I know you have all heard of the Christmas tune ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and subsequently sang along to the line…”oh bring us some figgy pudding” but what exactly is this figgy pudding everyone signs about?
Anyway, lets to get too technical about it.
Christmas pudding is a steamed, rich, fruitcake style dessert. It contains copious amounts of beautiful dried fruits, citrus, spices, booze and nuts. It is bound together with egg and breadcrumbs and packed into a bowl, covered, then steamed for AGES to slowly cook. Usually the pudding is made weeks before Christmas so it sits and develops it flavour, the alcohol draws out all the flavours and acts as a preservative, puddings can actually be kept for a year until it is re steamed to heat it, and served. The pudding is turned out onto a plate and warmed brandy is poured over the top or just around the base and ignited, so the pudding is surrounded by gentle flames. It is very theatrical, it’s common for the lights to be turned down and the pudding is brought in flaming to lots of “ooo’s and ahhh’s”. Most people will use a sprig of holly to poke on top of the pudding for decoration. And yes, there is usually a holly and flame situation but thats all part of the fun.
Christmas Pudding has a deep history, It dates back to medieval times but has developed as a recipe over the centuries to suit the changing tastes, and the availability and introduction of exotic ingredients. Initially the roots of this pudding come from meats being preserved with dried fruit and booze, all bound together and wrapped in cloth and hung up for keeping. Actually, before the use of cloth I believe intestines - such as used for sausages or haggis wrapping, was the original method of housing this food stuff.
At this point please keep reading and don’t be turned off with the idea of a haggis style gut wrapped fruity meat mix, which is eaten after setting it alight! It gets better…trust me.
The recipe morphed into simply being fruit based and sweet with the only animal addition being the suet - fat from around the kidneys of beef or lamb. Being vegetarian I use butter instead of suet. As the name suggests, dried figs were a key player in this dish although these days they don’t show their face too often in recipes. I like to add some in my recipe as it just feels right to keep them in and they deliver a nice sweet and interesting texture. You may have heard the name Plum Pudding being used along with Figgy or Christmas Pudding. Plum was a generic term used to describe dried fruits back in the olden days and actually refers to raisins, sultanas and currents which are the main stage for this fruity boozy dense delight.
Now a days people choose what ever they want to serve their pudding with, such as cream poured over the top, custard, brandy sauce, brandy butter or even ice cream. Traditionally though brandy butter is the main accompaniment. Yes, brandy butter, butter mixed with sugar and brandy. This is why diets are made for New Years.
I bloody LOVE Christmas pudding and no matter how much food has been stuffed in my face on Christmas Day, not to mention in the week before the special day, there is always room for this most traditional pudding and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it.