Stir Up Sunday is the traditional time to make your Christmas Pudding. It's an Anglican tradition which takes place annually on the last Sunday before advent; a time when families would gather round to make their Christmas Pudding and each take a turn at stirring the mixture whilst making a wish. This year it's today, 24th November. Tradition also dictates that a 'silver sixpence' should be put into the mixture for one lucky recipient to find. Finding the coin would bring them health, wealth & happiness. In accordance with the Gospel, to represent Christ & the disciples, at least 13 ingredients would be used to make the pudding.
I was invited to take part in Tate & Lyle's "Bake, Eat & be Mary" Christmas campaign to encourage people to make their own Christmas puddings and to spread the word of Stir Up Sunday, as statistics now tell us that over 70% of people now buy them rather than make their own. I went to London for the photo shoot, which I can only say was pretty surreal; to hear the name Mary called out and 12 women who all have Mary as their name or in their name respond, was, to say the least, quite strange. New friendships were made over bubbles & nibbles and everyone had such a fantastic time creating our own individual photographs as well as our table of Mischief you can see below.
If you pop over to the Tate & Lyle website you will find the links to 10 of the Mary Christmases' recipes and stories (including mine). Just click on our pictures to open up the recipes.
This recipe I used is from my mother's 1958 Household Encyclopaedia. It makes 6 decent sized puddings, which, if kept properly, will not only see you through the festive period with a couple to wrap & give away as gifts, but will also provide a tasty pudding for a few months to come.
1lb Soft brown sugar
4oz Candied Peel
2 Lemons, juice & rind
4oz Brandy (dark alcohol, I use rum)
1 Nutmeg, grated
4oz Almonds, chopped
1/2oz Mixed spice
10 Eggs, medium sized
1lb Plain flour
1lb Bread crumbs
Milk to mix
Butter for greasing the bowls
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of your fruit, sugar, peel, lemon juice & rind and alcohol.
2. Cover with cling film and leave to infuse overnight.
3. Next day, add the grated nutmeg, chopped almonds, mixed spice, salt and eggs, along with the flour, bread crumbs and suet.
4. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Add some milk if the mixture is too stiff. It shouldn't be a wet batter but should hold its own shape.
5. Grease the inside of your pudding bowls well with butter & place a disc of parchment paper in the base to ease removal.
6. Pack the pudding mixture into the bowl, leaving about 1/2" (1cm) space.
7. Pleat a circle of parchment paper into a double fold, as pictured, and place on top of the bowl. The pleat will allow the pudding to expand & rise a little during steaming.
8. Pleat a piece of foil and place over the top of the parchment.
9. Tie the parchment and foil in place firmly with string, using the string to make a looped handle to enable you to lift the pudding more easily into and out of the steamer.
10. Bring a pan of water to the boil.
11. Place the pudding basin into your steamer basket and put this on top of your pan of boiling water.
12. Place the lid on top and steam for 9 hours. Keep an eye on the water level and top up the saucepan as necessary with boiling water from the kettle. (Alternatively, to use a slow cooker, place your pudding basin in the crock pot, fill up to 2/3 of the way up the basin with boiling water, place the lid on and cook on HIGH for 10-12 hours or overnight. Cooking this way has the advantage of having much less evaporation of the cooking water so you can go to bed/get on with your day whilst it cooks itself).
13. When cooked, remove from the steamer and leave until cold.
14. Remove the string, foil and parchment and pour over some more alcohol of your choice and cover with a fresh piece of parchment and then a foil covering. I tie this on to keep out the air and therefore prevent the puddings drying out.
15. 'Feed' the pudding weekly with alcohol until Christmas Day, each time replacing the parchment with fresh.
16. On Christmas Day, you can steam the puddings as before for 2 hours. Alternatively, you can fill the slow cooker to 2/3 of the way up the side of the pudding basin and cook for 3 hours on HIGH. If you really want a 'quick fix' you could always microwave it in 2 min bursts until heated through, then allow to rest for 1 min before serving.
Thanks to Mischief PR for inviting me to be one of Tate & Lyle's Mary Christmases - I had a fun filled & wonderful day. Thanks to the staff at Mischief PR and also to our fab photographer, Nathan Pask for encouraging us to be silly in front of your camera lens and then showing the 'world' just how daft we were! Laura Sawyer created a beautiful, festive set for us and even found some properly cheesy Christmas jumpers for us to wear, whilst Sandra Bermingham primped and preened our hair and faces.