Saturday, December 26, 2009

Double, double toil and trouble: A Christmas tale

Eight weeks ago, my Christmas preparations started: for the first time I made steamed Christmas puddings. Being from a warm climate, Christmas pudding is usually of the icecream variety, but given my relocation to the northern hemisphere, I was determined to embrace this hubbley-bubbley festive tradition. Resolute that the ingredients for Christmas this year would be sourced locally, and from smallholders if possible, I started off at Temple Bar markets for dried fruit and nutmeg from ‘Len’, butter from Jenny McNally, oranges from Dennis Healy and eggs from Paddy Jack, then schlepped onto Fallon and Byrne for almonds, and out to the Gourmet Store in Rathgar for flamboyantly kitsch glace cherries. The final stop on the mission was the ‘Diagon Alley’esque Magills, a ‘blink and you will miss it’ kind of store, but one which is like a cavern of lovely treats, for mixed spice. Rather than using ‘cooking stout’ (as Guinness has come to be known in certain circles) I used a bottle of O’Haras Stout, brewed in Carlow which added a beautifully rich coffee flavour to the batter. Seven hours later, with a kitchen that resembled a Scandinavian bathhouse, the puddings were ready to be rested in the cupboard in advance of dispatch to Oxford, Perth and Sligo.

I used the Avoca recipe, but needed also to make a chocolate version for the dried fruit dissenters in the family, namely Mr 9BR and the two brothers-in-law. I made sauces to accompany each. Being firmly of ‘Team Custard’ persuasion, as opposed to ‘Team Icky Brandy Butter’, I made crème anglaise for the traditional pudding and a hefty chocolate ganache for the choco-pretender.

This is an enormous recipe, which made four one litre puddings and room half a dozen individual sized ones, so could easily be halved if not supplying the far reaches of the colonies with Christmas dessert.

Traditional Pudding.
450g golden sultanas
450g currants
450g raisins
100g glace cherries (halved)
110g mixed peel

450g brown sugar, I used vanilla scented that I made by leaving a split vanilla pod in a sealed jar with the sugar.
275g fresh breadcrumbs
275g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
225g nibbed almonds

350g butter, melted
6 eggs
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
1 small bottle of stout
a little milk (optional)
2 tablespoons of whiskey

Grease four litre pudding bowls and any ramekins you plan to use.
Wash the all dried fruit in a large bowl and drain. You may need to do this in batches. Place the dried ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with the fruit. Melt the butter and beat the eggs lightly. Add the butter, eggs, orange juice and zest and Guinness to the dry mix and stir thoroughly. If the mixture seems a little dry, moisten with milk.

Spoon into the greased pudding bowls and cover with a lid. If using delph bowls, place a double piece of parchment paper over the bowl, followed by a double piece of tin foil and tie down with string. Steam for 4-5 hours, by placing in a pot of boiling water, making sure the water stays ¾ of the way up the sides of the bowl, topping up with water as you go, then leave pudding to go cold. Spray the pudding with whiskey and wrap in foil or parchment paper.

On Christmas Day, place the pudding back in the pudding bowl, and if using a plastic pudding bowl, place in a pot of boiling water on the stovetop and simmer over a gentle heat for 1.5 hours or (I prefer this method) if using delph place into a cooking tray in the oven, pour in enough boiling water to reach ¾ up the sides of the pudding basin cooking at 180 C for 40 minutes. Make sure it does not boil dry.

Crème Anglaise  (Inspired by Delia)
1 vanilla pod
275 ml double cream
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornflour
25 g golden caster sugar

Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Place the pod and the seeds in a small saucepan with the cream over a gentle heat and heat to just below simmering point.

While the cream is heating, whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together in a medium bowl using a balloon whisk. Then, whisking the egg mixture continuously, pour the hot cream in gradually.

Once combined, immediately return to the saucepan using a rubber spatula over gentle heat. Continue whisking until the custard is thick and smooth, which will happen as soon as it reaches simmering point. If it overheats and looks grainy, transfer it to a jug or bowl and continue to whisk until it becomes smooth again.

Pour the custard into a jug or bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and leave to cool. To serve it warm later, remove the clingfilm and sit the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.

Chocolate Pudding for the Anti-Raisin Brigade
Ingredients for Pudding
175g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
40g cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
175g soft butter
60ml plain yogurt
3 eggs
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate soda
2 litre plastic pudding basin with lid

Ingredients for Sauce
125g dark chocolate, chopped
125 ml double cream
2 Tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease the pudding basin. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl then add the rest of the ingredients and beat together with an electric mixer or food processor then pour mixture into prepared basin. Steam in boiling water in a pan on the stovetop for 11/2 hours.
Make the sauce by putting all the sauce ingredients into a pan and place over gentle heat to melt, whisking to combine smoothly.


Ciara O'Connor said...

Is this the same as the birthday pudding? If so I will try it this week it was AMAZING and I am still thinking about it

'NEEN at 9 BEAN ROW said...

Ah no Ciara,

That one varies slightly. I think this one is better though, although I don't care for all the steaming.

Ciara O'Connor said...

I am sad about this. I wanted to recreate the awesomeness of the birthday one. Can you share with us the recipe and ALSO I REALLY WANT THE RECIPE FOR HALLOWEEN CUPCAKES. You see I had to caps lock shout that - thats how much I want them.

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