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Ultimate Christmas Pudding

by . Featured in NIGELLA CHRISTMAS
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Introduction

I don’t deny it: there is something unattractively boastful about calling one’s own recipe “ultimate”. But having soaked my dried fruit for this pudding in Pedro Ximénez – the sweet, dark, sticky sherry that has a hint of liquorice, fig and treacle about it – I know there is no turning back. It’s not even as if it’s an extravagance: the rum or brandy I’ve used up till now are more expensive and do the trick less well. This is sensational - it is the Queen of Christmas puddings. It has to be tried, and clamours to be savoured.

I know that many of you, tradition be damned, are resistant to Christmas pudding, and I do understand why. But you must try this. For until you do, you probably think all that dried fruit is, well, dry, and the pudding heavy. Yet this is far from the case: the fruit is moist and sticky, and the pudding mystifyingly, meltingly light.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I don’t deny it: there is something unattractively boastful about calling one’s own recipe “ultimate”. But having soaked my dried fruit for this pudding in Pedro Ximénez – the sweet, dark, sticky sherry that has a hint of liquorice, fig and treacle about it – I know there is no turning back. It’s not even as if it’s an extravagance: the rum or brandy I’ve used up till now are more expensive and do the trick less well. This is sensational - it is the Queen of Christmas puddings. It has to be tried, and clamours to be savoured.

I know that many of you, tradition be damned, are resistant to Christmas pudding, and I do understand why. But you must try this. For until you do, you probably think all that dried fruit is, well, dry, and the pudding heavy. Yet this is far from the case: the fruit is moist and sticky, and the pudding mystifyingly, meltingly light.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Ultimate Christmas Pudding
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Serves: 8-10

Metric Cups
  • 150 grams currants
  • 150 grams sultanas
  • 150 grams roughly chopped prunes
  • 175 millilitres pedro ximenez sherry
  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
  • 150 grams suet
  • 150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 125 millilitres vodka (to flame the pudding)
  • 1¼ cups currants
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pitted prunes
  • ¾ cup pedro ximenez sherry
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2⅓ cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 14 tablespoons coarsely grated vegetable shortening (freeze overnight to make it easier to grate)
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 medium apple (peeled and grated)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup vodka (to flame the pudding)

Method

You will need a 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart heatproof plastic pudding basin with a lid, and also a sprig of holly to decorate.

  1. Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.
  2. When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.
  4. Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned coins or heirloom charms. If you are at all frightened about choking-induced fatalities at the table, do leave out the hardware.
  5. Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid. Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.
  6. When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.
  7. On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.
  8. To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)
  9. Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests. If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.
  10. Serve with the Eggnog Cream, which you can easily make - it's the work of undemanding moments - while the pudding's steaming.

You will need a 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart heatproof plastic pudding basin with a lid, and also a sprig of holly to decorate.

  1. Put the currants, golden raisins and scissored pitted prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.
  2. When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.
  4. Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned coins or heirloom charms. If you are at all frightened about choking-induced fatalities at the table, do leave out the hardware.
  5. Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid. Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.
  6. When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.
  7. On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.
  8. To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)
  9. Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests. If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.
  10. Serve with the Eggnog Cream, which you can easily make - it's the work of undemanding moments - while the pudding's steaming.

Additional Information

Although I stipulate a capacious 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart basin, and cannot extol the utter gloriousness of this pud too much, I know that you’re unlikely to get through most of it, even half of it, at one sitting. But I like the grand, pride instilling size of this, plus it’s wonderful on following days, microwaved in portionsafter or between meals, with leftover Eggnog Cream, or fried in butter and eaten with vanilla ice cream for completely off-the-chart, midnight-munchy feasts. But it wouldn’t be out of the question – and it would certainly be in the spirit of the season – to make up the entire quantity of mixture, and share between smaller basins – a 2 pint/1 quart one for you, a 1 pint/½ quart one to give away. Three hours’ steaming both first and second time around should do it; just keep the one pudding for yourself, and give the other to a friend, after it’s had its first steaming, and is cool, with the steaming instructions for Christmas Day.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the Christmas pudding up to 6 weeks ahead. Keep in a cool, dark place, then proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make and freeze the Christmas pudding for up to 1 year ahead. Thaw overnight at room temperature and proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

Although I stipulate a capacious 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart basin, and cannot extol the utter gloriousness of this pud too much, I know that you’re unlikely to get through most of it, even half of it, at one sitting. But I like the grand, pride instilling size of this, plus it’s wonderful on following days, microwaved in portionsafter or between meals, with leftover Eggnog Cream, or fried in butter and eaten with vanilla ice cream for completely off-the-chart, midnight-munchy feasts. But it wouldn’t be out of the question – and it would certainly be in the spirit of the season – to make up the entire quantity of mixture, and share between smaller basins – a 2 pint/1 quart one for you, a 1 pint/½ quart one to give away. Three hours’ steaming both first and second time around should do it; just keep the one pudding for yourself, and give the other to a friend, after it’s had its first steaming, and is cool, with the steaming instructions for Christmas Day.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the Christmas pudding up to 6 weeks ahead. Keep in a cool, dark place, then proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make and freeze the Christmas pudding for up to 1 year ahead. Thaw overnight at room temperature and proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

Tell us what you think

What 61 Others have said

  • Made this back in November. I made one for my family and gave one away to family. What a fantastic recipe. Nigella recipes never fail and this was no exception. Everyone loved it and gave rave reviews. None left. This will be on the menu for every Christmas now.

    Posted by Bakingqueen64 on 27th December 2019
  • It wasn't that hard to make. I steamed it in a metal pudding basin. Nice and soft. There was no intense spice flavours. Well balanced pudding. The best I have had. The other one is from the shops. Just the steaming time is the only issue if it is at all. I took it with me on a domestic flight. Steamed the rest of it the day before and steamed it for about 15 minutes again on the day just to heat it up a bit. We did the whole vodka thing as well. Twice as the younger daughter of my friend wanted to set it aflame and she wasn't quick enough. So we did it for the second time as well with another batch of vodka. Ate with home made pouring custard. Thank you Nigella. Finally my 9 year old son's wish came true. Mom made a home made Christmas pudding.

    Posted by Chattycat on 27th December 2019
  • This is the best Christmas Pudding I have ever cooked. The Sherry is fantastic in it and what I didn’t use in the cooking we enjoyed in a glass. What a great idea!

    Posted by Leegay on 20th December 2019
  • I made this pudding and it is absolutely brilliant. I live in India and made some substitutions. No Pedro Ximirez here so instead I used 60ml each of, spiced rum, cinnamon whiskey and an orange liqueur. I also used about 2 tbsps of treacle. For the dried fruits, I used dates, raisins and prunes. I also added about a heaped tablespoon of apricot jam and added some cardamom and nutmeg powders too. I used molasses instead of honey. I steamed in two pudding basins. I used one for a Christmas party with my friends and will use the other one for the coming Christmas party with my family. Will definitely be making this every year!

    Posted by chandycooks on 20th December 2019
  • I have always made my own puddings but hated the tedious sauna of the steaming, Oh joy when I discovered it could be done in a slow cooker. Perfect puds and no steamed up windows

    Posted by slowef on 20th December 2019
  • I must agree it truly is the ultimate Christmas pudding. The Pedro Ximenez sherry is the key. We have been making this pudding for at least 5 years and look forward to it each year. It is simply delicious and adored by our whole family.

    Posted by LizziefromBrizzie on 27th December 2018
  • Thi is every bit as light and delicious as the comments suggest. My first ever attempt at making a Christmas pudding, and it was sublime.

    Posted by Camicat on 26th December 2018
  • Amazing! This will be the third Christmas in a row I’m making this pudding. Rich in flavour, light in texture - perfect with custard. In Australia, so I add fresh cherries as garnish. Sherry easily sourced from Woolworths bottle shop. Also - so easy but impressive!

    Posted by TheOneAndOnly on 12th December 2018
  • I made this in 2015 and have been making 2 or 3 of the puddings every year ever since. I use butter instead of suet. I’ve just made a huge batch ready for the Christmas season ahead. Thanks for the recipe.

    Posted by KirstDee on 15th November 2018
  • Totally amazing recipe!! Best pud ever. I did substitute figs for the prunes, and equal cranberry and cherries for the sultanas. Plus substituted Kraken spiced dark rum for the sherry, but was definitely the best ever Christmas pudding, for the first time, the whole pudding was gone at the end of lunch, even the teenagers ate it.

    Posted by SteveCat on 31st December 2017
  • It was astonishing. I bake a lot and this was the best thing I've made for ages. Light, smooth, deep and complex. I would highly recommend this recipe to anyone. Easy. No nuts, no peel. Perfect.

    Posted by thisiswhatthemansaid99 on 27th December 2017
  • Look like a plum duff hero with this delicious Christmas pudding recipe. Guaranteed to get the desired reaction when you flame up this beauty on the table. You just know you're winning when your father in law, one of those who is always willing to share his opinion on the food others prepare while he slugs back another round of white bubbles (God love him), keeps his mouth shut and goes back for seconds. I used a steel pudding bowl with lid and cooked in a large slow cooker on high (92 C). In Australia, I sourced the Pedro Ximenez from Dan Murphys and used Copha as the vegetable shortening/suet.

    Posted by robbie23 on 25th December 2017
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