1. Chop the apricots and prunes into pieces the size of a sultana. Place with the vine fruits in a large bowl. Pour over the brandy, orange juice and zest, then mix well and cover. Leave overnight until the liquid is absorbed. Add the remaining ingredients and beat well.
2. Grease a 1.2 litre pudding basin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment. Spoon the pudding mixture into the basin. Cover with a pleated piece of buttered foil (the fold allows for expansion), with the buttered side towards the pudding. Fold the foil over the edge of the basin and tie with kitchen string so no steam can escape. Make a string handle to lift the hot basin out of the pan more easily.
3. Place the basin in a steamer pan, over a saucepan filled with cold water. Alternatively, place an upturned heatproof saucer in the bottom of a deep saucepan and stand the basin on top. Pour cold water into the saucepan so it comes halfway up the basin.
4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 hours for a light pudding or 8 hours for a darker one. Check the water level regularly and top up with hot water as necessary to prevent the pan from boiling dry.
5. Allow the pudding to cool, then discard the foil and replace with a new piece. Refrigerate for up to 1 month or freeze for up to 3 months.
6. To reheat on Christmas Day, steam or simmer in water for 1½ hours until piping hot. Turn out onto a plate and decorate (optional, see Tip below) and serve with cream or custard.