Traditional Christmas Dinner – Part C

Robin Boyle Australian, Dessert, From the Archives, Recipe, Traditions-Feasts

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(Continued from Traditional Christmas Dinner – Part B)

For a traditional Christmas dinner we propose: a seafood cocktail, roast turkey with vegetables followed by plum pudding with brandy sauce. This post continues from an article we wrote for Club Marine magazine in 1993. (Use the Print button at the top of this page for a hardcopy or pdf of the recipe in this post.)

Below we include a Christmas pudding recipe and a brandy sauce recipe.

Olive’s Christmas Pudding

Passed on to Olive by a friend in the 1950s, and barely altered since, this recipe for traditional Christmas pudding has received the annual acclaim of eight children, some fourteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Into the 1990s Olive found herself making a dozen or so puddings each year to meet the rest of the family’s needs. She suggested making two puddings at once as the quantities are easier to handle. However, you can halve the ingredients to make just one. Clearly if you make two you will need two sets of pudding cloths and two large boilers (borrowed if necessary). You can make the puddings well ahead of time (a month or two) and store in the cloth or refrigerate or freeze until needed. We normally keep a second pudding for the middle of winter, for example, to take to the snow on a skiing holiday. One pudding will certainly be enough for a large family. Reheat on the day as required. This recipe only uses a limited selection of fruit – use other fruits if you wish but be warned about interfering with trusted recipes! Each pudding serves 10 to 12 people.

Ingredients for two puddings

  • 750 gm dried seedless raisins
  • 750 gm dried sultanas
  • 125 gm mixed peel
  • spare self-raising flour
  • 375 gm sugar
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 500 gm butter
  • 375 fine-medium grain breadcrumbs
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  • 375 gm self raising flour
  • 2 level tsp bi-carbonate soda

The overall task is not difficult. However, allow one hour the night before, one hour for final mixing and four or five hours for cooking.

Combine the fruit in a very large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the flour and using your fingers work in until all the fruit is separated. Add sugar and stir to coat the fruit. Add the brandy and stir again. Cover with a tea towel or cling wrap and leave overnight, stirring several times.

The next day begin by preparing the boilers and the pudding cloths. Half fill the boilers with water and bring to the boil. Sink a metal plate or pie dish upside down into the bottom of each boiler – this is important as it will stop the bottom of the pudding from catching and burning. While the puddings are cooking, never allow the water to go off the boil and have spare boiling water at hand to top up regularly. For each pudding you need two sheets of calico cloth 75 cm by 75 cm. (If the cloths are new, boil them in plain water for an hour or so a day or two beforehand. After use, soak for several days and wash in plain water; they will last for years.) For each pudding, run the cloths under hot water and wring dry, place two layers on a flat surface and smear centre with some of the butter, softened. Then sprinkle with a little flour.

To finish off the pudding mixture, first melt the butter and set aside. Take the fruit mixture and mix in the breadcrumbs. One at a time, break in the eggs and combine well using a wooden spoon. Stir in the vanilla and spices. Add the melted butter and work through. At this stage the mixture is quite moist. Add the bi-carbonate of soda to the flour and then work the flour into the fruit mixture in three lots. The end result is very heavy.

Place the buttered cloths over a bowl or colander big enough to take the mixture for one pudding. Tip in half the mixture. Gather up the top of the cloth, wrap up fairly tightly and tie up well with string. Lower pudding into the boiling water, spread cloth either side then put on the lid. Repeat for the second pudding. Boil puddings rapidly for 15 minutes then lower heat to a gentle boil topping up with more water when necessary.

Cook for a total of four hours if the pudding is to be hung, or five if to be refrigerated or frozen. Drain each pudding in a colander and allow to set in the colander or similar sized bowl.

The puddings can be hung in an airy spot for several weeks until required then reboiled for an hour on the day of eating. Remember to set in a colander or bowl for a few minutes before removing the cloth and upending onto a plate. Olive advised that it will often be more convenient and just as successful to reheat only part of a pudding on Christmas Day (in the microwave, steamed or in the oven). To do this boil the puddings a total of five hours. Remove from the cloth while still warm, cool on a plate, then wrap in two layers of cling wrap then tightly in two layers of foil. Refrigerate for a few weeks or freeze until required. Reheat in cling wrap in the microwave or in foil if in the oven or steamed.

On the day reheat the pudding as required, flame with heated brandy if desired and serve with brandy sauce (recipe follows), thick cream or good vanilla ice cream or preferably all three!

Sasha’s Brandy Sauce

Most of the preparation for this sauce can be done a few days beforehand. Finish off with the brandy just before serving. It is not essential to flame some of the brandy but it does give the sauce a nuttier and more interesting flavour. Have a long spoon ready when stirring in the flaming brandy as the flames may be quite high. Left over sauce keeps well in the refrigerator. Serves 10 to 12 people.

  • 1 cup sugar.
  • 600 ml whipping cream
  • 600 ml milk
  • 1 vanilla bean slit and seeds scraped into mixture or 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup beurre manié (see previous post, Part B)
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup extra brandy (optional)

Place sugar in a saucepan. Add cream, milk and vanilla. Over low heat bring to near boiling point. Stir occasionally. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean if used. Thicken with beurre-manié by adding enough teaspoon sized pieces to the simmering sauce, whisking in and boiling until just thickens. Taste for sugar and adjust if necessary.

Just before serving reheat the sauce. Add 1 cup brandy and mix in. Separately (for example, in a metal soup ladle) heat another 1/2 cup of brandy and set alight. Pour the flaming brandy over the sauce and stir in using a very long spoon. Serve soon after.