Let me start with blowing my own trumpet, it’s my blog so I’m allowed! I’m pleased to have tracked down a copy of Delicious Magazine while in Budapest because in it they have elected my book Pride and Pudding as one of the best books of 2016! After the hard work creating this book I am of course flattered and beyond happy to get this kind of news! So thank you again Delicious Magazine UK!!
Now on to the news of the day!
This weekend will mark the last Sunday before advent which is traditionally Stir-up Sunday. According to (rather recent) tradition, plum pudding or Christmas pudding should be made on this day. It is a custom that is believed to date back to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer (though it is actually not); where a reading states ‘stir up, we beseech thee’. The words would be read in church on the last Sunday before Advent and so the good people knew it was time to start on their favourite Christmas treat.
It was a family affair: everyone would gather to stir the pudding mixture from east to west, in honour of the Three Kings who came from the east. Sometimes coins or trinkets would be hidden in the dough; finding them on Christmas Day would bring luck and good fortune.
There are a lot of legends and claims made about the origins of the plum pudding. Some say it was King George I who requested plum pudding as a part of the first Christmas feast of his reign, in 1714. George I was christened ‘the Pudding King’ because of this myth but there are no written records prior to the twentieth century to tell us that this king deserved this title.
The first written record of a recipe for plum pudding as we know it today can be found in John Nott’s The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary from 1723. There is, however, no suggestion that the pudding is associated with George I, the practice of Stir-up Sunday, or the Christmas feast.
In this era, plum puddings were a common companion to beef on festive days; they were eaten before or along with the meat, not after the meal topped with plenty of cream as we know it today. A plum pudding would often be sliced up and arranged under the dripping of a roasting joint of meat in front of the fire.
The ‘Hack’ or ‘Hackin’ pudding (recipe also in my book Pride and Pudding), a relative of the haggis and plum pudding from the north of England, was eaten in the same fashion. It is possible that the tradition of eating a plum pudding with roast beef on festive occasions evolved to it becoming the highlight of the Christmas feast, inspired by customs in the north of England.
By the Victorian era the Christmas pudding was well and truly the symbol of Christmas, although the Christmas tree would soon take its place. Printing methods improved and it became possible to print in various colours so Christmas cards became popular. Many of these depicted puddings as centrepieces on the festive table and cards featured puddings dressed up like little men.
The whole history of plum pudding is too long for a single posting – but you can read more about how it became the food to show your patriotism to Britain in the pages of my book. One thing seems for sure to me, Stir-up Sunday is a fairly recent tradition. But even though it’s not as old as the 16th century reading in the Book of Common Prayer, it has been around since Victorian times which makes it part of traditions today.
This recipe is based on early Plum pudding recipes but it evolved in my kitchen over the years. It really is no trouble at all making it so maybe this year you’ll give that M&S Christmas pud a miss and try your hand at your very own. In my book you’ll also find a war-time Christmas pudding, maybe I’ll share that recipe with you another year – or… get the Christmas issue of Vintage Life Magazine where you’ll find it!
Also listen to the Delicious Mag podcast here > to hear @deliciouseditor Karen Barnes talk about her mother’s recipe for Christmas pudding!
Or take a look at Jamie Oliver’s nan’s recipe here > with Vin Santo.
Hate Christmas Pudding (what’s wrong with you!!) then maybe this ‘Chocolate pudding for Christmas pudding haters’ by Nigella Lawson is your thing! It has hot chocolate sauce. One persons food hell is another person’t delight!
Not sure what to cook for Christmas dinner? I’ll share with you a traditional meal very soon! Here you’ll find some vegetable preparations that could come in handy.
Please note: This text is mostly taken from my book Pride and Pudding – The History of British Puddings savoury and Sweet (Murdoch Books 2016 – Davidsfonds 2015), as is the recipe below.
What you need
Makes 2 puddings using 16 cm (61/4 inch/No. 36) basins (moulds), or 6–7 mini (150 ml/5 fl oz) puddings.
- 200 g (7 oz) shredded suet
- 75 g (2. oz) plain (allpurpose) or spelt flour
- 150 g (5. oz/2. cups) fresh breadcrumbs (no shortcuts here!)
- 150 g (5. oz) muscovado (dark brown) sugar
- 150 g (5. oz) currants
- 150 g (5. oz) raisins
- 40 g (1. oz) candied orange peel
- 1 small dessert apple, grated
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) brandy or dark rum
- 75 ml (2. fl oz) stout (beer)
- butter, to grease the pudding basins
Prepare the pudding basins for steaming
Generously grease the pudding basin (mould) with butter and cut a circle of baking paper the same size as the base of the pudding basin. Place the paper circle in the basin; it will stick perfectly to the butter. This will make it easier to get the pudding out of the basin.
Spoon the batter into the pudding basin, then cut another two circles of baking paper with a diameter about 8–10 cm (3–4 inches) larger than the top of the basin. Make a narrow fold across the middle to leave room for the paper cover to expand slightly. I like to use two layers of paper. Tie securely around the top of the basin with kitchen string, then cover with foil and tie kitchen string to create a handle so it will be easier to lift the basin out of the pan after steaming.
Now get yourself a pan large enough to hold your pudding basin(s) or, if you are steaming little ones all in one go, a large baking dish. I prefer to use the oven for this as I do not like to have a pot of boiling hot water on the stovetop for 2 hours or more, depending on the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 160C (315F) or the temperature suggested in the recipe.
Stand the pudding basin on an inverted heatproof saucer, a jam jar lid or trivet in the base of a deep ovenproof saucepan or pot.
Pour in boiling water to come halfway up the side of the basin. Cover the pan, either with its own lid or with foil, in order to trap the steam.
Place in the preheated oven and leave for as long as your recipe states. This can be between 30 minutes and 7 hours depending on the size of your pudding. See the recipe below.
When you are steaming little puddings, it is sufficient to place the puddings in a deep baking dish and fill the dish with boiling water once you have put them in the oven. Cover the dish with foil and steam for as long as your recipe states.
Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the eggs, brandy and stout and mix well by gently stirring with a wooden spoon. You can stir from east to west if you fancy it. If you have the time, leave the mixture to rest overnight.
Preheat the oven to 160C (315F). Spoon the batter into the prepared pudding basins. Steam for 3–4 hours for small puddings and 5–7 hours for large ones.
After the puddings are steamed you can either serve them straight away or, if Christmas is still a while off, cool the puddings in their basins, change the baking paper covers for clean ones and tie up. Store the pudding in a cool cupboard and, if you like a boozy pudding, feed it with a couple of teaspoons of brandy or rum once a week. This will also help preserve the puddings.
To serve on the day, steam for 1 hour and serve with custard sauce , clotted cream (see recipe in my book Pride and Pudding) or brandy butter and enjoy.