When the Overcoming MS team asked me if I could prepare an OMS friendly Christmas menu, the biggest challenge was how to make a Christmas pudding that is low-fat, dairy-free and egg-free. Here's what I came up with and I've got to say, it's good. Got the big thumbs up from all my family.
Dried Fruit Mix - you can use any combination of dried fruit that you like - sultanas, raisins, currants, dates, apricots, figs, prunes, mixed peel, glace cherries or cranberries. I used 4 and 1/2 cups:
1 cup (150g/5oz) sultanas
3/4 cup (150g/5oz) raisins
1 cup (150g/5oz) currants
1 cup (150g/5oz) dried dates, chopped
3/4 cup (100g/3.5oz) dried apricots, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup orange juice +1/2 cup alcohol (rum, brandy) for soaking the fruit or for a non-alcohol pudding just use 1 cup of orange juice
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 green apples (125g,4.5oz), unpeeled and grated
1 cup orange juice - juice from 4 oranges, or use good quality juice
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
2 cups of self-raising (self-rising) flour
1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons of mixed spice* (I used 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice & 1/2 tsp nutmeg)
Place all the dried fruit, lemon zest and soaking liquid in a glass bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to soak overnight or for a couple of days stirring regularly. The fruit should be lovely and plump. You can heat the mixture in a saucepan first if you like.
When your fruit is ready, grate the 2 green apples and add them to the mixture, together with all the wet ingredients. Stir well so the sugar dissolves.
Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir/whisk to combine. Sift the dry ingredients over the top of the fruit mixture. Gently fold the flour mixture into the fruit until it is combined.
Spoon the pudding mixture into a 2 litre pudding container until it is three-quarters full. I bought a carbon-steel non-stick pudding bowl with a lid that locks closed, and handles which makes it so much easier. I did cut a small piece of greaseproof paper to fit in the bottom of the bowl and lightly greased the sides with a little oil. If you have a pyrex/ceramic bowl you will need to make a water-tight lid and string handle for it. See instructions here. You can also make 2 x 1 litre puddings, and freeze one for next year.
Place the pudding bowl into a double steamer, or a large saucepan with a trivet or upturned saucer on the bottom. This stops the top of the pudding touching the bottom of the pan and burning. Pour boiling water around the pudding bowl until it comes halfway up the sides. Put the lid on the saucepan/steamer and simmer for about 4 hours. You will need to keep an eye on it and top up the water when needed. Use boiling water from the kettle.
Remove the pudding from the saucepan and leave it to cool in the bowl. If you want to eat it straight away, leave it to cool for 30 minutes before serving. Traditionally though, you would now store the pudding in the pantry or fridge for a month to allow the flavours to develop (make a new foil lid and string if you don't have a lidded pudding bowl). To re-heat the pudding, steam for another hour or so. Let it cool for 30 minutes and then serve with custard.
2 cups Non-dairy milk - Soy, Almond, Rice, Oat
2-3 heaped tablespoons cornflour
3 tablespoons honey (to taste)
1 vanilla bean split, or 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
Mix the cornflour with 4 tablespoons of milk until you get a smooth paste.
Heat the rest of the milk and the honey.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk. Continue to heat until it reaches a boil.
Add the cornflour mixture, and simmer gently for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Stir through the vanilla extract now if you didn't use a vanilla pod.
To get the yellow colour that egg yolks normally give the custard, soak a couple of strands of saffron in hot water and stir the coloured water through the custard, or add a sprinkle of paprika. Leave the custard to cool slightly or chill. Remove the vanilla pod before serving.
Custard Powder Method
Add 2-3 heaped tablespoons of Foster Clark's vanilla custard powder & 1-2 tablespoons honey or sugar to 2 cups of non-dairy milk and cook in the same way as the above recipe.
Ingredients of Foster Clark's custard powder is cornflour, sugar, salt, colour (curcumin, paprika) and natural flavour.
The first 'custard powder' was invented by Alfred Bird in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs. He used cornflour (cornstarch) to thicken milk, rather than eggs. (source)
I had a little bit of pudding mixture left over, so I decided to make a mini-Christmas cake out of it.
I baked it in the oven at 150C/300F for about 30-40 minutes. If you made the whole mixture as a cake, you would probably need to bake it for around 1 1/2 hours. Use a small skewer to test if the cake is cooked properly.
I think this cake would be delicious with blanched almonds in it.
Mixed Spice is a British blend of spices used in fruit cakes and puddings. It generally consists of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice with cinnamon being the dominant flavour. The mix may also include cloves, ginger, coriander, caraway and cayenne pepper (see here)
Traditionally Christmas pudding is made with suet which is raw beef or mutton fat.
This recipe gives a rich dense pudding. If you want a lighter version, you could reduce the amount of dried fruit. You can also add some chopped or whole blanched almonds to the dry fruit mixture.
Christmas Pudding History & Tradition
Traditionally in the UK, you start your Christmas pudding on Stir Up Sunday. This is the name given to the last Sunday before the season of Advent in the Anglican church. Stir Up Sunday was Sunday November 25th in 2012, and the 24th November 2013. It is also tradition that every person in the household stirs the Christmas pudding mixture and makes a wish. Often silver coins, usually a sixpence, were added to the pudding mixture. If a person's serve of Christmas pudding contained a coin they were able to keep it, and it was thought that this would bring wealth in the coming year. My grandmother used to add old coins to our pudding but we had to give them back so she could use them again the next year.
|Here's me as an 18 year old at a Christmas pudding party in Dalkeith, Perth.|
Look at the size of that bowl!
To serve a Christmas pudding you are supposed to flambe it with brandy, decorate with a sprig of holly and ceremoniously carry it to the table where it would receive a round of applause. I like the idea of an applause. I think I'll introduce that tradition in my family. I'm also going to organise a big Christmas pudding party next year for stir-up Sunday, just to keep the tradition alive.
References - Stir Up Sunday at Wikipedia here, and Christmas pudding history here.