Step by Step - Traditional Christmas Pudding

Making this pudding is guaranteed to put you in a festive mood. The aroma of fruits and spices that fills your home as you mix the ingredients really conjures up the spirit of Christmas. The secret of a successful pudding, with its dark colour and rich flavour, is the quality of the ingredients used and the length of time it is cooked and matured. So begin the day before and don't be tempted to cut corners. Here we have added cherries and cranberries for a fruity twist to a traditional recipe.

Ingredients

  • 75g pack Waitrose Semi-dried Cherries
  • 2 x 75g packs Waitrose Dried Cranberries
  • 150g raisins
  • 150g sultanas
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 200ml stout, such as Mackeson Stout or Murphy's Draught Stout
  • 2 tbsp brandy, rum or Madeira, plus 75-100ml for serving
  • ½ x 250g pack Atora Light Vegetable Suet
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium Bramley apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 225g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Place the dried fruit, orange zest and juice, spices, stout and brandy, rum or Madeira in a large bowl. Mix well, then cover with a clean tea towel and leave to stand in a cool place for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight.
  2. Once the fruit has plumped up, stir in the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a lightly greased 1.2-litre pudding basin or heatproof bowl, packing it down well to ensure it all fits and there are no gaps.
  3. Cut two squares of baking parchment, about 20cm wider than the basin, then cut a piece of foil about the same size. Place the parchment squares on top of the foil, then fold the three layers in half. Fold one side back, making a crease about 2cm from the first fold, to make a pleat. This allows room for the pudding to expand during cooking. Place on top of the basin, foil side up.
  4. Take a long length of string, fold it in half and wrap it around the basin to secure the parchment and foil. Thread the ends of the string through the loop, then pull tight and knot to secure. Use the excess string to make a handle across the centre of the bowl for lifting. Place a trivet or heatproof plate in the bottom of a large pan. Place the pudding on top, then carefully pour boiling water into the pan to reach about halfway up the side of the basin. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat and steam for 6 hours.
  5. Check the water level regularly, topping up with boiling water as required. After 6 hours, turn off the heat and leave the pudding to cool completely. Use the string to lift it from the pan, then wipe down the outside of the bowl, undo the string and remove the foil and parchment. Cover the basin with a new layer of baking parchment, foil and string, then store in a cool, dark place for up to two months, until required.
  6. To reheat, steam as directed in Step 5 for 2 hours or remove the foil and heat in the microwave (850W) for about 5 minutes. To serve, remove all foil and paper. Run a flat-bladed knife around the outside of the pudding and invert onto a serving plate. To flambe, gently warm the brandy in a small pan, taking care not to allow it to boil as it may burst into flames. Transfer into a warmed jug and pour over the pudding. Carefully light the brandy with a lit taper. Once the flames have died down, cut into wedges and serve with your choice of brandy butter, brandy cream, fresh custard or cream.