Every Christmas Day, I make dinner for the family. It could be a matter of rigid prescription and strict conformity to tradition, but part of the fun is that the meal evolves all the time. The teenage vegetarian, the picky toddler, the nursing mother all have different preferences. Then there are those who love Christmas pudding (all over forty) and those who don’t (under forty). Even dissenters are fond of the ritual of dousing the pud in poitín and carrying it alight to the table. My Mother-in-Law particularly likes Christmas pudding, and will be surprised this year when she discovers that it conceals a wedge of candied orange. There might even be a few more takers- even if they only want to try out the Cointreau butter….!
Heston Blumenthal devised this type of pudding for Waitrose in the UK last year. It was a huge success, with puddings being sold on eBay for hundreds of pounds when supplies ran out. This year, they’ve made enough for the shops, but Rose Prince of the Daily Telegraph has given us the know-how so we can make it at home. Ale from the Galtee Mountains in County Cork confers Irish citizenship on this version.
Oranges are an enchanting fruit. Taste, texture, perfume of oil in the zest, bitterness of the pith, floral notes in the fruit. At Christmas we are spoiled for choice; large Navel and Jaffa oranges compete with satsumas, clementines and mandarins, the first fruit a little child can peel on their own. Laden with Vitamin C, fibre and anti-oxidants, oranges ought to be eaten and enjoyed throughout the winter. The idea of finding one inside the pudding is very appealing….I’ll have to report back after Christmas to let you know how it works out. However, if the aroma in the kitchen is anything to go by, it’ll be good.
Enough water to cover
I boiled orange
1.5 litres water
1 Kg sugar
Jane Grigson’s legendary Fruit Book is a bottomless fount of wisdom and pleasure. Her recipe is called ‘Oranges Confit’.
“Knock off any hard bits at the stem end, and gouge lightly down the skin with a canelle knife at regular intervals to expose the pith underneath the colour. They should end up looking like a slashed puff sleeve on some Elizabethan court dress.
Put them into a pan, with a lid on top to keep them down, and cover with water, plenty of it. Simmer until tender, but remove from the water before the slashes burst (if one or two go, the damage can later be concealed by displaying the orange the other way up). This takes from 35 minutes.
Drain the oranges well, then simmer them in a light sugar syrup to cover until they look half-candied and syrupy- about 45 minutes.“
Lift the orange out with a slotted spoon and drain on a rack with a plate underneath to catch the sticky drops.
You will have a litre or more of beautifully orange-flavoured syrup which will come in useful in fruit salads, compotes and cocktails over Christmas. Pour it into a sterilized, empty glass jars and store in the fridge.
The Christmas Pudding
1 carrot, grated
1 Bramley apple, grated
500 mixed dried fruit including some candied peel
100 ml beer (I used Eight Degrees Howling Gale Ale)
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon black treacle
115g dark sugar
1 ½ teaspoons mixed spice
115g grated suet, beef or vegetable
115 g ground almonds
115g plain flour, sifted
Sieve the flour and put aside
Grate the carrot and apple and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add the other ingredients, one by one, mixing all the time.
Add the flour last, mixing carefully so that it is all incorporated in the mixture.
Butter a 1.5 liter pudding basin generously
Fill the pudding basin to 1/3 and press with a back of a spoon to eliminate any air pockets.
Take the candied orange and place in the middle.
Spoon the remainder of the pudding mix around and over the orange, making sure that it is well covered by the mixture. Bear in mind that the pudding will expand during cooking.
Flatten the surface of the pudding with a large metal spoon.
Cover pudding basin with a layer of greased, pleated, greaseproof paper and tie it around the rim of the basin with twine.
Steam for 7 hours, making sure to check every now and again and topping up the simmering water as required.
Cointreau and Orange Zest Butter
125g icing sugar
Zest of one orange
6 tablespoons Cointreau
Beat butter and sugar until pale and light.
Add Cointreau and orange zest and beat until well mixed.
Store in a glass jar until Christmas!!!
Once the pudding cools, remove the greaseproof paper and replace it with a new layer, and a layer of well fitting tinfoil. store in a cool place.
On Christmas Day, steam for a further two to three hours. Invert, unmould, douse with a half ladle of warm poitín, put a sprig of holly on top, and ignite.
Finally, a reward for the cook.
Put on some music- Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, Concerto of Oranges, to transport me to sunnier climes where oranges grow
and a well-deserved glass or two of Howling Gale on this stormy night.
to see how this pudding was received by the family on Christmas Day, have a look at Feedback on Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding, posted on 4th January 2012.
They loved it……