Christmas Puds and Sauces – Today with Sean O’Rourke

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It may seem like early days, but if you have a big gathering planned for this Christmas then it’s time to get your house in order and perhaps start planning – and cooking – ahead if you’re to avoid a last minute nightmare.

Orange and Fig Christmas Pudding

Makes a 1.2 litre pudding bowl

Sometimes Christmas pudding is just too much at the end of such a rich meal so this isn’t the traditional pudding as it uses butter instead of suet and is a little lighter. This can be made 2 to 3 weeks before Christmas if you haven’t the time.

150g raisins

100g dried figs, roughly chopped

2 medium oranges, juice and zest

3 tbsp brandy

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

100g butter, softened

120g soft dark brown sugar

200g plain flour

60g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

3 eggs, beaten

1 medium carrot, grated

1 tbsp roughly chopped crystallised ginger

60ml brandy

Melted butter, for brushing the bowl

Parchment and foil, for the bowl

String, for a handle

1 orange, sliced

1 fresh fig, cut into wedges (optional)

  1.       Place the raisins, figs, juice and zest, brandy and spices into a medium size saucepan and heat gently. Once heated, remove from the heat, cover and leave to soak overnight.
  2.       To prepare the bowl, brush a 1.2 litre pudding bowl with melted butter. Place a piece of parchment and foil together and make a fold in the centre for expansion when cooking.
  3.       When ready to cook the pudding, cream the softened butter and dark sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  4.       Fold half the flour, ground almonds, add the eggs and mix well.
  5.       Add the grated carrot and ginger, followed by the rest of the flour.
  6.       Carefully stir in the brandy.
  7.       Spoon the pudding mixture into the bowl, cover with the parchment and foil layer and tie with string around the edge and make a “handle” for ease when checking the water level and taking out.
  8.       Place the pudding into a saucepan of simmering water with the lid on.  The pudding bowl must fit snugly into the saucepan. Remember to keep checking the water level, adding boiling water when necessary. Simmer the pudding for 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into centre of the pudding comes out clean.
  9.       Remove the pudding from the saucepan and cool in the bowl. Wrap tightly in parchment and foil. “Feed” the pudding once a week with a little brandy.
  10.   Reheat the pudding for 1 hour or until hot. To decorate, place the orange slices on the top and arrange wedges of figs on top if you are using them.  Serve with cinnamon and vanilla custard.

Tip:  If you need a change from the orange – add pomegranate juice and then decorate with the lovely jewelled seeds.

Cinnamon and Vanilla Custard

Serves 6 (about 700ml)

600ml low fat milk

1 small cinnamon stick

6 egg yolks

½ tsp vanilla paste

120g caster sugar

  1.       Place the milk and cinnamon stick in a medium size saucepan over a medium heat and heat slowly, keeping an eye on it.
  2.       In the meantime, place the egg yolks, vanilla paste and sugar into a small bowl and whisk well.
  3.       Once the milk is warm, pour it through a sieve to extract the cinnamon stick and return the milk to the saucepan and heat over a medium heat.  Slowly stir the yolk mixture into the milk, stirring all the time until a thin custard has formed. Pour the custard through a sieve again into a jug and serve warm.

Individual Cranberry Puddings with Spicy Berry Sauce

Makes 8 to 10 individual pudding moulds depending on the size

These are a change from the traditional large puddings and very pretty as well, just make sure that they don’t dry out too much during cooking.

120g mixed dried fruit

150g dried cranberries

1 apple, peeled and grated

180ml strong cold tea

4 tbsp whiskey

120g dark brown soft sugar

150g flour

70g fresh breadcrumbs

1 tsp mixed spice

2 tbsp chopped dried mango

2 eggs, beaten

80g chilled butter, finely diced

Zest of 1 lemon

Melted butter for the moulds

Holly, for decorating

Fresh cranberries, for decorating (optional)

  1.       Place the mixed fruit, cranberries, apple with the tea and whiskey in a large bowl and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2.       Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas 5.
  3.       To prepare the moulds, brush them generously with melted butter. Place a little disc of parchment in the base of each mould and make foil and parchment covers for each mould To make the puddings, mix the sugar, flour, breadcrumbs, mixed spice and dried mango together into a medium bowl.
  4.       Add the soaked fruit into the flour mix.
  5.       Stir the beaten eggs into the fruit mixture and gently mix in the diced butter. Finally add the lemon zest.
  6.       Spoon the mixture into the pudding moulds. Then cover the moulds tightly with a “lid” of baking parchment and foil. Secure with string.
  7.       Place the pudding moulds into a roasting pan, place into the oven and half fill with boiling water. Keep checking the water level and topping up with boiling water.
  8.       Bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer is inserted into the centre of the puddings comes out clean.
  9.       Remove from the oven and remove from the roasting pan and allow to cool. Cover and wrap and keep “feeding” with a little whiskey from time to time.
  10.   To reheat, place in the oven in a roasting pan with water for ½ hour or until hot.
  11.   Unmould, spoon over berry sauce and decorate with holly leave and cranberries if using.

Tip: Use wholemeal flour instead of the plain flour for a great nutty flavour.

Spicy Berry Sauce

Makes about 350ml

180g brown sugar

200ml water

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

120g fresh cranberries

To make the sauce, heat the sugar, water, cinnamon and star anise in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and simmer for 7 – 8 minutes, to form a syrup.   Add the cranberries and bring to the boil until the cranberries “pop” but still hold their shape. Simmer for 2 to3 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat and cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. This will keep in your fridge for 5 to 6 days.

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