I confess: this week I cheated a little. After making the disastrous pecan pie on Thursday, I ran out of time, money and ingredients to make something else over the weekend. But something good did come out of my mad, pie-killing rush on Thursday evening: at the church activity I attended, even as the pie congealed slimily on the countertop, I learned how to make Christmas pudding.

Not just any Christmas pudding, either. Not only is it non-alcoholic and vegetarian, so I was told (there’s meat in Christmas pudding?!), its main ingredient is breadcrumbs. It’s an austerity pudding, meant for straitened times – and judging by our bank account, the times could hardly be straiteneder – so don’t worry about bowls of mixed peel and bottles of brandy. The only extravagances are sultanas (which we don’t keep, thanks to the Other Half’s aversion to them) and vegetarian suet. I expect you could use regular suet if you wanted, though, I warn you, I just found out it’s made from a cow’s kidney fat (?!). Even the mixed spice is optional, though of course I already had some, thanks to the ginger birthday cake.

The preparation can be done in a few minutes – dry ingredients, wet ingredients, squash it all in a bowl – but the cooking is a little more complicated. The mixture looks an awful lot like cat litter once it’s all together, but just try not to look at it too closely as you put the brown paper lid on. It all got terribly fiddly tying it on with string and fashioning handles, but I managed it in the end, and we were ready for steaming.

This is the downside with Christmas pudding. Whoever heard of something taking two hours to cook? I don’t have a vegetable steaming pan, either, so had to find our biggest pan, fill it up with water, and keep trotting back to the oven to refill it. Thankfully, a friend advised me beforehand to rest the bowl on something that wasn’t the pan bottom, thus preventing our admittance to A&E with exploding sultana burns. I used a jam jar lid, but balancing the bowl on the lid and then pouring water in around it was so fiddly I ended up splashing quite a lot of water on the pudding itself. It didn’t seem too soggy once it had cooled off, though, so perhaps the excess water was absorbed.

The end result was not quite the glistening mound of glory I had imagined: I didn’t have time to eat it immediately, so it cooled again and had to be reheated in the microwave before it could be shifted out of the bowl. Even then, it took a few minutes of hard spatula work before it shivered out on to the plate in several pieces.

Before...

 

...And after some cosmetic surgery.

It’s impossible to eat cold, too – I suppose the bread in it goes hard and bitty – but warm from the microwave it’s a crumbly wonder, fruity and fragrant. Not, perhaps, traditionally Christmassy (though you could replace the treacle with black treacle if you wanted a darker pudding) but very comforting on a cold day.

Deliciousness: Lovely. I had two pieces one after the other, spread with butter, and felt not the slightest bit guilty about it.

Complexity: Neither the ingredients nor the mixing are difficult – but two hours’ oven-watching is hard to squeeze in to a busy schedule.

Washing-up pile: Just the two bowls for steaming and mixing. Brilliant!

Casualties: Several steam-burned fingers.

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