A wonderful Christmas is over, one in which I had plenty of time to be let loose in the kitchen, to fervently eat all day and to participate in a tipple of the old jumping grape for breakfast without the worry of having to drive somewhere. It was just me, wifey and the two ankle biters. But of course I could wax lyrical for an eternity without answering the most poignant question you are just dying to spit out: how was the 168 year old Christmas pudding? Well, I am most glad you asked. In short, it was cracking (in English vernacular that means great).
Although one tends to over-consume during Christmas lunch, there is always room left for a slice of rich, boozy pudding and accoutrement, and of course Christmas 2013 was no different to past years. Before I get to the pudding though I am going to run through the menu – if not for your pleasure, which I am sure it will be your pleasure, then for mine, if only to reminisce.
Starter: A resolute request from my wife, a classic prawn cocktail, but with Queensland tiger prawns instead of the usual shrimp sized prawns, homemade cocktail sauce (with a little help from Heinz and Lea & Perrins), cubed Hass avocado and iceberg lettuce chiffonade.
Main: The plan was goose, but bad news was broken to me by my butcher two days prior to Christmas day – one could not be procured. In a state of frenzy, in an even more frenzied butchers shop, I had to make a plan B. With help from my great butcher I bought a 4.5 kilogram organic turkey and a 5 kilo leg of ham. The final dish was:
Slow cooked (and pre-brined) turkey; ham cooked in Coca-Cola and glazed with Dijon mustard, clove and treacle; homemade sausage meat and chestnut stuffing; vegetable timbale (layered set purees) consisting of fennel puree, roasted red pepper puree and carrot puree; roast potatoes; and a sauce of ham and Coca-Cola reduction with cranberry jelly and aged red wine vinegar.
Pudding: Of course, 168 year old Christmas pudding with simplicity itself, single cream.
So the pudding: in the end I deviated only slightly from Eliza Acton’s recipe primarily to add a couple of ‘secret ingredients’ and to increase the richness by reducing the flour and breadcrumb content. The secret ingredients were homemade thick-cut marmalade and Calvados. The final pudding was beautifully rich, and created a nuance of haziness in one’s head due to the booziness of the Calvados. It was moist and although sturdy broke away at the deftest of prods from the dessert spoon. In essence it was spot on, and I can only conclude by thanking the 168 year old recipe from one of the most influential cooks of the 19th century; Eliza Acton I bow to thee.
168 Year Old Christmas PuddingPrint
- ■ 90g breadcrumbs | Blitz old bread in a food processor.
- ■ 100g self-raising flour |
- ■ 300g suet | I use my own grated rendered suet but it can be bought shredded. I guess vegetable suet or butter can be used but the unique melting point of beef suet gives the pudding its delectable texture.
- ■ 300g currants |
- ■ 300g raisins |
- ■ 150g candied peel | Ideally making your own would be great but packeted works fine, and that’s what I use.
- ■ 100g white caster sugar |
- ■ 50g dark muscovado sugar |
- ■ ⅔ of a lemon - rind of | Finely grated.
- ■ ⅓ of a pod nutmeg | Finely grated.
- ■ 20g mixed spice |
- ■ 1 tsp. sea salt | Finely ground if the salt is flaked.
- ■ 2 tbsp. orange marmalade | I use my own homemade which is packed full of orange rind – a good quality bought one would be good if time and inclination is of the essence.
- ■ 6 large eggs | Beaten.
- ■ 150ml+ Calvados | Drizzled just before serving.
To a large bowl add the breadcrumbs, flour, grated/ shredded suet, currants, raisins, candied peel, both sugars, lemon rind, nutmeg, mixed spice, sea salt and marmalade. Give it a hefty old stir to mix all the ingredients. Now add the eggs and stir again. Finally add the calvados and ensure that the mixture is completely homogenous (well mixed in layman’s terms). The final mixture is quite sloppy in texture.
Pour the mixture into a 1.5 litre pudding bowl until about 1 cm from the top. Cover with a square piece of baking parchment that overlaps the sides of the bowl. Now add a square of muslin cloth over the baking parchment. Tie the parchment and muslin cloth securely with string around the rim of the bowl – if you can muster a string handle also this will help you to remove it from the boiling water later.
Put the pudding in a large pan and pour boiling water between the pudding and pan wall until the level is about two thirds the way up the pudding bowl. Put the pan on a low-medium heat so that the water comes to a simmer. Now cover the pan with a lid and boil the pudding for 6 hours. Check regularly that the water level does not drop – if it does top up with boiling water.
After 6 hours carefully remove the pudding from the pan of water and allow it to cool for an hour. Remove the muslin cloth and baking parchment. Place some fresh baking parchment and a clean tea-towel (or pudding cloth) over the pudding and secure with string once again. The pudding can be kept for a few weeks.
To reheat, repeat the boiling process above, but only for 2 hours this time. After 2 hours remove the pudding from the pan of water, leave to sit for 10 minutes and then remove the tea-towel and baking parchment. Using a thin knife, loosen the pudding from the sides of the pudding basin and then turn it out onto a serving plate and drizzle with Calvados. Serve hot with cream or whatever tickles your fancy.
To make an impressive entrance you can warm the Calvados in a ladle over direct heat and when hot light it. In front of your gasping guests pour the flaming Calvados over the pudding!