There has always been a pudding for dessert at our Aussie Christmas gatherings. It's just not Christmas without one! American friends, this is not what you think of as a pudding. Think of it as a steamed fruit cake (one that you want to keep, not re-gift) that is served hot. British tradition says it's served with a brandy sauce, but Aussies generally prefer it with vanilla ice cream. This is the recipe my Mum has been making since the 70's, I've adapted it slightly for US ingredient availability.
This is the kind of pudding that inspires songs, so I will bring you the figgy pudding, right now...
250g /8oz raisins
250g /8oz currants
200g /6oz golden raisins
60g /2oz candied ginger
60g /2oz candied citrus peel
6 tablespoons rum or brandy
250g /8oz butter, room temperature
Extra butter for greasing pudding bowl
250g /8oz brown sugar or coconut sugar
zest of one orange and one lemon
4 eggs, room temperature
60g / 2oz almonds - whole almonds (preferably blanched*) or slivered almonds
120g /1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb soda in Australia)
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice (mixed spice in Australia)
125g /4oz soft breadcrumbs i.e. a slice or two torn up and whizzed to crumbs in a food processor. Yes breadcrumbs in a dessert sounds strange. Don't worry, just do it.
Cooking vessels are important in mixing up your pudding. You need a large crock pot. Also a ceramic pudding bowl that will fit inside the crock pot.
STAGE ONE - soak the fruit
Roughly chop all the dried fruit, smallish. Mix through your rum or brandy, cover and leave to infuse overnight. If you don't get to it until days later, nothing bad will happen.
STAGE TWO - mix the pudding
Get your butter and eggs to room temperature. (Tip for bringing cold eggs to room temp; put them in a bowl of hot water -not boiling- and you'll be ready in no time)
Sift together the flour, baking soda and spices. Stir in the breadcrumbs and set this aside.
Add the almonds to your tipsy dried fruit mix.
Cut a circle of parchment paper and place at the bottom of your bowl. Melt some extra butter and generously grease the pudding bowl and paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and citrus rind until creamy, by hand or with and electric mixer.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Add half the fruit & nut mix and half the flour mix. Stir well.
Add the remaining flour and fruit. Stir again.
Scrape your mixture into the greased and lined pudding bowl and smooth the surface.
Cut another circle of greaseproof paper to fit the top of your pudding.
Take a plain kitchen towel (not the terry toweling kind) pour hot water over it and wring it out when it's cool enough to touch. Lightly flour the towel, wrap it over the pudding bowl and tie with string.
STAGE 3 - cook the pud
Place your pudding into the croc pot and then pour water into the croc pot to reach half way up the side of your pudding bowl. Cook for six hours on low temp.
STAGE 4 - waiting waiting...
Your pudding is best made about a month before Christmas.
STAGE 5 - serving
To serve the pudding in all it's Anglo glory, you can warm it in the crock pot the same way it was cooked (this can take 1-2 hours) tip it out onto a plate. Warm a little brandy in a saucepan, set a match to it and pour the flaming brandy over the pudding and bring it to the table alight.
If you don't want to warm the whole thing, you can cut out as much as you need, wrap it in foil and warm in a steamer. At our house, this is what usually happens.
You'll want small servings and some ice-cream or cream with this, because it's mega-rich $$$
No need to rush and finish it all. Your pudding will keep well for many months.
*Blanched almonds. If you want the traditional 'skinless' blanched almonds for this recipe, you can blanch your own. Pour boiling water over the almonds, allow them to stand half an hour or so. Strain, and rub the almonds in a clean kitchen towel to remove the skins.