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Christmas pudding

I’ve used Canberran winter as an excuse to throw a big Christmas party. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Australian Christmases with prawns and backyard cricket, but with sub zero temperatures here, it’s a great excuse to eat ham, turkey and Christmas pudding in weather that it was meant to be eaten in. Maybe it’s the fact that no one ever wrote a carol about summer Christmases – but winter Christmas has always felt more traditional. 

For the first time ever, I’m the one making Christmas pudding. This recipe comes to you from Nick’s Granny D, a lovely no-nonsense woman who’s been known to kill a snake or two in her time. The task of Christmas pudding making has since been taken over by Alex, who’s expertly tweaked it into the magical dessert it is today – and I have to admit, although I’ve mostly resisted the urge to add anything to it, I have added the extra step of soaking the fruit in Pedro Ximenez before adding it to the mixture. After all, a little bit of extra sherry never hurt anyone.

Before you start, can I say that if you have a pressure cooker, you’re laughing. Instead of steaming your pudding for 6 hours, checking the pot to make sure it doesn’t burn and constantly topping up the water, you can cook it under pressure for just over 2 hours. Not to mention you’re avoiding the ridiculous condensation that build up when it’s a 2 degree Canberra day outside and very humid inside from 6 hours of built up steaming.  I tested one in a pot and one in the pressure cooker just to be safe – from now on I’m only using the pressure cooker because the steam that built up over 6 hours meant I had to mop my cupboards, windows and doors. Obviously, in summer that might not be a problem as you could just open your windows – I wasn’t game enough in this weather. 

Just a few tips on making your own pudding. Christmas is about tradition and so I am naturally distrustful about recipes without suet. I can’t say why, it’s not as if I’ve taste tested them side by side, but the only reason I would omit the suet is if there was a vegetarian in the family.

Suet is the hard fat from around the organs of a cow and you can get it from a good butcher. The lovely butchers at Lyneham Meat Centre mentioned that thees days, to comply with meat standards, most of the innards are removed (and the suet with it) so there’s not much left by the time it gets to the butcher. You will likely need to phone ahead as it’s in high demand around Christmas time. Do not, under any circumstances, substitute supermarket packaged suet – this will only end in tears. Lastly, the beautiful dark colour depends on how long you cook the Christmas pudding – the longer you cook it, the darker it will be.

Nothing makes me happier than sharing a family recipe on the blog. There’s so much to love – they’ve been tested, tasted and tweaked over generations, adapted and improved upon, and best of all they’re the stuff of tradition and memories. And with that, I give you the recipe for Nick’s family Christmas pudding. Oh, and the best part is that it makes enough for one large pudding and a smaller keep-it-to-yourself pudding. That’s forethought.

Burnett-Barthel Christmas Pudding
from the family archives
makes 1 x 2L and 1 x 1L pudding

225g raisins
225g sultanas
225g currants
175ml pedro ximenez
125g softened butter
200g suet (get 300g to be safe)
200g breadcrumbs (real breadcrumbs, not supermarket stuff)
150g plain flour
150g SR flour
200g dark brown sugar
4 eggs
175g almond meal
100g mixed peel
200g dried ginger, cut into raisin sized pieces
100ml dark rum
100ml sherry
100ml brandy
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp bicarb soda
2 tspnutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
finely grated zest of 1 orange

  1. Before you begin, freeze the suet then finely grate to obtain 200g – pick out the gristle, meat or membranes if any and discard. Make the breadcrumbs by blitzing old bread in the food processor. It’s also a good idea to make sure your pudding bowl will fit into a larger covered pot at this point.
  2. Put the raisins, sultanas and currants into a bowl with 175ml of Pedro Ximenez, cover with clingfilm and leave to soak overnight or for up to a week. 
  3. To make the batter, mix all ingredients well and leave overnight in a cool place.
  4. Pack tightly into a buttered 2L pudding dish and another 1L dish, cover with greaseproof paper, two layers of foil then seal well with string, under rim of dish. Tie string across the pudding dish to form a handle so that it’s easy to remove the pudding later.
  5. If you are steaming it the conventional way – put a trivet into a pot of boiling water and place pudding on top, making sure the water comes 2/3 up the sides of the dish. Cover and steam for 6 hours. You will need to watch it and top up the water as needed, remember to use only boiling water so that there’s less temperature fluctuations.
  6. If you are cooking it in the pressure cooker (thank your lucky stars) – place the pudding on a trivet inside the pressure cooker and fill with 1/3 water. Cover and seal then cook on the higher setting for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  7. If you’ve varied the sizes of your puddings from what I’ve stated above, lessen the cooking time according, but make sure you test for doneness by inserting skewer into the pudding – if it comes out clean, it’s cooked. If you’re not happy with the colour of your pudding, cook it for a bit longer.
  8. Store in a cool place, and on the day of serving, boil again for one hour and fifteen minutes in a conventional pot, or for 40minutes in a pressure cooker.
  9. To serve, warm 150ml of your alcohol of choice in a small sacuepan – brandy, rum or Nigella even suggests vodka. Pour over the pudding and immediately place on a table and set alight. Serve with brandy creme anglaise.