After I carted barrows 16 and 17 to the allotment from the manure heap, I was delighted that an inspection of the broad bean row afforded a sight of the first tiny, bright green shoots, just appearing above the soil’s surface. So exciting! I sowed them on October 25th, so germination has taken a little under 3 weeks. They are now covered with netting to keep the pigeons from grabbing them before they can grow any bigger.
On Sunday , when Tom and Kristie were home, we made the Christmas pudding, as tradition demands. For years we set our target making date for the weekend nearest to Rob’s birthday on October 30th. We always fail, but this year we aren’t that far away. They are one of those dishes that improve with keeping, especially if there’s plenty of brandy in it. And there is!
Christmas pudding making is part of that build-up-to-Christmas ritual, involving stirring the mixture and making a wish. Traditionally we put sixpences in the mixture when it was being made (before decimalisation!) and you got to keep the coin if you found it in your portion of pudding on Christmas Day. Clearly we worried less about broken teeth, metal contamination and choking hazards then.
Apart from needing plenty of time, as there is 8 hours steaming involved, the recipe is easy.
Put 4 ounces each of currants, raisins , sultanas , plain flour and Barbados sugar in a large bowl with 2 ounces each of mixed peel, suet, fresh breadcrumbs, ground almonds and blanched, chopped almonds.
Add 3 ounces of chopped cooking apple, the finely grated rind of a lemon and an orange, the juice of the lemon, 2 beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of brandy and about a wineglass full of Guinness or similar.
Add 1/4 ounce of mixed spice plus a 1/4 ounce of cinnamon mixed with nutmeg.
Stir the mixture, making a wish as you go. Encourage everyone in the house to do the same.
Put the mixture in a a lightly buttered 2 pint pudding basin. Cover the top with a piece of pleated greaseproof paper (to allow for expansion) and tie with string under the rim and across the top to make a handle.
Put a trivet in the base of a large saucepan. Lower the pudding into a saucepan and Fill with boiling water to come 2/3 of the way up the pudding basin. Cover and simmer for 8 hours, topping up the water as necessary. When cooked, remove from the water, pour over more brandy to taste, and recover with fresh paper. Leave until Christmas Day in a cool place.
To reheat, boil for 4 hours. I use the same trivet and pan arrangement. Serve with a a sprig of holly and flambé with warmed brandy if wished. (Brandy has the most beautiful blue flame when set alight.) Add custard or cream or brandy butter. Yummy.