Christmas pudding, figgy pudding, plum pudding whatever you like to call it this famous pudding, traditionally served at the end of the Christmas lunch divides opinion just as much in our household as Brussel sprouts! Love it or hate it (I love it by the way) Christmas pudding dates back to the 15th century where it was originally a savoury dish that was a version of a haggis served inside a sheep’s stomach, that was served at the beginning of the meal, then later in the 16th century when dried fruit was more available, it turned into a sweet dish although the pudding still contained beef suet and offal that was wrapped and steamed in a cloth.
In 1664 Oliver Cromwell banned the Christmas pudding and it wasn’t until George I in 1714, reintroduced the pudding as part of the Christmas festivities. At this point the pudding was made totally with fruit and suet and the meat was omitted, it was also at this point that the pudding started to be flamed with brandy. This was meant to represent the passion of Jesus and the holly on top was to represent His crown of thorns.
A Modern Twist
Over the years there have been many different versions of Christmas pudding and lots of famous chefs have put their names to different styles of pudding, none more famous than Heston Blumenthal who developed his own range of Christmas puddings for Waitrose. His initial version contained a whole orange that had been candied and placed in the middle of the pudding. When this was first launched it caused a stampede at the stores with the pudding immediately selling out, driving people to try and buy them off eBay for over exaggerated sums of money. For me this was almost the rebirth of the famous pudding which enforced its popularity and bought it into the 21st century.
Stir Up Sunday
Now, traditionally you should make your pudding on the 25th Sunday after Trinity usually five weeks before Christmas, now more commonly known as stir up Sunday. Tradition dictates that every member of the family should take a turn to stir the pudding. You are traditionally supposed to stir the pudding from east to west to represent the three wise men and the 12 ingredients added to the pudding were to represent the 12 apostles.
The Secret to a Great Pudding
For me the secret of a good pudding is in the fruit. Lots of raisins, sultanas, candied peel and for me must contain dates, but the secret is to soak your fruit as far in advance as possible so that the fruit can take on all of the alcohol. Just choose the alcohol you like the best but brandy is a must I also like to add an orange based liquor. On the day I always serve brandy sauce with my pudding but I also like proper custard, a flavoured butter or cream or even ice cream (it’s the whole hot and cold thing).
What to do with any Leftover Pudding
The question I get asked the most is what to do with the leftover pudding? Now as a chef I have seen a whole host of creative and not so creative ways of using it up from crumbling into a bread and butter pudding, from rolling into balls and coating in chocolate to use as truffles even deep frying in batter? My own personal favourite is to slice or crumble the pudding, fry in butter flame with brandy and serve with clotted cream.
Now, however you like your pudding and believe me there are many different versions and styles out there, you can’t beat making your own, it is a fantastic tradition that I am sure will always remain so please give it a go.
Want to make your own Christmas Pudding? Follow this great recipe by Adam Byatt