My name is Dr Sister Outlaw and I admit I am a pudding addict

There has been a fair bit of twittering and emailing going on between those of us who have made Christmas puddings this year using my tried and tested recipe.

There has also been more than a little fiddling. My Brother Outlaw added cumquats to his, and Zoe has added port and figs and various other things. I could, if I was that way inclined, get annoyed at the traducing of the recipe, and suffer a fit of pique at the failure of my friends and family to, you know, fall into line and follow my directions. But a brief survey of my relationship history would reveal that I am not myself the sort of girl who likes to do the same old thing year in and year out and, in any case, I am outrageously competitive.

Which brings me to another point. In the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living mag this week there was a story about some chick called Kirsty who invites all these women around to make puddings, according to her recipe. Apparently she’s been doing it for years and years. Obviously she is much better at getting her friends and family to fall into line and maybe serving them alcohol helps, but probably she associates with timid wilting types who would never experiment with a recipe and are happy to be told what to do. Like sheep, or members of the NSW ALP Right Caucus.

Well, I’d like to remind readers that here at PDP we value free speech, free expression, and opportunities to spread pudding goodness far and wide. We’ve had our very own virtual and real life pudding competitions. The results were inconclusive, but the eating was very good indeed (as was the drinking and company).

And so, in that spirit, I launch this open thread, where we can share pudding tips and recipes (it really isn’t too late to make one, trust me), and share our thoughts as to the results. I know that, as I type this, Zoe is cooking hers. I cooked mine this week as well. Traditionally, I add 900 grammes of fruit, which is mostly currants and raisins (360g each) plus a mixture of peel/ginger/glace cherries (adding up to 180g). I also add some hazelnuts. This year I did 300g currants, 300g figs and a combo of dates, cranberries, ginger and peel (to get up to 900g). Kind of Middle East meets Northern Europe, and, as I add brandy and hazelnuts (Central Europe) and Vodka (Eastern Europe), my pud is gonna be totally Continental.

What have you done? (And Zoe, what’s in yours?)

(Zoe adds – if you’d like to include an image in your comment, post a link to an online version or email a jpg about 380 wide and we’ll magic it up.)


#1 Zoe on 13.12.09 at 2:19 pm

The biggest change for me is using suet for the first time. It’s extremely pretty stuff (at the end of the process, anyway):

Pretty suet

And here’s those membranes DSO talked about in her recipe post:


(I know, my thumbnail’s grubby, I’m a gardener, dudes)

Here are the babies enbasined:


and this is the Pudding-Industrial Complex where they are presently bubbling away:

Pudding-Industrial Complex

I (ahem) altered the recipe a little this year, using black mission figs, candied orange peel, dried cherries, sultanas, currants, raisins, hazelnuts and glace ginger. Unlike last year, I chopped everything into relatively uniform little pieces – the giant hunks of glace ginger were a bit overwhelming for my taste. As DSO mentioned, I went for port for the bonus alcohol, but only because I had some in the cupboard ;)

#2 Dr Sista Outlaw on 13.12.09 at 2:39 pm

Yes, get fruit and nuts in small bits, and to be successful with suet grate when cold, and only in tiny amounts, so it stays light and fluffy and does not smear all over you and your kitchen benches and floors. Zoe’s industrial complex looks teh awsum – note, peeps, her innovative use of outside space so inside does not become sauna!

#3 Zoe on 13.12.09 at 2:48 pm

It’s 30 degrees today, and although it’s comfy in the house it wouldn’t be if I were boilin’ puddings. The big pot on the left is Owy’s 55 L beer making thingummy and the one on the right is on a higher shelf. Using orsm 2 and 3 ring Chinese wok burners that you need if you (a) have electric hotplates (b) like to eat stir-fry when you’re camping ;)

#4 jude on 13.12.09 at 2:49 pm

Well I’ve given it all up after 20 yrs, novelty’s worn off. Figs ginger and truckloads of WHISKEY (proper single malt) were my faves. Bull full marks for effort. These days I chuck all those lovely things into good icecream and unmould a fabulous icecream pudding instead. Much easier and a great crowd-pleaser.

#5 Zoe on 13.12.09 at 2:53 pm


#6 Pumpkin-eater on 13.12.09 at 3:31 pm

Can you eat Christmas pudding cold? I usually stick with christmas cake since we can eat if for a few weeks after xmas.

#7 Zoe on 13.12.09 at 3:46 pm

If you make it with butter, sure, but I think that the suet version needs heating. DSO will know!

#8 Dr Sister Outlaw on 13.12.09 at 8:20 pm

Suet version def is better hot. I mean, you can do it cold but suet is better when melted. I hasten to add, this is what microwaves are for, so of course you can keep the thing for weeks afterwards.

If you are abstemious. I am not. As I’ve said before, I have eaten pudding with diet custard, which means guilt free Christmas eating IF you can delude yourself sufficiently to ignore the calories in the fat, dried fruit, alcohol and nuts that are so essential for the best puddings.

#9 emica on 14.12.09 at 8:08 am

I am totally impressed with your pudding HQ zoe!! I made my own for the first time year before last, to a Woman’s Weekly recipe (tweaked by my aunty, then tweaked again by me) and it was my proudest moment.

I used a plastic pudding basin with clip lock lid. Yours are old school. I was a bit intimidated by them with all the double brown paper and wrapping with string etc (although they do look gorgeous). Do you reckon they’re easy to use?

This year, the pud’ll be bought from Waitrose I’m afraid. But i did make Christmas chutney yesterday. Does that count towards Chrissie brownie points??

#10 Kirsty on 14.12.09 at 8:51 am

Well, I won’t be making a pudding myself, but I’m certainly enjoying reading about all the tricks of the perfect pudding. The figs and cranberries sound delicious. I may just make one next year…

#11 dogpossum on 14.12.09 at 9:15 am

I’d LOVE to pud it up, but my kitchen won’t allow it. As soon as I get a new (and safe) stove top, I’m IN. Meanwhile I’ll make do with mince tarts.

…looking for dried fruit up here in Ashfield, a very Chinese area, I found it really difficult to find European style dried fruit. I found lots of dried fruit, but it was things like pawpaw, mango, small wild figs, tamarind (in all shapes and forms) lots of types of plums and a few other things. I did eventually find some dried fruit in the Woolworths (which I usually avoid), but it made me think about dried fruit and how it’s used. Surely someone clever can think of an awesome recipe using all these other dried fruits?

#12 Helen on 14.12.09 at 9:46 am

I am in awe of you Zoe. I must get my courage up next year and try it. I have to say my imagination kinda balks at the suet thing – can anyone give a brief rundown of suet versus butter and why suet is preferable?

#13 Helen on 14.12.09 at 9:47 am

Erk, I meant Dr Sista Outlaw AND Zoe.

My best effort one Christmas was a summer pudding – they’re my most favourite thing, but the price of berries is very offputting.

#14 Dr Sister Outlaw on 14.12.09 at 9:52 am

Personally, I can’t stand summer pudding. It’s the white bread thing.

Suet has, I think, superior keeping quality once cooked for long enough. But I suspect that the reason it is used rather than butter is that it’s a winter pudding, made from what was available. Dairy products are not really the go in winter, but you can always grab a bit of suet when you are doing the winter killing, mix it with some dried fruit and think about what summer might taste like, when it finally rolls around.

#15 Pavlov's Cat on 14.12.09 at 10:05 am

A question: I have read several warnings here and there about reheating Christmas pudding in the microwave because all that alcohol and sugar will make it catch fire. Has this ever actually happened to anyone?

#16 Dr Sister Outlaw on 14.12.09 at 10:20 am

Heh, no, but it would be entertaining!

I know that some people heat their brandy for flaming the pudding in the microwave, so I suspect this is an urban myth (but am prepared to be corrected and have the fire extinguisher at the ready if needs be)

#17 kate on 14.12.09 at 10:43 am

For many years my parents used a tablecloth at Christmas that was flame proof. Ask us how we know!t

I was all set to do a pud this year, but the dr sister outlaw round here said she really wanted to, so I said yes. I am running out of things I will be able to cook for Christmas Day, which is just plain wierd considering it’s at my house. I am coming to understand why my partner doesn’t like Christmas, and seriously considering the possibility of spending next year on a holiday in Vietnam or somewhere.

#18 Dr Sister Outlaw on 14.12.09 at 11:00 am

Vietnam sounds a wise destination to me … there is of course plenty of opportunity to set house on fire using tried and tested method of heating brandy in spoon, setting it on fire and pouring it all over pud, but we loves it!

#19 kathryn on 14.12.09 at 11:18 am

My mum makes Christmas puddings every year, following an old, old Delia Smith recipe. She makes the same recipe every , which I kind of admire, but also wonder at. I just know it would be physically impossible for me to make exactly the same recipe year-in, year-out.

So I’d be in the rebel group as well, just tweaking, making leeetle changes while cooking.

Mum also makes a Summer pudding and last year branched out into mini meringues as well. So yes, it’s a three pudding meal at our family Christmas.

#20 ampersand duck on 14.12.09 at 11:43 am

Not being the puddin’ maker, but a life member of the Honourable Band of Puddin’ Eaters, I can’t say much other than BB made the puddings this year on a stinking hot day and it made the house even hotter, so the rest of us went to the movies and let him suffer in his jocks. And he used not just cumquats, but brandied cumquats, so I’m very much looking forward to some quality puddin’ eatin’ this yule.

#21 FDB on 14.12.09 at 12:13 pm

“A question: I have read several warnings here and there about reheating Christmas pudding in the microwave because all that alcohol and sugar will make it catch fire. Has this ever actually happened to anyone?”

Plausible, but only if the reheating vessel was non-microwave safe. No alcohol/sugar/fat fire is going to spontaneously ignite at normal microwave temps, but a spark from the gilt edge of grandma’s good china could well do the job.

Fancy’s verdict: if you want it to happen for shits and giggles, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that hard. If you don’t, use a microwave-safe container.

#22 Twitted by crazybrave on 14.12.09 at 12:37 pm

[...] This post was Twitted by crazybrave [...]

#23 Anthony on 15.12.09 at 8:53 am

I come from a family where suet was never used, and puddings were steamed in a basin rather than boiled in a cloth, so that’s the tradition I work in.

My ladyfriend used suet one year, and for days afterward the everything in the kitchen seemed coated in a layer of fat. Nowadays I adapt a Maggie Beer recipe, coarsely grating in 125g butter. Otherwise, lots and lots of dried fruit, and no need for added sugar: this year I tried some dried blueberries; usually some prunes (so I can justify calling it a ‘plum’ pudding; dried apricots; raisins, currants etc etc – all soaked in whatever spirit I can find around the house (within reason: this year, sensibly I think, I chose the half empty bottle of cognac over the half empty bottle of Pernod) and some freshly squeezed orange juice.

#24 Dr Sister Outlaw on 15.12.09 at 11:16 am

Yum, that sounds lovely. Yes, the coatings of fat are a hazard. It’s taken me years to learn how to handle suet without getting that result!

#25 Helen on 16.12.09 at 12:36 pm

“A question: I have read several warnings here and there about reheating Christmas pudding in the microwave because all that alcohol and sugar will make it catch fire. Has this ever actually happened to anyone?”

Oooh! Idea- Masterchef – Mythbusters joint Xmas Special! It’d certainly be a hit in our household!

#26 our man in Canberra on 16.12.09 at 4:25 pm

Careful with all this talk of flavoursome puddings.

In Australia there’s always the risk of attracting puddin’ thieves

#27 Helen on 17.12.09 at 12:55 pm

I just found a great discussion about Mince pies in the Grauniad, which is almost like a companion piece to this thread. Although the links in the post, which look interesting and/or useful, are pretty much all broken (I want to see Delia’s pastry recipe, and really want to see the Homemade Freaky Fingers. The comment thread is worth reading too.

#28 Zoe on 17.12.09 at 5:18 pm

Here’s a link to The Guardian on mince pies – Helen’s given us a dead Delia link instead, although she did kindly post the Freaky Fingers on twitter today ;)

#29 Crit on 18.12.09 at 8:59 pm

Ah Puddin’. I haven’t made one for a long time, my mum has a traditional pudding making day with some friends, and as Christmas is almost always at her house, so is the pudding.

As far as leftovers go, my Irish uncle used to fry slices of pudding in left over brandy butter to get things started on Boxing Day morning. It was a bit much for me though.

#30 Stephanie on 19.12.09 at 2:08 pm

Fly north tomorrow where my mother has an old caterers-size Nescafe jar full of marinating fruit. I think she started marinating it months ago. It’s an heirloom recipe that she has made since my late grandmother was no longer up to the task. I think a couple of days’ worth of marinating is sufficient to get the boozy effect, so not too late to get one happening. Recipe here:

#31 Dr Sister Outlaw on 19.12.09 at 8:21 pm

I jez love mince pies, and must say that I find the Bakers’ Delight version surprisingly good. They’ve really got the pastry down pat, and the fruit mince is lovely and apricot jammy.

And I’m thankful to turn the conversation to mince pies, lest there be pudding thieves …

#32 Dame Mint Pattie on 22.12.09 at 9:02 am

Not a pudding maker myself but I loved reading about all your great pudding adventures. My mum used to make a fab treacle pud that I could usually get her to make in addition to (if not instead of) the full on trad Xmas variety.

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