Posts Tagged ‘Christmas recipe’

Recipe – Making Your Own Christmas Pudding

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

We have had a brief hiatus from Christmas preparations with Halloween and Bonfire Night, but this weekend I’ve got back to the task of preparing for Christmas.  This weekend was the turn of the pudding.

I started making my own Christmas puddings several years ago as an experiment and you know what – it’s way better than the things that you get from the shops.   It also gives you a great sense of achievement.  It does takes ages to steam though.  Also, the recipe does make masses of Christmas pudding, but then we usually make two and give one away to great friends of ours, the McMurrays.

I like to be a bit nerdy with the stout or beer that I use.  I like to find something a bit special, slightly quirky.  This year I have used Titanic Stout from the Potteries, brewed at the Titanic Micro-brewery run by Dave and Keith Bott in Burslem Stoke-on-Trent.  It is the CAMRA Champion Bottled Beer of Britain for 2009.  Titanic Stout is full-tasting and full of character, with a roasted grain, coffee, licquorice and tangy hop resin aromas.

Some of the ingredients for Christmas pudding

Some of the ingredients for Christmas pudding

Another great thing about using beer rather than the brandy that most chefs use is that (and anyone who’s done the maths will see where I’m going) you’ve bought a 500ml bottle of gorgeous beer but only need 150ml, so in the best “waste not want not” attitude I think I better enjoy the rest of the beer myself!

This year I am also reviving an old tradition and have stuck some Christmas favours into the Christmas pudding.  Silver charms were popular in the past, with the traditional shapes like a boot (for travel), ring (for marriage), a button (lucky for men) or silver sixpences for general good fortune.  To stop them tainting the pudding, I have wrapped the coin tightly in baking paper.

The recipe I’ve got down below is an evolving recipe.  I think that my original recipe came from  a Keith Floyd book, but I’ve looked back at his books and I must have changed it a heck of a lot over the years as it bears no relation to his recipes anymore.

That’s one of the things I love about real cooking – you start with the germ of an idea (either from a book, something your mum does or just something that seems to fit with the ingredients you’ve got in front of you) and then you play with it, changing ingredients for those that you’ve actually got in the cupboard or just because they seem to have the right taste, then (when it works) you’ve got your own recipe.  I guess what I mean is don’t be beholden to a recipe book, you’re your own best cook – experiment and play and the more enjoyment you have in doing the experimentation the more happiness will flow into your food.


This recipe does 2 x 1.2 litre puddings, so if you want only the one pudding, simply halve the quantities.

25og/ 9oz vegetarian suet (you can use Atora if you want)
350g/ 12oz sultanas
350g/ 12oz raisins
250g/ 8oz currants
50g/ 2oz almonds
100g/ 4oz mixed peel (I use Crazy Jacks)
75g/ 3oz glace cherries, snipped with scissors (use Crazy Jacks as it includes no horrible added colours)
75g/ 3oz crystallised or stem ginger, snipped with scissors
350g/ 12oz Fairtrade dark Barbados sugar, such as Traidcraft Muscovado
2 grated eating apples
250g/ 9oz fresh white breadcrumbs
175g/ 6oz plain flour, sieved (we use Sunflours who are a fab local hand miller of flours)
1tsp Steenbergs organic Fairtrade mixed spice
1tsp Steenbergs nutmeg powder
½tsp fleur de sel
6 free-range organic eggs
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1tsp Steenbergs natural almond extract
150ml/ ¼ pint pint stout

DSC_0719_edited-1Toast the almonds in an oven for 5 minutes or so. Mix all dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs; add lemon, orange, Steenbergs almond extract and stout. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in all other ingredients and stir thoroughly.

Now make a wish! Cover and leave somewhere cool overnight.

Turn into greased basins, cover with butter papers and a double layer of cloth.   Sneak a silver coin into the mixture; I wrapped a cleaned 20p or 50p piece in some baking paper and push it into the mix.  Tie securely with string going right round the bottom of the bowl to make a strong handle to lift the bowl.

The Christmas pudding all wrapped and ready for 7 hours of steaming!

The Christmas pudding all wrapped and ready for 7 hours of steaming!

Steam for about 7 hours.

On Christmas Day, steam again for about 1½ hours or until heated right through.

To flame the Christmas pudding, place the cooked pudding on a plate with a decent curve.  Then warm 2 – 3 tablespooons of brandy or whisky (I use whisky) without boiling.  Pour over the Christmas pudding then set alight with a match, being very careful not to set yourself alight!  I am sure there was a useful purpose for the flaming ritual but nowadays it’s just for the flamboyant show.

Recipe For Homemade mincemeat – Countdown To Christmas

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

DSC_0652_edited-1Mincemeat is delicious and really easy to make.  The aroma and flavour of homemade mincemeat is fantastic, making the shop-bought commercial stuff pale into insignificance – a travesty of taste, lacking in depth, rich or any booziness.

It’s name harks back to it’s original recipe which used to contain a little bit of mince.  However it has now (thank God) dropped the minced meat and become a wonderful melange of exotic dried fruits, nuts and spices, together with some delicious whisky or brandy, creating an almost invigorating preserve.

The origins of the mince pie lie in the medieval chewet, which was a pastry that contained chopped liver or other meat mixed with boiled egg yolks, dried fruit, and spices.  By the 16th century, the mince  pie was a Christmas speciality.  During the 18th century and by the 19th century, meat was rarely used in the “mince” having been replaced by suet.  Note that I use a vegetarian suet but you can use a more traditaional beef based suet, such as Atora, but then make sure you don’t serve it to any vegetarians or vegans.

It’s simply a matter of collecting and weighing out the ingredients and then bunging them all together, giving them a good stir and leaving them to mature.  The key is getting the best quality ingredients and giving the mixture time to mature.  You should make it ideally 2 – 3 months in advance of Christmas, so mid to end of October to early November is spot on.  In fact, the best time may be mid-October as you can then pick apples direct from your garden; luckily we had a few still hanging on our tree of eating apples today, but then we live quite far north.


Getting the ingredients for mincemeat

Getting the ingredients for mincemeat

175g/ 6oz raisins
175g/ 6oz sultanas
250g/ 8oz currants
85g/ 3oz chopped mixed peel
85g/ 3oz flaked almonds, toasted
500g/ 1lb eating apples (Cox’s are good), cored and chopped but not peeled
125g/ 4oz shredded suet (I  used Community Wholefood’s vegetarian suet)
1tsp organic Fairtrade nutmeg powder
½ tsp allspice powder
½ rounded tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange (or 50:50 orange and lemon)
75ml/ 1/8 pint “good” whisky or brandy (I use Bruichladdich from Islay)

1.  If possible, use organic ingredients and/or Fairtrade ingredients, as they are good for the environment and the people who grow the crops.

2.  Simply mix all the ingredients together and seal in a large tub, or ideally a bucket with a lid.  I used a small bucket that used to contain raw cacao nibs from Barry Callebaut, the chocolatiers.

Mixing up the mincemeat

Mixing up the mincemeat

3.  Stir it once or twice in the maturation period – at the end of November and maybe mid December.  Pot it up into a couple of good sized Kilner-style jars on or about the 20th December.

4.  It lasts for a good 2 – 3 years, so don’t worry if you haven’t used it all in one Christmas period.

New Fairtrade Organic Mulling Wine Sachets from Steenbergs

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

It might have caused me sleepless nights and given me an undue amount of heartache and stress, but Steenbergs new range of Mulling Wine Spices in sachets has finally arrived.  It’s about 1½ months behind schedule and we have been having to disappoint some customers for about a month, but it’s here and looks absolutely fantastic.  I am actually really proud of it.mulled wine cut out

They taste divine and pack a lot of exotic, Chistmassy flavours – cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.  These Steenbergs sachets have stacks more flavour than those of the classic high street insipid, bland infusions.

The idea came out of a germ of a thought in mid-summer as I was thinking about what we needed to do about Christmas products.  The answer was pretty obvious – Mulling Wine spices.  But we already did these as loose spices, spices mixed in with sugar; they were already available via the classic Steenbergs range as organic products, as Fairtrade and in my esoteric versions based around Mediaeval hippocras recipes from the Elizabethan times.

We needed somehow to do them in a more practical packaging and yet to differentiate ourselves from the likes of Schwartz and Shropshire Spice on the retailer’s shelf with great design. 

It also allowed me to test one of my dreams and aims as a spice merchant, which is simply to get some of the blending and packing done for us in India or Sri Lanka; after all that’s where the spices are grown and processed, so they will be fresher packed at source, and the BRIC countries themselves are probably going to be richer and technologically stronger than us in a matter of years not centuries.

From that point onwards, nothing seemed to go right.

The designer designed the packets which were beautiful but then the printers in Sri Lanka couldn’t download the design so it had to be couriered out.  After this, they decided not to look at it again for a few months in spite of daily questioning as to how it was getting along, by which time they wanted a change made, but our designer literally went into labour as we asked her so no amendments were possible.

Our original aim was for one of our tea suppliers to bag the spices, which seems logical, but they were suspended from Fairtrade during the packing so we couldn’t use them and had to change to a contract packer based in Colombo, called Amazon Trading.  The Fairtrade spices from Kerala were late in arriving, then there was some trouble with the process for cutting the spices into tea bag cut, which has now been ironed out. 

Next, just as it was trying to leave Sri Lanka, the paperwork was filled out incorrectly as Mulled Wine so there was a lot of toing and froing accusing us of trying to export alcohol and that we didn’t have the correct paperwork.

That got sorted out and then it was transported to the UK in short order, cleared and immediately has started going out speedily.

It has been a good trial and now all the teething has hopefully been teased out.  The product is still going into store way in advance of Christmas so should sell well as the pricing is good for shops and it looks attractive.  Samples are being sent out to all sorts of possible buyers for Christmas 2010 – yes, bigger stores are already working on 2010.

I also think that getting spices and teas packed at source can work but communications are hard and you probably need to hold more buffer stocks than I had hoped to manage the peaks & troughs and mitigate the things that will naturally just go plain wrong.

Here’s how to make the Mulled Wine:

75cl bottle red wine
100ml   Water
3tbsp    Sugar (ideally light brown)
1          Steenbergs Mulled Wine Sachet
Orange, sliced (optional)
Lemon, sliced (optional)
1tbsp    brandy or sweet fruit liqueur

Put the Mulled Wine Spice Sachet, sugar and water into a saucepan.  Bring this to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.  Now add the wine and any of the optional extras that takes your fancy.  Heat up to just below boiling point and stir gently for 5 minutes, making sure that it does not boil as all the alcohol will evapourate.  Serve warm in mugs or wine glasses.

For a non-alcoholic alternative, replace the red wine with 750ml of red grape juice and replace the water with 250ml orange juice.