Tag Archives: darina allen

Christmas Dinner Prep Nov. 2, 2017. Time to Soak the Dried Fruit for the Christmas Pudding. Please make this. It is easy and amazing, and…there is still time!

Christmas Pudding has the reputation for being stodgy, heavy and full of unappealing dried fruit, and in general, it is true. When I was growing up I tasted many truly terrible puddings. We would be dragged to relatives houses over Christmas and sure enough a cup of tea with a slice of pudding would be set in front of me. There were the aridly dry ones that would crumble in your mouth and I would need to drink two or more cups of tea to help wash them down. Next most awful were the  puddings that were chock full of candied mixed fruit peel. The luminous artificial dye in the peel would run into the cake part and the taste was tinny and chewy in a very unpleasant way. Horrible pudding memories!


This lovely pudding was made by Darina Allen, an amazing Irish chef, food writer and founder of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland

I steered clear of making Christmas pudding for years, but, when one year I decided to try my hand at making one, I realized that Christmas pudding didn’t have to be heavy, stodgy and unpleasant. My pudding was rich and intensely flavorful but with a wonderful sticky pudding moisture that was addictive. Yes I am praising my own pudding, but my effort came with lots of help from taking a large portion of my mother’s Christmas spirit and combining it with the things I liked and a hefty dose of advice from various cookbooks and cooking gurus. 

Pedro Ximénez Sherry (sweet sherry is used to soak the dried fruit for your pudding)

My pudding is a little different every year and the main difference is I change the liquor I used to soak the dried fruit and, I change-up the dried fruit I use. I have used conventional fruits like currents and prunes to things like dried blueberries and figs in my pudding. This year I want to try a sherry that Nigella Lawson swears by for her pudding and use dried cherries as one of my fruits. I also think I want to add something from the chocolate family, be it cocoa powder or actual dark chocolate pieces…I haven’t decided yet.

soaking fruit for christmas pudding

I don’t always use sherry to soak my fruit. One year I used rum and it was amazing too (so don’t run out and buy sherry if you have something else that might work in your liquor cabinet that has sweet notes)

Today all I am going to do is get my fruit soaking for a few day (up to a week), in some delicious sweet sherry and make my mind up over the next few days.

If you are going to try your hand at this pudding along with me, you will also need to soak your fruit. For this stage you will need:

  • 1 cup Good Quality Sweet Sherry. If you know nothing about sherry, just get a recommendation from where you buy it. (I am using Nigella Lawson’s recommendation of Pedro Ximenez Sherry. She waxed on about it, so I believe it must be good. It is also used by Darina Allen for her pudding so I don’t think you can go wrong here. It is expensive though…close to $30 for a bottle, so if you plan on buying this, just know that it is great for sipping and can be added to plenty of other desserts).
  • 3 1/2 cups GOOD QUALITY dried fruit (choose 3 or 4 that you like…such as: currants, golden raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, figs (chopped), prunes (Chopped).

Method for Soaking Fruit:

Put fruit in a bowl and add the sherry. Stir. Cover and place on a shelf or cupboard somewhere for a few days. Give the mixture a quick stir every day (if you remember).

Dried Fruit for Pudding

This year I am using currants, dried cherries and dried blueberries


*And if you are just discovering this recipe or feel in the mood to try this, you will also need a Pudding Basin*





Make Your Own Sausages (makes 8 – serves 4)

Yes, it’s true: there is no reason in the world you cannot make your own homemade sausages. I was reading an old Darina Allen cookbook and she had a recipe for sausages. From what I could see, and I am a cook who feels that recipes should be used as a guideline only, sausages can be made with just about any ground meat and a combination of flavors. Fatty meat was one of the key ingredients and since I had bacon and the dregs of a bunch of cilantro in the fridge, I decided to try my hand at making sausages last night!

Make Your Own Sausages

Make Your Own Sausages

Darina Allen made her sausages using just streaky bacon but I felt that my bacon was a little too fatty so used a combination of bacon and ground pork. I added some heat with cayenne pepper flakes, and cilantro was the only fresh herb I had so that would have to do.

Homemade sausages with homemade freis adn sauteed spinach for dinner last night

Homemade sausages with homemade fries and sautéed spinach for dinner last night

They were really fun to make and so quick. I served them with homemade fries and after the sausages were done frying, I cooked a giant bunch of spinach in the flavorful fat. It was a wonderful start to our weekend and I can’t wait to try other combinations of meat and  spices the next time.


*This is a great blood Type A Diet recipe if you use only ground chicken or turkey with the rest of the ingredients, and follow the same recipe below! Also omit the black pepper and pepper flakes if you are being very strict*

You will need:

1/2 lb streaky back, roughly chopped

3/4 lb ground pork

OR – 1 1/4 lbs of ground turkey or chicken (instead of pork and bacon)

1 egg

1 cup + 2 tbs fine bread crumbs (about 2 slices of bread in the food processor)

2 cloves garlic (1 clove if large), roughly chopped

3 tbls chopped cilantro (or combination of your favorite strong herbs: oregano, thyme, parsley, sage)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes Or 1/2 tsp good quality curry powder

freshly ground black pepper


1 – Put the bread crumbs (or broken bread slices) in the food processor with the herbs, garlic, pepper flakes (or curry powder) and several grinds of black pepper.

blend breadcrumbs with seasonings of your choice

Blend breadcrumbs with seasonings of your choice

2 – Pulse until everything is well mixed and transfer to a bowl and set aside.

set aside seasonings

Set aside seasonings

3 – Pace the chopped bacon into the processor (no need to rinse the processor) and pulse until it is a rough grind consistency (if you over do it, it will become gluey).

Pulse bacon in food processor

Pulse bacon in food processor

4 – Crack egg into a big bowl and mix with a fork. Add the ground pork, bacon and bread crumb mixture to the eggs and mix together with your hands until everything is one solid mass. If the mixture feels too sticky to handle, add a little more bread crumbs (not too much however or it will be too bread-like)

Mix everything together

Mix everything together

5 – Rub some oil in the palms of your hands (makes for easy handling) and divide mixture into 8  pieces of roughly the same size. Fashion each piece into a thick sausage shape and set on a lightly oiled plate or wax paper as you go, (this makes for easy removal to the frying pan).

Make sausages

Make sausages

6 – Put a small amount of oil on a pan under medium/low heat and fry the sausages until brown on all sides.

Fry on all sides until nice adn brown

Fry on all sides until nice and brown

Serve any way you like: on a sandwich with mustard and your favorite toppings, or like I did, with fries and sautéed greens. They are also good for a big breakfast with eggs and toast.

Serve with anything you like!

Serve with anything you like!

*You can also freeze them between wax paper and a plastic bag ready to fry whenever you want!