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Stir-up Sunday: how to make mini Christmas puddings

These individual puddings are bound to impress

For many, finishing off a hearty, traditional roast dinner with a rich slab of Christmas pudding is the final nail in the coffin in a season of festive gluttony. But despite classic fruitcakes falling by the wayside as lighter-textured sponge and cupcakes become the tastes du jour, this once-a-year treat remains a staple of the British Christmas table.

The very first traces of a recipe can be found in medieval manuscripts from the 15th century, with a savoury concoction that calls for chunks of beef and minced onion cooked alongside the more customary mix of aromatic spices, raisins and currants, while the dessert didn't take shape in a form recognisable to modern eyes – and tastes – until the Victorian era.

Before its association with Christmas, it was referred to as plum pudding and came to be symbolic of Britain, not least because many of the essential ingredients were sourced through trade routes made possible by the expansion of the Empire.

Since then, it has become a staple that crosses the class divide, even making an appearance on the Cratchit family table in the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. And as with any centuries-old creation, it has its fair share of traditions and superstitions.

The last Sunday before advent is Stir-Up Sunday (this year it falls on 21 November), the designated day to make the pud. It was customary for each member of the household to stir the mix and make a wish, with a hidden silver sixpence bringing the lucky finder wealth and good fortune for the coming year.

This year, ditch the supermarket shortcuts and take expert advice from Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth, as he shares his take on the Christmas classic.  

Serves 18 people (one mini pudding per person)

Ingredients
  • 175g currants
  • 175g sultanas
  • 140g glace cherries
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • one carrot, peeled and grated
  • 150ml brandy
  • 50 triple sec liqueur 
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 175g breadcrumbs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp mixed peel
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 175g butter
  • two eggs, beaten
  • regular cream or Cornish clotting cream (to serve)
Method
  • Soak the dried fruit with the brandy and triple sec, and leave the combination for at least a few days before making the puddings. The longer you soak, the better the results! It’s not unusual to soak dried fruit a year before you make mince pies or Christmas puddings. You can also make the puddings on Stir Up Sunday and then feed them with booze in the lead up to Christmas.
  • Mix the fruit, almonds, citrus zest and carrot in a large bowl. Cover and leave to soak. If you want to add an extra glug of brandy to make the puddings even boozier, this won’t affect the recipe and will help you achieve a slightly more moist pudding.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together, then grate in the butter, add the eggs and stir.
  • Grease the pudding moulds with butter (if you have caramelised brown butter this will add more depth and flavour to the pudding). Fill each mould with 80g of mix and then tin foil each mould.
  • The best way to cook the pudding is by steaming it in an oven, or you can place it in a pan with water and cook with a lid on for 45 minutes. Make sure the pan doesn’t dry by adding more water throughout the cooking.
  • Serve with pouring cream or, my favourite, Cornish clotted cream.

Southampton-born Paul Ainsworth is the successful chef and restaurateur behind Paul Ainsworth at No6, Caffè Rojano, Padstow Townhouse, Mahé Chef’s Table and Development Kitchen, and The Mariners – all located on the North Cornwall coast. 

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