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Christmas pudding (also known as figgy pudding or plum pudding), a mixture of rich dried fruit, fragrant spices, dark sugars and treacle (molasses) steamed together in an earthenware basin, is the luxurious cousin of the fruit cake. The traditional English recipe calls for grated suet (beef or mutton fat found around the loins and kidneys) and while most modern recipes swear by this ingredient, I am going to go out on a limb and say it is not essential; you can use cold, grated butter instead.
According to certain sources, the Christmas pudding originated in the 1420s in the form of pottage (also known as plum pottage), a concoction of meat and vegetables, dried fruit, sugar and spices, slow cooked in a large cauldron and served at the beginning of a meal.
With the passage of time, the savoury elements in the plum pottage decreased whereas the sweet elements increased and it came to be known as plum pudding. This plum pudding was traditionally eaten at harvest time and it was only in the 1830s that it came to be associated with Christmas. However, the name ‘plum pudding’ is a misnomer as the treat is devoid of plums.
Older versions of the pudding would include coins, anchors or a tiny wishbone in the pudding mixture for good luck. However, modern versions such as TV chef Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding comes with a whole candied orange in the middle. Blumenthal isn’t the only celebrity chef with a pudding recipe, you can also check out the recipes from Nigella Lawson, Delia Smith and Nigel Slater online.
Whichever recipe you decide to try this Christmas, feel free to play around with the ingredients but make sure you follow the steaming instructions carefully so that the end result is a deliciously moist, soft, sweet and sticky figgy pudding.
– Marylou Andrew
First published in The Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 22, 2013.