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Traditional Christmas Pudding
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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.
You can use white or brown bread to make the breadcrumbs. They can be made ahead and stored in the freezer for up to three months, then used straight from frozen.
As an alternative to the dried fruits listed, use Waitrose Luxury Dried Mixed Fruit instead. If you like a nutty pudding, substitute some of the dried fruits with the same weight of nuts - flaked or chopped almonds are traditional, but you could try pecan nuts or pine kernels for a change.
If you prefer a lighter coloured pudding, use light brown soft sugar and reduce the cooking time to 5 hours. You can also replace the stout and brandy, rum or Madeira with orange or apple juice.
For individual puddings, divide the mixture between 8 x 175ml pudding basins. Cook them all together as directed in paragraph 5 of the instructions for about 2 hours until fully cooked.
Holly and berries are poisonous to eat. If you use them as a decoration, wash and dry with kitchen paper and then wrap the stalk in foil before placing on or near the pudding.
Scales, measuring spoons and measuring jug
Grater and juicer
Fine nutmeg grater
Large mixing bowl
Clean tea towel
1.2 litre pudding basin or heatproof glass bowl
Foil and baking parchment
Trivet or heatproof plate
Large pan with lid
This recipe was first published in November 2003.