A Traditional Christmas Pudding flamed with Brandy
Christmas Pudding is also known as plum pudding, because of the abundance of prunes in it! The rich and heavy pudding is boiled or steamed, made of a heavy mixture of fresh or dried fruit, nuts and sometimes suet, a raw beef or mutton fat. Vegetarian suet may also be used for a lighter taste.

These puddings are very dark, almost black, and are saturated with brandy, dark beer or other alcohols. They used to be boiled in a "pudding cloth," but today they are usually made in pudding bowls.

Many people stirred little surprise gifts in to the Christmas pudding. Silver coins (for wealth), tiny wishbones (for good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), a ring (for marriage), or an anchor (for safe harbour) into the mixture, and whoever got the lucky serving, would keep the charm.

Ready-made and cooked puddings are now available in the shops but they can never compete with the flavour and the pleasure of making your own!

My Ingredients:

125g (1 Cup) ready-to-eat prunes, chopped
225g (2 Cup) raisins
225g (2 Cup) currants
225g (2 Cup) sultanas
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
50g (½ Cup) chopped almonds
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
225g (1 Cup) demerara sugar
225g (1 Cup) suet (I use vegetable suet rather than beef)
125g (1 Cup) fresh white breadcrumbs
125g (1 Cup) plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 eggs
150ml (5 fl oz) Guinness
1 tbsp black treacle
35ml (1 fl oz) Irish Whiskey

It sounds like a lot of work but the Christmas Pudding is very easy to make!
My Method:
1. In a large bowl, simply mix all the dry ingredients together.
2. Whisk the eggs, Guinness, whiskey and black treacle together and stir into the mixture.
3. Cover and leave to stand overnight in a cool place.
4. Butter three x 600ml (20 fl oz) pudding bowls and put a circle of greaseproof paper in the base.
5. Pack the mixture into the bowls and smooth the top. Leave about 2.5cm (1") space to the top of the bowl.
6. Cut a double layer of greaseproof paper into a 30cm (12") circle. Cover each pudding with the paper and tie with string around the edge. Tie another piece of string across the top of the pudding so that it can be easily lifted in and out of the pan.
7. Put the bowls into a heavy-based saucepan (placing an up-turned plate in the bottom of the pot first, to raise the pudding bowls off the bottom of the pot). Pour boiling water around the edge until it comes two-thirds of the way up the sides of the bowls. Cover with a lid and simmer for 3 hours. Top up the pot with boiling water to the staring level every hour.
8. Lift out the puddings after 3 hours and let them cool. Put on a new greaseproof or parchment cover and then cover tightly with foil.
9. Store in a cool dark place until Christmas. The puddings will keep for up to six months.
10. To serve cut into portion sizes and heat in a microwave, on full power, for 2 minutes until piping hot. Warm two tablespoons of brandy in a small saucepan. Set alight and carefully pour over the pudding. Serve with brandy custard cream or brandy butter.

Christmas Pudding with a Brandy Custard Cream!
Brandy Custard Cream
This is a simple and very tasty Christmas cream that I prefer to serve with my Christmas Pudding. Whip 250ml (8 fl oz) cream until it holds a figure eight shape and stir it into 250ml (8 fl oz) of cold prepared custard (you can make this yourself or buy it pre-made). Add in 35ml (1 fl oz - one shot) of brandy and a pinch of grated nutmeg and mix well.
This can also be served over warmed mince pies for a delightful change to the usual!

For more from Zack see www.IrishFoodGuide.ie