The origins of the Christmas pudding go back to the 14th century when a porridge called frumenty was made by boiling beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This was similar to a soup and was eaten as a fasting dish in preparation for the Christmas festivities.
By 1595 frumenty was beginning to evolve into plum pudding - it was thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit and was given more flavour by the addition of ale and spirits.
Over the years it became the customary Christmas dessert. However, with the arrival of the Puritans in 1664 it was banned as a lewd custom and its rich ingredients described as being 'unfit for God fearing people'.
In 1714 plum pudding was restored to the Christmas table by George I who had tasted and enjoyed it, despite some objections by the Quakers.
By Victorian times, the plum pudding had evolved into something which looked similar to the Christmas puddings enjoyed by people today and it is now estimated that in the UK over 40 million people will finish their festive meal with a bit of Christmas pudding.
One of the many customs surrounding the Christmas pudding is that they
should be made by the 25th Sunday after Trinity, prepared with 13 ingredients (to represent Jesus and his Disciples) and that every member of the family should take turns to stir the pudding from east to west with a wooden spoon, in honour of the three Kings.
Another custom is for silver coins to be put into the pudding mixture before it is baked - whoever finds it will have health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.
Christmas Pudding Recipe
8 oz currants
8 oz sultanas
8 oz raisins
8 oz dark brown sugar
4 oz grated suet
4 oz fresh breadcrumbs
4 oz ground almonds
4 oz chopped blanched almonds
4 oz mixed candied peel
6 oz finely chopped cooking apple, peeled
8 oz plain flour
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 fl oz stout
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 oz ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5 tbsp brandy
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl with 2 tbsp of the brandy. Pour the mixture into a greased 3 1/2 pint pudding basin and cover with a double layer of greased, greaseproof paper or aluminium foil - pleated in the middle to allow for expansion. Tie string under the rim and across the top to make a handle and lower the pudding into the saucepan. Fill with enough boiling water to come two thirds of the way up the sides of the basin. Pour in more boiling water if necessary.
When the pudding is cooked, pour the remaining brandy over the surface and re-cover. To reheat, boil gently for 3-4 hours.
Decorate with a sprig of holly and flambé at the table with warmed brandy, if desired. Serve with fresh cream or brandy butter.