Classic Christmas Pudding

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Christmas pudding

Serves 6-8

450g dried mixed fruit, eg a mixture of currants, sultanas, golden cherries, candied peel, raisins, chopped apricots, dried chopped figs

1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

1 orange, finely grated rind and juice

3 tbsp brandy, sherry, or rum, plus extra for flaming

75g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

100g (or slightly less if desired) light muscovado sugar

2 free-range eggs

100g self-raising flour

1 tsp mixed spice

pinch of ground cinnamon

freshly grated nutmeg

40g fresh white breadcrumbs

40g whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped

Put the mixed fruit and apple into a bowl with the orange juice. Add the measured brandy (rum or sherry), stir and leave to marinate for about one hour.

Put 75g of butter, the sugar and grated orange rind into a large bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the measured flour if the mixture starts to curdle.

Sift together the flour and mixed spice, then fold into the creamed mixture with the breadcrumbs and the nuts. Add the soaked dried fruits with their soaking liquid and stir well.

Generously butter a 1.4 litre/2½ pint pudding basin. Cut a small disc of foil or baking parchment and press into the base of the basin.

Spoon into the prepared pudding basin and press the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover the pudding with a layer of baking parchment paper and foil, both pleated across the middle to allow for expansion. Tie securely with string and trim off excess paper and foil.

To steam: put the pudding in the top of a steamer filled with simmering water, cover with a lid and steam for eight hours, topping up the water as necessary.

To boil: put a metal jam jar lid, or metal pan lid, into the base of a large pan to act as a trivet. Lower the pudding onto the trivet and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the side of the bowl. Cover with a lid, bring the water back to the boil, then simmer for about seven hours, until the pudding is a glorious deep brown colour, topping up the water as necessary.

When cooked through, remove the pudding from the pan and cool completely. Discard the paper and foil and replace with fresh. Store in a cool, dry place.

To serve, on Christmas Day, steam or boil the pudding for about two hours to reheat. Turn the pudding onto a serving plate. To flame, warm the brandy or rum in a small pan, pour it over the hot pudding and set light to it.