A beautifully rich steamed cake or pudding, filled with raisins and black currants, is one of the traditional Christmas desserts in the United Kingdom. At our house, we serve it with homemade brandy butter and/or lashings of thick cream.
If you come from a family that makes proper Christmas pudding each year, you probably have a recipe that’s been handed down to you from a generation or two back. Sadly, I do not. So each year I borrow my friend, Jacky’s family recipe, known colloquially as Granda’s Dumpling because it’s her father who is responsible for its production in their family. I’d love to be able to explain to you why they call it a dumpling, rather than a pudding, but The Google struggles with that question (so many “authorities” with diverse opinions!) and I am sure to get a ream of comments correcting me if I try. Suffice to say that in Scotland, from whence our dumpling -making patriarch hails, these things have been, in days gone by, wrapped in a cloth or clootie and boiled, dumpling style, instead of being steamed. Alan chooses to steam his, so I do as well. After all, this is HIS recipe. If you are going to borrow treasured family recipes, the least you can do is respect the method.
|The dumpling man, singing Christmas carols, surrounded by granddaughters, one actual, two adoptees.|
Most Christmas puddings are made a couple of months in advance of Christmas and then are soaked with whiskey or rum or brandy at regular intervals until the big day arrives. But the beauty of this particular recipe is that it can be made ahead of time and soaked but it is just as fabulous when made the night before it’s needed. This is just the ticket if you happen to be traveling to another country to celebrate Christmas.
It was December 1998 and Jacky and I were living in the small oilfield town of Macaé, Brazil with our husbands and children. Rather than go home to Aberdeen and Houston for Christmas, we decided to invite our families to come south and celebrate with us. Her father hauled all the items he needed for his dumpling from Aberdeen and made it up a just few days before Christmas. Actually, if I remember correctly, he mixed up two and they were absolutely perfect. Sometimes I do the same and sometimes I make it early and soak it with rum. Such flexibility!
Granda Panda, as all the children call him, even my two, gladly shared his recipe, which he recited from memory. I will add it here, exactly as I wrote it down. I’m pretty sure he was talking about a teacup here, rather than a measuring cup. As long as you keep using the same cup for all the ingredients, the proportions will be right and the cup size shouldn’t much matter.
1 cupful plain flour
1 cupful breadcrumbs
1 cupful shredded suet
1 cupful sugar
1 cupful raisins
1 cupful currants
1 cupful milk
1 level teaspoon baking soda
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg (hen’s) Alan added that detail with a twist of his mouth that made us all laugh.
I weighed these out when I made the dumpling for this post, using a US 1-cup measuring cup (8 oz volume) as my cupful. So one cupful equals:
150g shredded suet (I used the light Atora.)
160g currants (I used 320g mixed dried fruit which has both.)
Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the beaten egg and milk.
Mix to soft consistency.
Pour into greased basin.
As you can see from the weight 1.5kg - and that is without the bowl - you are going to get a substantial pudding.
Cover with a greased paper and steam for 1 1/2-2 hours.
And that’s where Alan’s instructions end so let me extrapolate on that and show you how to cover the basin and steam the dumpling.
Wet and crumple up a large piece of baking parchment. Put a pleat in it and lay it one top of your basin or bowl.
Tie string around the outside in a loop.
Cut another length of string and tie the ends together to form a circle. Twist it through the tied loop on either side of the basin. This is going to be your handle to get the basin out of the steaming pot.
Put an upside down, heat proof saucer in the bottom of your largest stock pot. I used the lid from one of my smaller pots. Put the covered basin on top and hang your handles out the side.
This is actually a photo of it after the steaming time, as you can tell by the pudding show through the parchment.
Cover the pot and steam the pudding for the required time.
It sinks back down a bit as it cools.
That’s it, easy peasy. You can soak it with liquor if you’d like. If you’ve made it well in advance of Christmas, the alcohol will keep it moist and help preserve it until serving time. I keep mine in the refrigerator, well covered since it's warm here.