This Christmas pudding evolved over the years and now I never change it. I like to use tart as well as sweet dried fruit, and buy the best you can.
Prep time: 2 days
Cooking time: 2 hours
200g dried fruit (sour cherries, cranberries, apples, pears, figs)
75g each raisins, currants and sultanas
200ml Theakston Old Peculier ale
3 tbsp rum or whisky
Zest and juice of 1 small orange and 1 small lemon
85g prunes, soaked overnight in tea, drained and chopped
½ large banana
½ large, tart dessert apple, such as Granny Smith
175g butter, plus extra for greasing
250g soft dark-brown sugar
1½ tbsp treacle
2 large eggs
85g self-raising flour
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
175g fresh white breadcrumbs
75g mixed peel
85g mixed brazil nuts and toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Chop up the larger pieces of dried fruit. Mix with the raisins, currants and sultanas, and soak overnight (or up to a week) in the ale, rum or whisky, and citrus juice. Add the prunes to this the next day. Mash the banana and grate the apple, including the skin, and stir into the fruit.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the citrus zest and treacle, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the sifted flour, spices and a pinch of salt, then add the dried fruit and the soaking liquor. Stir, then add the breadcrumbs, mixed peel and nuts.
Put the mixture in a greased 1.8-litre pudding bowl. Cut out two large rectangles of greaseproof paper; lay one over the other, with a sheet of foil the same size on top. Keeping the layers together, make a pleat across the middle. Hold this in place as you put the cover over the bowl, folding it down at the sides and tying with string. Attach a string handle to the sides so you can lift the pudding in and out of the pan. Trim the greaseproof paper and foil to 4cm below the string (the cover must not touch the water).
Lower the pudding into a large pan of simmering water, at the bottom of which you have put an old plate upside-down for it to stand on. The water should come a third of the way up the side of the bowl. Cover and steam for eight hours, topping up the boiling water from time to time.
Once the pudding has steamed, remove the covering and put fresh foil or cling film on top. Keep it cool and ‘feed’ it every few days with slugs of whisky or rum (or both) until Christmas Day.
On the day, cover with pleated greaseproof paper and foil in the same way as before and steam for two hours to warm through.
Serve with cream or brandy butter, or both.