Making the Christmas Pudding

It’s a few years since I last made a Christmas pudding. And I’ve never actually made many in my life. When I was a child, my maternal grandmother was the Christmas cook, making the pudding and Christmas cake. After she died, my mother started making the pudding and I made the cake. But not many of the family liked rich fruit cake and although I love it, it lost its allure after a while when I had nearly a whole one to finish up by myself! I starting making a lighter Dundee cake, which the family preferred. I think the generous addition of whisky had a lot to do with it! As for the pudding, I took to buying them.

This year a few of us are gathering for Christmas at my daughter’s. My son and daughter are cooking together for the main event (the turkey, etc.) but as I offered to buy a pudding, I suddenly found myself offering to make one instead. Last year my daughter and her wife made a wonderful Christmas cake from Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles and so I thought it would be nice to use his recipe to make a pudding.

Nigel Slater is one of my favourite cookery writers and Christmas Chronicles is an indispensable guide to fabulous food for the Christmas season; indeed it’s a great book for winter recipes, not just Christmas. I made a gorgeous chocolate mousse from it (click here – and for more info on the book).

I’ve been so busy I imagined I’d missed the traditional cut-off date for making a Christmas pudding (not that that was going to stop me making one!). However, a quick Google search revealed that Stir-up Sunday is next weekend – 26 November. So remarkably, and not always true to form, I find I’m making it a week early!

Of course, I can’t vouch for it being as fabulous as I’m hoping for. You’ll have to wait until after Christmas to find out. But I have every confidence in Nigel; certainly the cake from the book was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I made his lighter version of pudding and love the addition of dried figs and apricots, fresh grated apple and fresh orange zest and juice, as well as they ‘usual’ ingredients. How could it not be good! It’s taken me most of the weekend to make it due to many interruptions – the ‘overnight’ soak of fruit in brandy turned into more like 24 hours … then the first steaming was delayed. But finally I have 3 puddings all waiting for Christmas Day. I’m not sure quite how I’ll use up three; Nigel only makes 2 but I had smaller pudding basins and am conscious that some of the family don’t actually like Christmas pudding. But the others can’t do Christmas without it! I’m sure we’ll manage three somehow. We can have one at Easter, as Nigel suggests, and I can always save one until next Christmas when it will be gorgeously matured. Now, I’m going to be seriously impressed with myself for that kind of organisation!


Nigel Slater’s Christmas Pudding

  • 350g sultanas
  • 350g raisins
  • 150g dried figs, chopped
  • 125g candied peel
  • 100g dried apricots, chopped
  • 75g dark glacé cherries, halved
  • 150ml brandy
  • 2 apples, grated
  • 2 oranges, zest and juice
  • 6 eggs
  • 250g shredded suet
  • 350g dark muscovado sugar
  • 250g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice

You will need either 2 x 1.5 litre pudding basins or 2 x 1 litre basins. You can buy special plastic ones now with lids (Nigel’s suggestion) that makes life easier – no tricky tying of string! Butter them and prepare 2 or 3 (depending on how many basins you’re using) large sheets of greaseproof paper to go on top. Butter the paper and fold a pleat down the middle.

Put the first six ingredients in a large bowl and pour over the brandy. Stir well, cover and leave for a few hours or overnight. Give it a stir from time to time so each piece of fruit gets coated in the brandy.

Then mix the grated apple, orange juice and zest, beaten eggs, suet, sugar, breadcrumbs and flour in another large bowl.



Then stir in the dried fruit and spice.


Mix thoroughly. Divide between the prepared pudding basins.

Cover with the greaseproof paper and put the lids on. Steam for 3 hours. Remember to check the water level regularly, every half hour or so, to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Top up with boiling water as necessary.

Let the puddings cool. Remove the greaseproof paper, cover tightly with clingfilm and put the plastic lids back on. Store in a cool, dark place until Christmas Day – or when needed. Then steam for another 3 hours before serving. Turn out and flame with brandy if you like, and serve with brandy butter, brandy sauce or my special Christmas brandy ice cream.


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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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