop and bought up every stout they sold then tested them all. There was one clear winner for me – Baltic Trader by Green Jack. It's fabulous and quite unusual in that it's 10.5% volume. It's really punchy and fruity and I think it really does make a difference in the pudding.

'I use fine quality ingredients. The flour is organic, and there's a wider range of fruit – apricots, dates, glace cherries, raisins, sultanas, currants and lots of grated orange and lemon rind and juice. And it has toasted almonds so you get the maximum flavour and texture.'

You can buy pudd'Eng Christmas puddings from Mortons in Norfolk, Earsham Street Deli in Bungay and City Farm Shop, Norwich.

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