Tag Archives: pudding

Couldn’t Wait for Stir-Up Sunday

Stir Up Sunday is the day in the UK when the preparation of Christmas Puddings traditionally begins. This year it will be on 20 November.

But really, who wants a ‘fresh’ pudding when you can have one where plumped up currants, prunes, raisins, cranberries, dates and cherries all start to melt into each other in a liquor of muscovado sugar and brandy. So I’ve started my work a few weeks early.

In fact, as I understand it, my boyfriend’s late mother used to make her Christmas puddings a year ahead of time.

It all started last Sunday when I mixed the fruits and dark, molasses-rich moscovado sugar together. As my usual cherry brandy wasn’t available at the shop, I used calvados. After a few days of macerating together, the smell was heavenly, and on Wednesday I added the spices and some roughly chopped marcona almonds. Only last night did I finally add the eggs and bread crumbs to prepare the final puddings for potting and steaming.

If you have a full time job, as I do, finding the time to steam a large pudding for 5 or so hours is nearly impossible. It usually involves setting an alarm for 2am and rather alot of stress about whether the steamer will run dry. After years of this anxiety I have finally found the solution, as well as a use for the naffest thing in my kitchen – the Crock Pot! 10 hours overnight on the low setting in a Crock Pot bain marie and your large pudding will be ready, and satisfying plumped up on top.

As rather a hectic Christmas season awaits me – with many friends and family to see – I made a double batch of pudding this year. One large pudding, two medium and six small puddings all have designated homes, but not before I’ve spent the next month ‘feeding’ them with brandy.

Cake & Jam


Gooseberry Jam

Until you have tried this cake you will think that is a non-existent and very silly word.  After you have tried this cake, you will know exactly what I mean.  Yellowy organic butter creamed to whiteness with organic sugar.  Eggs from free-range, organic, corn-fed chickens are mixed in, one by one; each yolk is almost orange and the batter starts to regain its golden eggy shade again.  Vanilla and fresh organic lemon zest are added for flavour, and two sticky dollops of honey from my parent’s apiary.  Baking powder, some sea salt and spelt flour are sifted in to the mix and slowly stirred to the thickness of an old fashioned cake batter which smells like the birthdays of your childhood.  And just when you think it sounds as if it might be getting to be too sweet, now imagine that I have cut the cake in half and spread a thick layer of gloriously tart and freshly homeade gooseberry jam.

The gooseberry jam itself was another learning experience.  I’ve never made it before, and every time you try to preserve a new fruit, estimating its pectin content is a bit like throwing craps.  So I turned to Nigel Slater, who I always turn to when I have no idea what I’m doing.  (He won’t know it, but he taught me to roast my first chicken when I, as a naieve vegetarian, thought I’d treat my boyfriend to a Sunday roast.)  I roughly followed a recipe, mixing the gooseberries with an almost equal quantity sugar and a drop or two of water, to partly dissolve the sugar.  Its incredibly satisfying, popping the gooseberries with a spoon as they start to warm up and become soft.  (All the therapeutic qualities of bubblewrap, but with a lovely tart smell.)  I squeezed in a bit of lemon juice to help keep the lovely livid shade of gooseberries in tact, but to no use, as they soon took on a translucent, candied fruit quality, and after about 45 minutes of regular stirring and fussing, the jam finally became jammy, with big chunks of partly dissolved gooseberry skins – all in a beautiful quincy rust shade.

In all truth, this cake was intended to culminate its existence in the form of a Washington Pie.  But, in order to turn a vanilla cake filled with gooseberry preserves into a proper Washington Pie, like the kind my grandmother makes for my visits to Canada, you’d need to cover the entire thing in a thick layer of whipped cream.  For today, though, I’m afraid that some semi-health conscious urge has stopped me from going to these lengths.   We instead, settle for a slice each, after dinner, with a heaped spoonful of low fat creme fraiche.