Friday 3 December 2010

British Stuff Review: Christmas Pudding

My kind of pudding!
I had my first Christmas in England before I officially moved here, when new things even if the were gross were still cool because they were "foreign".   I had a traditional Christmas dinner (lunch) with my soon-to-be husband and his parents which was concluded with a dessert called Christmas pudding.

Now, I knew that pudding is not what I think pudding should be (think Bill Cosby Jello Pudding), but was surprised by what was served to me.
Christmas Pudding
My now mother-in-law brought out a round topped dense cake-ish thing, poured brandy on the top and lit it on fire!  Fun enough, but what was this thing?  Recipes vary greatly by family, but most Christmas puddings are made up of flour, breadcrumbs, nuts, mixed dried fruit, treacle or brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange and lemon zest, apple and sometimes suet (animal fat).  You mix all that together in a bowl and if you want to be very traditional, you are supposed to let all the family members stir it and make a wish. To cook, you need to steam the pudding - grease a glass bowl with butter  and pack the mixture inside this bowl and cover the bowl with parchment paper.  Then boil a large pot of water and set the glass bowl inside the water making sure the water does not get into the bowl (apparently this is called a ban-marie?).  Set on simmer for about four hours, then tip the bowl upside down on a plate and you have a Christmas pudding (usually served with either  brandy butter or brandy sauce poured over the top).

People in England have been enjoying Christmas pudding since the middle ages and the recipe has evolved through the years, growing in popularity in the 1800's when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spoke of their love of the dish.

Do be careful when eating a Christmas pudding as you may find some purposely placed inedible items inside your portion. It is traditional to stir silver coins (for wealth), tiny wishbones (for good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), a ring (for marriage), or an anchor (for safe harbor) into the mixture, and whoever gets the the "lucky" serving, would be able to keep the charm and the good wishes that go along with it.  When silver coins were not as readily available, this tradition lapsed because people feared putting alloy coins in their pudding. Today small token coins and other objects are made just for this use.

Yes I hear you:  "Interesting enough, but get to the point -  what does it taste like?"  Now that I am living in England, the novelty of this uniquely British food has well and truly worn off and I am no longer afraid of offending my mother-in-law by admitting that I absolutely hate Christmas pudding.  It tastes kind of like warm, soggy fruitcake and will never again pass my lips!

British Stuffs Rating: 0/5 Paddington Bears!


  1. have to agree but have you seen the new one on the Waitrose commercial with the whole orange inside? For some reason it looks delicious to me!

  2. Lol, welcome to the club. Never did fancy puddings, much less Christmas puddings. Oh, while you're at it, throw minced pie into the mix too. I respect traditions, I really do. But I draw the line at pudding and minced pie.

    Anyway, merry Christmas to you in advance!

  3. Oh I should do another post about mince pies.. the history behind them is interesting (and I totally agree- they are gross too!). I have seen the Heston Blumenthal Waitrose one, but it looks even grosser to me, which is a good thing since they are sold out and apparently going on ebay for hundreds of pounds! Thanks for the comments!

  4. We just tried our first one last night. Wow, it sounds like a work to make. Is this what they refer to as 'Figgy Pudding'? We bought ours from the store - I didn't know about the trinkets or lighting it on fire. The kids would have liked both. We had it topped with ice cream (is that legal?). We'd give it a 3/5. Suckers for anything sweet :) XO L

  5. I asked my husband about figgy pudding and he said it is very similar, except that figgy pudding can be baked (which IMO would greatly improve the outcome vs steaming).

    I'd say it is "illegal" to top with ice cream, but a definite improvement from the traditional custard or brandy sauce. Good choice :)

    Glad you enjoyed your figgy pudding experience!

  6. Thank you for the civilized explanation. The guy at the bakery gave me a scowl when I asked.