Shop-bought Christmas puddings are pretty tasty so, when faced with the growing to-do list, it's a tempting item to take a short-cut on. But we always make Christmas pudding from scratch because preparing it together on a gloomy November afternoon has become one of my favourite family traditions. We get the cheesy Christmas music on (for the first time in the year) and all get stuck in: measuring, tipping, squeezing and stirring. It's a family team effort. Even as babies, they would be at the kitchen table in their highchairs doing some pouring and mixing and happily stealing currants and raisins.
I know this is beginning to sound like an episode of the Waltons and trust me, we don't usually resemble such family harmony. But making the Christmas pudding has become this special thing we do together and the little chefs love it; especially the stir-and-wish bit. We sometimes combine with helping them write their letters to Father Christmas - a whole pre-Christmas, Christmassy afternoon.
This Christmas pudding recipe is the one my Mum always did and I love how light it is. Perhaps because it is light and because they helped to make it, but the girls always wolf it down on Christmas day. Making Christmas pudding from scratch is easy for toddlers, even very young ones. The only issue is the number of ingredients. To stop it taking too long and them losing interest, it is extra important to have everything weighed out and ready beforehand.
So, lay out:
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 100g suet
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs
- 100g raisins
- 100g sultanas
- 100g currants
- 50g mixed chopped peel
- 50g soft brown sugar
- 100g golden syrup
- 1/2 orange (remove the zest and put in a bowl to use)
- 1/2 lemon (remove the zest and put in a bowl to use)
- 2 small eggs
- 50ml white rum
- a little oil for greasing
plus a large mixing bowl, mixing spoon, orange/lemon squeezer (optional), fork, small bowl, pastry brush, pudding basin bowl and two tablespoons.
Then, get cooking!
1. Put the flour, mixed spice, suet, breadcrumbs, raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peel, sugar, golden syrup, orange zest and lemon zest into the bowl. Give it a good mix.
2. Squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon. Pour into the bowl.
3. Break the eggs into the small bowl and whisk with the fork. Pour into the bowl.
4. Add the rum and give everything another good mix.
5. Pass the bowl to everyone one-by-one to stir and make a wish!
6. Use the pastry brush to paint a little oil all over the inside of the pudding basin bowl.
7. Spoon and scrape the mixture into the pudding basin.
Lay 2 sheets of foil on top of each other. Make a 4cm fold down the middle. Cover the pudding basin with the foil with the fold in the middle. The fold allows the foil to expand a little while it is steaming, which stops it breaking. Tie the foil down with string. Put a saucer upside down in a large pan and add some water - enough to reach about halfway up the pudding basin. Heat the water until it is simmering, then add the pudding basin. Put a lid on the pan and steam the pudding for about 6 hours. Every now and then, check there is enough water in the pan as some will steam off. Remove the pudding from the pudding basin and once cool, wrap it in clean foil. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas day. It will keep like this for months and is most tasty if left to mature for at least 5-6 weeks. On Christmas Day, all you have to do is steam it in exactly the same way for about 2 hours.