Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas Plum Pudding with Chocolate and Pecans

I have two excuses for posting a Christmas recipe:
  1. The food magazines always have a Christmas issue in November to allow for preparation
  2. I am already late in the day; Stir Up Sunday has passed.
I do have access to my slow cooker, despite my kitchen being under construction, but all of the to-do meant that Stir Up Sunday has passed me by.  Stir Up Sunday is the traditional day here in the UK to prepare the Christmas Pudding, in order to give it time to mature.  The traditional sort of fruit cakes and puddings need time to moisten and soften and meld together.  The puddings and cakes we usually make for Christmas in this house are lighter and moister so they are good after only a couple of days of maturing. I make them like this not only because I am incredibly impatient, but we all also prefer this texture than the can-be dry, gritty and somehow-dusty traditional produce you can be unfortunate to find at this time of year. 

Luckily, the pudding we made last year was made only around a week before the big day and was just perfect by the time the 25th arrived.  It was loved by children and adults alike.  The prunes lose bitterness and iron tang, leaving juicy bursts of plumminess.  The smoky moist chocolatiness of the pudding gives it enough depth for the grown-ups to fall in love with it, and it is also smooth and sweet enough for the kids to adore it.  At this time of year, most things I make are soaked in wither dark rum or, if it is lingering in the cupboard, port.  This pudding, however, was made using up the summer's bottle of fruit punch and it was perfect; the red fruit and light sweet spices lent a gorgeous scent and flavour.  You would probably get a similar effect using a bought light mulled wine instead of the summery punch (alcohol-free mulled wine and punches are easily found at this time of year in the supermarkets.)  If you want to use something from the cupboard, then sherry will work nicely too. Dark rum always works.  For anything.
  I list orange zest below but you could do what I usually do i.e. save all of the peel from the tangerines, satsumas etc and freeze; you can grate them from frozen to about the equivalent of the size of an orange.

I had my fill of plain white sauce blanketing and soaking its blandness into decent sponge cake at school dinners.  It never appears at my Christmas table.  The kids and hubby like this gorgeous delightfully melting chocolate nut-studded pudding with this vanilla ice cream.  I can see their point, but I like it best with thick yellow made-up Bird's. 
100g prunes, chopped
100ml amontillado sherry (70p Asda brand), dark rum (£1.40 Liberty Ship) or fruit punch like Pimms (£1.80) 
125g self raising flour
25g ground almonds
50g cocoa powder
150g granulated sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
Zest of 1 orange (or saved and frozen tangerine, clementine and Satsuma peel) 30p
50g roughly chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp black treacle
100ml rapeseed oil
100ml soya milk (why?*)

Warm up the alcohol with the prunes, put in a bowl and cover; leave until cooled, preferably overnight.  When the prunes have soaked, mix everything else together until well combined.  Spoon into a lightly greased pudding basin.  Cover with greaseproof baking paper that you have placed a pleat in the middle of to allow for rising.  Add a layer of foil, also with a pleat down the middle.  Tie the paper and foil in place with string.  Steam the pudding in a slow cooker i.e. place on a metal cooking ring or similar in the slow cooker, pour boiling water up the sides around half way up the pudding bowl.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  This can be made in advance then reheated when you want to eat it. 
Costings:  approximately £2.91 for the whole pudding (using leftover alcohol and citrus zest)

Add 30p if you need to buy an extra orange, and the alcohol as specified in ingredients list if buying in especially; this would range from the least expensive at £3.91 using an orange and sherry to the most expensive at £5.91 for an orange and Pimms.

*To cut on sugar without losing sweetness, I like to use soya milk sweetened with apple extract (supermarket brands usually are) which is around the same cost as dairy milks but with less saturated fat and is good if you worry about the free-range etc side of things - it also has the advantage of making cakes suitable for the oft-cited 70% of the world's population who are lactose intolerant! If you only have dairy milk in the fridge, then there is no reason that this recipe wouldn't work with that instead.

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