I recently inherited a slender, handwritten cookery notebook from my husband’s grandmother, Ruth. She included seven recipes for Christmas pudding, but only one with the annotation “Very good. Kitchen Front”.
Kitchen Front was a radio show, part-comedy, part-cookery, part Ministry of Food advice, broadcast during the Second World War, so it seems Ruth wrote the recipe down while listening, or perhaps copied it from the show’s cookery book. Judging by the arrows and additions, she made it her own. Light, almost cake-y, and very good. This is her recipe.
Prep time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 12 hours
Six to eight
- 55g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp ground allspice or mixed spice
- 110g fresh breadcrumbs
- 55g suet, grated
- 85g caster sugar
- 85g currants
- 85g sultanas
- 55g chopped dates
- 55g chopped candied peel
- Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
- 30g marmalade
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 140ml rum, ale, stout or milk
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and spice together well. One at a time, stir in the breadcrumbs, suet, sugar, currants, sultanas, dates, peel and zest.
- In a separate bowl, mix the marmalade, eggs, rum (or stout, ale or milk), and black treacle. Add this liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Base-line a one-litre pudding basin with a circle of greaseproof paper. Fill with the mixture, pressing down.
- After filling the pudding basin, leaving at least 1.5cm space at the top, press a circle of greaseproof paper on to the mixture. Take a double sheet of foil, at least 10cm bigger than the top of the bowl all around, and lay over the top of the bowl. If you like you can make a pleat in the foil to allow for expansion, but it’s not really necessary if you have left space at the top of the bowl.
- Wrap the edges of the foil down around the sides of the bowl. Tie string around the bowl, under the lip, and knot tightly. Lay a tea towel over the bowl, and tie it round with string as you did the foil. Knot the two diagonally opposite corners of the cloth together tightly, and then the other two corners.
- Steam the pudding for seven or eight hours (or 12 hours in a slow cooker). A pasta cooker (the kind with a deep insert that fits into the pan of boiling water) is perfect for steaming a pudding. Otherwise, any deep pan with a well fitting lid will be fine, but don’t put the pudding basin directly on the base of the pan. Instead put a saucer or heatproof plate upside down for the pudding basin to sit on. The water should come about half way up the bowl, and the lid stay on throughout cooking, except when you lift it to check the water level and top up from the kettle if necessary.
- After the first steaming replace the tea towel (and the foil if necessary) with a fresh one. Store in a cupboard until Christmas. On Christmas Day, steam for one-and-a-half hours or three hours in a slow cooker.