Tag Archives: christmas feast

Time To Make & Steam The Christmas Pudding. Nov. 12, 2017🎄

It’s time for you to get your Christmas Pudding made and steamed if you want it to taste luscious on December 25th! This has been a fun little process of building up to the actual making of the pudding (check out this and this and this and this).

chocolate toffee pudding with fresh cream and toffee sauce

Christmas Pudding with rum butter sauce and Fresh Cream

This is what I did yesterday at about 5pm. It is totally easy (even though the list of ingredients and instructions look crazily daunting!) and requires only that you stick around as it steams. I made dinner (and ate dinner) while hanging around the stove last night.

The recipe is below and it has some options. I decided to be a little adventurous and added an element of chocolate to my pudding mixture this year. I have no idea how that will turn out but it’s chocolate: how can I go wrong!

DSC_0383

 I chopped 4oz of a good quality dark chocolate bar in my food processor

I also used a sherry I never tried before ( pedro Ximénez) and as one of my dried fruits, I used blueberries. 

I cannot wait to see how it turns out and I love and hate that I will not know the answer to that question until I bite into my dessert on December 25th! I will be sure to write about it and let you know!

Walnut-Nutella Torte for Christmas Party

Totally tacky and wonderful Reindeer!

 

You will need:

  • 3  cups dried fruit of your choice: I used 1 cup each of dried blueberries, cherries and currants. But you can also use, figs (cut up), prunes (cut up), raisins etc
  • 1/2 cup of liquor such as good quality sweet sherry or golden rum
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • t tbsp unsweetened cocoa (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp All spice or mixed spice or Pumpkin Pie Spice mix
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (you don’t have to go out and buy breadcrumbs. simple toss a slice of bread in your food processor and blitz into crumbs or great the bread by hand with a cheese grater)
  • 1 medium apple – peeled (grate into mixing bowl when instructed below)
  • zest of an orange (zest the orange straight into the mixing bowl when it’s time to add it)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa), crumbled in a food processor and chopped into little pieces (Optional)
  • 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp brown sugar (dark brown sugar is best, but don’t go buying it if you have the lighter version)
  • 10 tbsp (5oz) vegetable shortening (such as Crisco) OR Beef Suet
  • 3 large eggs, beaten in a separate bowl (just beat together with a fork)
  • Vodka (about a 1/2 cup but you only need this on the day you serve the pudding  – it is to flambé to serve)

Method

Soak the fruit in the liquor overnight but for up to a week. cover the bowl and store in a dark cool spot. (look here if you want more detailed instructions on this)

Dried Fruit for Pudding

Enter a caption

  1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon or a hand whisk (flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, spices, sugar, salt, cocoa powder (if using), chocolate bits (if using)
  2. grate in the apple and zest the orange into the mixture and mix

    DSC_0376

    Add the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients

  3. mix in the shortening in little blobs, along with the eggs into the bowl. Stir everything together really well

    DSC_0387

    I asked my daughter to stir the ingredients together just so she was part of this grand event.  And she, like most young people think this pudding is disgusting. Ah…they have a lot to learn about true deliciousness

  4. Butter the inside of your pudding basin/tin and add the pudding.
  5. cover the top of the pudding with some wax paper (I cut a bigger round than the diameter of the top of my pudding tin and made a fold in the middle and it also went up the sides a bit. Put the pudding lid on securely.

    DSC_0396

    Cover pudding with Wax paper before adding lid

  6. Cover the pudding basin with tin foil to seal it completely.
  7. Place a large pot on the stove top  (big enough to hold the pudding basin with about an inch to spare at the top) and put the pudding basin into the pot. Add water until it comes about 1/3 way up the pudding basin( a little higher is fine too) and turn heat to high until the water comes to a boil.
  8. cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and turn heat down until water is at a gentle steady boil.

    DSC_0397

    Cover pudding basin with foil and place in pot, top with pot lid and boil gently for 4 hours

  9. Boil for 4 hours, topping up the water level as needed. You will need to keep checking this and add water at least every hour.
  10. Turn off heat and remove pudding basin from water and when it has cooled completely, unwrap the foil and remove the wax paper. Put the lid back on and store in a cool dark spot until Christmas day.CHRISTMAS+PUDDING

ON CHRISTMAS DAY YOU WILL NEED TO DO THE FOLLOWING (about 5 hours or more before serving):

  1. Re-steam the pudding for three hours – look above for steaming instructions, as a reminder (it is not as stressful as it seems as it needs no real attention).
  2. When it has steamed again, let it cool and then remove it to your serving plate.
  3. Right before serving, pour about a 1/2 cup of vodka into a pot and bring to a low boil. when it is boiling, set it alight and when it is flaming, pour it over your pudding.

It will be lit up and you need to rush it to the table so everyone can see its grand entrance!

 

 

Prepping for Christmas October 11, 2017 The Other Not-So-Common-Ingredient for your Christmas Pudding Adventure: BEEF SUET

Atora Shredded Suet 200G

I am in the process of Doing the Work so that the Christmas holidays this year are extra special. It is so true that what you put into a thing is what you get out of it. I have most definitely found out that, hoping for something to happen is very different from, making something happen. I am in the making-things-happen mode of my life right now and one of the things on my list is that Christmas this year isn’t a disappointment. I have control over so much of what happens and food plays a major role. I have experienced all sorts of Christmases, and the ones that were the most fun and memorable were the ones where I worked hard in advance. Some say that happiness can be attained by achieving a goal, but also that the end result is not an isolated type of joyous accomplishment. The joy is elevated by all the things that made what you wanted possible. In other words, the laborious task of say making something like this Christmas Pudding, becomes part of the joy. So my looking on this as a pain-in-the-butt project (and it is a little) will only serve to making me hate the whole process. What’s the point in that? When I think about the joy factor that will come with it (me carrying it beef fat_000017219051_Small.jpglit to the table after our Christmas Dinner feast, and then getting to taste it), I can make this with a very happy heart. Oops, the cornball in me is rearing its ugly head, but no apologies for that whatsoever.

 So, one of the other things you will need, that you almost positively don’t have on hand (along with a Pudding Basin/Mold), is a packet of Beef Suet. Sounds awful right? It is that magical mystery ingredient that is used to make traditional pudding-based foods such as Yorkshire Pudding, soup dumplings, chicken pot pie crust, as well as this Christmas Pudding, moist and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It is an odd-looking and very solid slab of fat. It is unlike the fat from drippings (the fat collected from cooking something such as bacon and can be used to flavor dishes and fry with). Suet is the hard fat that surrounds the kidneys and has a very high melting point. Because of its consistency and chemical make-up, it has so many uses  It is used in products from shaving soap, lubrication for engines, to leather conditioners, as well as making a dynamite shortening for this Christmas Pudding!

chocolate toffee pudding with fresh cream and toffee sauce

Chocolate-based Christmas Pudding with Freshly Whipped Cram and Toffee Sauce

When you make your pudding, you will disperse little flakes of it through the batter (as you might use butter to make a flaky pastry). This is why it is best to grate it into the batter OR do what I do: buy it already made into little gravel-y bits that you simple mix into the batter.

You can probably find this in your supermarket (but like shopping for a Pudding Basin in person and not buying it via a website, asking where it might be/or if it is in stock, is 99% pointless. “Hello, can you tell me what aisle the beef suet is in please?”. See what I mean).

You can find Beef Suet on a short list of websites (I know Amazon carries it), but peruse your supermarket next time you are there just in case.

Turkey 1

Turkey: another labor of love at Christmas

So get your pudding basin and beef suet and we can get on with the task of making happiness happen!

 

 

 

Succulent Short Ribs on the Christmas Table (serves 10-12) Super Easy to make!

I know that most households have a big Juicy Turkey on their table on Christmas day but I confess I have never adorned the center of my table with it. My mother never liked Turkey and even thought she always cooked one, the feeling of her not being excited over it rubbed off on me.

Braised Short Ribs

Braised Short Ribs

She grew up on a farm and had an aversion to poultry because she had to kill and butcher so many chickens as a young girl, which in turn led to her aversion to cooking it for her family. Turkey was her least favorite and I think when I ate it at Christmastime I could taste that bad memory of her childhood.

yfkuyg

Every year we get our tree at the same Christmas tree farm (our kids wouldn’t have it any other way!)

Turkey does make an appearance on my table each year but it is always some version of a stuffed and roasted turkey breast. This year I stuffed it with a savory sausage and it was very delicious, however the star of the table was the short ribs braised in a robust flavored red wine.

up close look at this deliciouly decadent dish

Up close look at this deliciously decadent dish

I must admit that I don’t cook red meat as often as fish or chicken (I’m not too fond of the beef industry so I only buy when I can afford organic, grass-fed free range meat. Also, we seem to prefer a “lighter” less complex protein on a daily basis). However, on special days, as in December 25th, the feast demands a richness and decadence that makes the meal stand out above all other days in the year. The unctuous short ribs I cooked was the stand-out dish this year, and as far as my son was concerned was the only thing that needed to grace the table. 

our Tree with its mish mosh of every ornament we have collected ober the years

Our tree with its mish-mash of every single ornament we have collected over the years that absolutely must find a place somewhere!

 They are not particularly Christmassy, so you can make them any time there is a need for something overtly extravagant!

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You will need:

1/4 cup ( and more as required) extra-virgin olive oil

4lbs boneless beef short ribs  – cut into large chunks

salt and pepper for seasoning meat

1 lb pearl onions (white, yellow or red will all work)

1 large (or 2 medium) sweet onions – large dice

1 large carrot – thickly sliced

3 celery ribs with leaves – thickly sliced

1 bottle hearty red wine (I used an Italian Chianti)

4 cups red sauce (recipe HERE or if you are in a pinch for time, use a good quality jarred version – I find that Newman’s Own brand Marinara Sauce is very basic and good for something like this, but feel free to buy whatever you find appealing OR you may have your own basic recipe for a red sauce which you can go ahead and use)

Water as needed

Method:

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Cut meat and dry it with paper towels and place in a large bowl or a cookie sheet. Season well with salt and freshly ground (if you are using a fine ground salt, be careful not to over season).

Season meat with salt and pepper

Season meat with salt and pepper

 2 – Using a large saute pan on high heat, sear the meat in batches in olive oil, adding oil as needed. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will not brown nicely. Remove to a heavy casserole as you go.

Sear the meat in an uncrowded pan

Sear the meat in an uncrowded pan

3 – After the meat is seared, turn the heat down to medium and pour out excess oil. Add the prepared vegetables and saute for about 10 minutes, until beginning to soften.

Add carrots

Saute veggies after searing the meat

4 – Add the wine and the red sauce and bring to a boil. Pour over the meat (or add the meat back to the saute pan if it is big enough. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 3 hours. Add the blanched and peeled pearl onions 1 hour before the meat is finished cooking. If the sauce is very thick you can thin it out with water until you are satisfied with the consistency.

Serve with whatever you like: mashed or roasted potatoes, roasted or sauteed greens beans or a hearty pasta noodle such as rigatoni.

Serve with whatever you like: mashed or roasted potatoes, roasted or sautéed greens beans or a hearty pasta noodle such as rigatoni.

Prepping Pearl onions for your dish

(you can do this the day before or while your ribs are in the oven). Put a pot of water on to boil. When it has boiled, add the onions and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to hand or cold, remove the skin. Set aside until ready to add to your dish.

blanch onions

Blanch onions  – it is easier to remove the onion skin if you cut the skin in the middle somewhere and then peel it off.

We will hopefully do this al over again next year

We will hopefully do this all over again next year

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS PUDDING! (fabulous recipe right here)

I was a bit late getting my Christmas pudding made this year but I blame it all on my trying not to succumb to the onslaught of commercial holiday bombardiers that began their advertising attacks the middle of October for crying out loud!

The  Christmas tree At Rockerfeller Plaza - dreamy

This year’s Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center – Dreamy

I denied everyone in the house the permission to talk about what they wanted for Christmas, to sing Christmas carols in the car or do anything that remotely felt Christmassy until December 1st. All of this blatant disregard for the Holidays was my way of slowing everything down and trying against all odds to focus on the actual moments of my life as they unfolded.

dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

Dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

This however resulted in my forgetting to get my christmas pudding made 6 weeks before I paraded it to our table in a blaze of festive flame and fanfare. Oh well, it will have two weeks less time to cure but I don’t suppose anyone will really notice the difference or scowl at me after the feast I will have laid before them. And it is still not too late for you to try your hand at Christmas Pudding too. It is a complete cinch to make – all you need that might take a bit of hunting for if you live in the United States is a Pudding Bowl.

Time for Christmas

My kids insist on getting our tree at the same tree farm every year – the tree selection grows more dismal by the year but who am I to deprive these kids who cling to the comfort of tradition.

I do love this Holiday though and I’ll admit that it was really difficult not to get sucked in, so I am very glad that it is now December and I can look forward to getting our tree and dreaming about all the yummy food I am going to cook and the joy this season ⛄️🌲⛄️🌲brings🌲⛄️🌲⛄️

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You will need:

1 cup mixture dark raisins, golden raisins & dried cranberries

1/3 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup chopped dried prunes (pitted)

1/3 cup chopped dried dates – pitted (I used medjool dates which have a wonderful flavor)

3/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Bacardi Gold, but any rum will do)

1/2 cup self-raising flour

3/4 cup fine white bread crumbs

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs vegetable shortening

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs dark brown sugar

zest of 1 orange

1/2 tsp all-spice

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup vodka or brandy (to flambe before serving)

decoration for the top (holly, berries or some non-flammable ornament)

Equipment: 1 pudding bowl or mold to hold about 4 cups of batter.

Method:

1 – Soak fruit in rum or brandy in a covered container overnight, or up to a week.

soak fruit overnight in rum

soak fruit overnight in rum

2 – In a big bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (except the vodka or brandy) together and then mix fruit into batter.

Mix batter, add fruit

Mix batter, add fruit

3 – Turn pudding into greased bowl or mold and place a piece of parchment over the top, before putting on the lid.

 5 – Cover the whole bowl in tin foil and set in a saucepan of gently boiling water (the water should come halfway up the bowl. Put lid on pot and cook, checking every now and then to see if water needs to be topped up, for 3 1/2 hours.

6 – Remove from pot and allow to cool before removing the tin foil. Leave in the container in a cool dark place (not the fridge) for 3 to 5 weeks. *Some people add a little more alcohol to the pudding every week or so, and you can do this if you like (I don’t as I’m not a big fan of alco-tasting desserts)

christmas-pudding-recipe - Picture of Christmas Pudding

On the day you are serving: re-steam the pudding (wrap in foil again) for another 3 hours. If you want to flambe the pudding for presentation purposes, put the brandy or vodka into a pot and place it on medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and set it alight. Immediately pour the flaming liquid over the pudding and serve. Serve warm with custard, brandy butter or fresh cream (recipe for custard and brandy butter will be posted before Christmas!)

I am hoping to get to skate ar rockefellow Cwnter this year under the looming twinklng Chrsitma Tree - it's a bit of a tacky dream but

❄️I am hoping to get to skate at  Rockefeller Center this year under the looming twinkling Christmas Tree – it’s a bit of a tacky dream but I just can’t help myself!❄

 

Time to Make The Christmas Pudding!

vintage christmas postcard

There is no getting away from the fact that Christmas is definitely coming! Everywhere I turn I am bombarded with reminders, starting with the twinkle-y sea of every iconic symbol of Christmas covering the entire lawn of my neighbour’s house, and ending with even the meat in the grocery store bound up in shiny cellophane and strung with red ribbons like some special present to be placed under the tree. To mention everything in-between would be an exercise in how poetic and tacky I could be at the same time. I may write something about this a little later, but for now I am really excited to talk about Christmas Pudding and share the recipe

I love any holiday or celebration that involves food, and Christmas dinner is the ultimate feast as far as I’m concerned. So yes, even though this one meal is one month away, I am already planning the menu and soaking the dried fruit for my Christmas pudding as we speak.

soaking the fruit, an important step in making a great pudding

Depending on what part of the world you are reading my blog from, you are either salivating at the thought of a slice of warm fruity pudding smothered in equally warm custard or brandy butter, or, you are puzzled as to why I would make a pudding a month before eating it! If the former, I suggest you get started, if the latter, it’s time to be exposed to a deliciousness enjoyed on Christmas day in most Irish and English households (and I suspect in strongly transplanted countries like Australia, India and North America).

Well, this deeply rich, dense steamed pudding, bejeweled with all sorts of dried fruits, came into its own in Victorian England (although apparently has existed in less evolved forms from the 15th century). It is traditionally made about 5 weeks before Christmas and used to be the highlight of the Christmas feast eaten on December 25th. In the early 19th century the most precious ingredients were spices and fruits, and this pudding was deemed special enough to have it all. The fruit most commonly used was raisins, but today people like to add their own particular favorites.

The recipe for this pudding varies greatly from household to household, region to region, and like every Italian “Mama” who is adamant that the best red sauce must have onions, (or absolutely not have onions), the serious pudding makers have strong opinions too! I am more the go-with-the-flow type and use what I like, and what is available in my supermarket on the day I take upon myself to buy the ingredients.

Rum-soaked fruit

The one step that is of the utmost importance is to let the dried fruits soak in alcohol before being mixed into the batter. Then the pudding needs to be steamed for hours, stored for a month, and then steamed again before finally being served. The reason that this pudding is worth all the trouble is to witness it’s grand entrance to the dinner table. It is served flambeed in alcohol amidst the hopefully cheering and applauding guests. There is nothing like a little indoor fire to get the party started.

 I am not a culinary traditionalist by any stretch, and my sinful admission is that I hardly ever make a Christmas pudding! My Christmas desserts have ranged from trifles to cheesecake, to a wild assortment of handmade chocolates. My problem is I never remember in time enough to let the pudding age before it is eaten. The only reason I remembered in sufficient time this year is because I was thinking about my mother’s traditional dessert for this special day, a christmas cake (next year perhaps?) while also walking by a shelf with a bottle of rum on it collecting dust, which she gave me several years earlier.

Christmas table (at my friend Tom’s last year)

She brought it over on one of her visits and we never opened it. When she died I swore to only break the seal if it was for a special reason, and, as I was thinking of how she went “all out” for Christmas I decided it was time to use it as a loving remembrance. That’s when dried fruit soaked in alcohol popped into my head, followed by the thought of a flaming Christmas pudding.

This pudding is a snap to make and you can pretty much bind any kind of fruit into bread crumbs, flour and eggs and it will work. The only inconvenience is that it steams for hours so you are more or less held captive in your kitchen and surrounding area until it is done (great time to read, or clean the bathrooms!).

I encourage you write down my list of ingredients below (take note of the bowl you will need for the pudding to cook in) and make this wonderful fruity, festive dessert for the big day next month. I will be sure to post pictures of my pudding (in full flame) soon after Christmas!

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*The pudding needs to be steamed in a “pudding basin” which is essentially a strong plastic bowl with a fitted lid, or a thin metal “plum pudding mold” which also has a lid. (I could not for the life of me find a pudding bowl anywhere close to me, and in fact got lots of funny looks from shop assistants when I asked. I did manage to find a metal mold which I have never used before, but am confident it will do the job. do not use a mold with a hole in the center.)*

my new metal pudding steamer

*One more point: If you do not want to flambe your pudding, that is totally fine. The process has nothing to do with flavor. It’s all about being dramatic!*

You will need:

1 cup mixture dark raisins, golden raisins & dried cranberries

1/3 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup chopped dried prunes (pitted)

1/3 cup chopped dried dates (pitted)

3/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Bacardi Gold, but any rum will do)

1/2 cup self-raising flour

3/4 cup fine white bread crumbs

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs vegetable shortening

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs dark brown sugar

zest of 1 orange or lemon (or some of both)

1/2 tsp all-spice

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup vodka or brandy (to flambe before serving)

decoration for the top (holly, berries or some non-flammable ornament)

Equipment: 1 pudding bowl or mold (see note above in red ) to hold about 4 cups of batter.

Method:

1 – Soak fruit in rum or brandy in a covered container overnight, or up to a week.

mix batter

2 – In a big bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (except the vodka or brandy) together.

add fruit to batter

3 – Add the fruit and mix well.

cover with wax paper

4 – Turn pudding into greased bowl or mold and place a piece of parchment over the top, before putting on the lid.

cover entire bowl with foil

5 – Cover the whole bowl in tin foil and set in a saucepan of gently boiling water (the water should come halfway up the bowl. Put lid on pot and cook, checking every now and then to see if water needs to be topped up, for 3 1/2 hours.

6 – Remove from pot and allow to cool before removing the tin foil. Leave in the container in a cool dark place (not the fridge) for 3 to 5 weeks. *Some people add a little more alcohol to the pudding every week or so, and you can do this if you like (I don’t as I’m not a big fan of alco-tasting desserts)

christmas-pudding-recipe - Picture of Christmas Pudding

On the day you are serving: re-steam the pudding (wrap in foil again) for another 3 hours. If you want to flambe the pudding for presentation purposes, put the brandy or vodka into a pot and place it on medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and set it alight. Immediately pour the flaming liquid over the pudding and serve. Serve warm with custard, brandy butter or fresh cream (recipe for custard and brandy butter will be posted before Christmas!)