Still time to Stir it Up!

Most of us have at least one family Christmas tradition that just can’t be missed, and in my household it is Stir it up Sunday, which started about 18 years ago as a way to entertain my son(‘s) in the final run up to Christmas, and has been going every since.

Stir it Up Sunday is traditionally the day when Christmas puddings should be made in order for them to have enough time to mature before Christmas Day. Although the actual date varies it is always on the last Sunday before Advent.  It is a day to bring the whole family together, everyone gets to stir the mixture and make a wish, then finally the most important ingredient of all is added – the silver sixpence (or more often these days a £1 coin – I am pretty sure it started off as a 20 pence in our household, but that’s inflation for you!)! It is said that if you find the coin in your serving on Christmas Day you will be blessed with good luck and wealth in the year ahead.

If you want to be really ‘en pointe’ the pudding mixture should also be stirred from East to West in honour of the Three Wise Men, and some puddings are even made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his Disciples!

There is no doubt that traditions shared amongst family and friends definitely add that extra bit of magic to your festive season, and even if you missed this years official date of Sunday, 25th November there is still time to adopt this one – and no one will ever know you were a few days late!

If you’re making a Christmas pudding this year share your pictures with us on our Twitter or Facebook pages and we’ll share our favourites – there may even be a little prize for our favourite photo!

To make it even easier for you here’s a Christmas Pudding recipe courtesy of Delia Smith;

Equipment

You will also need a 2 pint (1.2 litre) pudding basin, lightly greased, baking parchment, foil and string, and a traditional or fan-type steamer

Ingredients

  • 110g shredded suet
  • 25g whole candied peel, finely chopped
  • 25g whole almonds (skin on is OK)
  • 1 small cooking apple cored and finely chopped (no need to peel)
  • grated zest of half a large navel orange
  • grated zest of half a large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 75ml barley wine
  • 75ml stout
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 110g white breadcrumbs
  • 1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • quarter level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • good pinch ground cinnamon
  • 225g soft dark brown sugar
  • 110g sultanas
  • 110g raisins
  • 275g currants

Begin preparation the day before you want to steam the pudding.

Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don’t forget to tick everything off as you go to make sure nothing gets left out.

Next in a smaller basin, measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients and begin to mix very thoroughly. It’s now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish!

The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency – that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout.

Cover the bowl and leave overnight.

Next day stir in the sifted flour quite thoroughly, then pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double layer of baking parchment and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string (you really need to borrow someone’s finger for this!). It’s also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan filled with simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours.

Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water straight from the kettle about halfway through the time. When the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold, then remove the baking parchment and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easy manoeuvring.

Now your Christmas pudding is ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from the light. Under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place.

On Christmas Day: Fill a saucepan quite full with boiling water, put it on the heat and, when it comes back to the boil, place a steamer on top of the pan and turn it down to a gentle simmer.  Put the Christmas Pudding in the steamer cover and leave to steam for 2hrs 15 mins. If you don’t own a steamer you can stand the pudding in the boiling water, but make sure it’s only about half way up the basin, and that the pudding is tied up really well, so that as the water boils it wont get inside the pudding basin).

You’ll need to check the water from time to time and maybe top it up a bit. When you are ready to serve the pudding, remove from the steamer and take off the wrapping. Slide a palette knife all around the puddig and turn it out on to a warmed plate.  Place a suitably sized sprig of holly on top. Now warm a ladleful of brandy over direct heat and, as soon as the brandy is hot, turn out the flame and ask someone to set light to the brandy using a long match.

Place the ladle, now gently flaming, on top of the pudding – but don’t pour it over until you reach the table (if you don’t have a gas hob, warm the brandy in a small saucepan).  When you do, pour it slowly over the pudding, sides and all and watch it flame to the cheers of the assembled company!  When both flames and cheers have died down, serve the pudding with Christmas Rum Sauce, Cumberland Rum Butter or Brown Sugar Brandy Butter.

If you have any left over, it will reheat beautifully, wrapped in foil, in the oven next day.

If you want two smaller puddings, use two 570ml basins, but give them the same steaming time.

If you want to make individual Christmas puddings for gifts, this quantity makes eight 175ml pudding basins. Steam for 3 hours, then resteam for 1 hour before serving. They look pretty wrapped in baking parchment and muslin and tied with attractive bows and tags.

To make this recipe gluten-free: Replace the suet with either gluten-free or gluten-free vegetarian suet. Use gluten-free white flour and breadcrumbs made from gluten-free bread, and replace the stout and barley wine with the same amount of sherry.  If you are using gluten-free flour, you will need to add a pinch of baking powder to the gluten-free white flour.