Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding

I am not a fan of Christmas pudding, Christmas cakes or wedding cake, I even had chocolate cake when I got married, considered to be very unusual back in the day. I think it must be the dark, denseness of them, but curiosity got the better of me and I thought I’d give Heston Blumenthal’s recipe a go after all the publicity of it selling out of Waitrose for £13 and then on Ebay for more than £200. I didn’t make it on “Stir-up” Sunday”, the traditional day for making Chistmas puds, which gives them time to mature for the big day, but only a week before.

It sounds fiddly having to make the candied orange the day before, but actually it isn’t. If you are looking for a traditional dark pudding, this is not for you, it’s much lighter, it must be the carrot, apple and ground almonds which make the difference. The recipe reminds me of a fruit cake I make for picnics from a recipe by Nigel Slater, I don’t make it often, but stopping for lunch on an all day walk, it seems exactly the right thing for pud. Actually, making it again, is probably more likely something to do with the fact that the French walkers loved it and applauded once they’d eaten every last crumb.

Back to the pudding. The recipe calls for mixed dried fruit and it’s a good opportunity to use up all those small amounts of dried fruit hiding at the bottom of my storage bin. So, cranberries, blueberries and cherries could also be included, otherwise, it’s the usual mix of dried fruit from the supermarket.

In France, cooking traditional English dishes which contain suet and dried fruit can be problematical, until you find a good Arab shop (Au Marché d’Orient, in Albi) for the fruit, including some unfamiliar ones, and remember that suet is a meat product. Lovely golden sultanas are generally available at most markets, but currants ‘corinthes’ are rare and raisins can be difficult to find. My local butcher is happy to give me suet, ‘graisse de rognon’, for free and will mince it as long as I give him notice so that he can put it through his machine at the end of the day, in exchange I give him some mince pies, which are always well received. Never ever use vegetarian suet, it is hydrolysed fat which is the most evil of all the fats, frozen and then grated butter is fine.

Does the pudding really need to be cooked for 10 hours altogether? Well, Delia says yes, and as she is the cook I go to for the basic rules of cooking, I’ll go along with that.

So, on Christmas Day, also my son’s birthday, which we like to celebrate with a really special meal, I served this with real custard and everyone loved it. I’ll definitely be making it again this year, but I still detest traditional puds.

Hidden orange pudding

Attempt to copy Heston Blumenthal’s pudding. With help from the Telegraph.

Serves 10 – have ready a buttered 1 litre/2 pint pudding basin, baking paper, foil and string

Preparation time – 2 days

For the candied orange:

1 orange
1 litre of water
1 kg white sugar
½ cinnamon stick
1 tbsp marmalade

For the pudding:

550 mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants and mixed peel)
1 grated carrot
1 grated Bramley apple
100ml ale
3 eggs
1 tbsp black treacle
115g dark brown sugar
115g plain flour (sifted)
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
115 g ground almonds
115g suet

To candy the orange, pierce it several times with a skewer then boil it in the water for 30 minutes to soften. Remove from the water, add the sugar, cinnamon and marmalade and bring to the boil. Add back the orange and cook over a medium heat for about 45 minutes. Cover with a lid for part of the time so the orange cooks evenly. Remove it from the syrup. Dry it overnight on a rack then give it a second 30 minute boiling the following day. Remove and allow it to dry again; the orange is now ready to use.

To make the pudding, put the fruit, carrot and apple in a large mixing bowl and leave to steep for 20 minutes. Add the eggs, black treacle and sugar and mix well. Add the flour,spice, ground almonds and suet and mix well again. Make sure there are no clods of dry flour.

Butter the pudding basin, and half fill with pudding mixture. Place the candied orange in the centre of the bowl and add the remaining pudding mixture so it is buried inside. Cover with a disc of baking paper, then take a large sheet of each baking paper and foil. Fold in half then make a pleat. Place the sheet over the bowl and secure with string.

Place in a pan to steam with 4 cm depth of simmering water. Cover and steam for 7 hours. You can then store the pudding for several weeks – before steaming again for 3 hours for the Christmas meal. Serve with buttercream flavoured with Grand Marnier, or clotted cream, or good custard.

Enjoy!

Gill

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