Noth­ing like mak­ing proper Christ­mas pud­ding

Western Morning News - - News -

How hard can it be to buy a Christ­mas pud­ding and a few mince pies? I know, I know – shame on me why don’t I make my own?

Well, I hate Christ­mas pud­ding and as for mince pies I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. Ac­tu­ally, if I’m truth­ful, I can’t leave ‘em so rather than make a whole batch which I’d eat at one stand­ing, I buy a pack of six when needs must.

It has be­come so com­pli­cated. Ever since He­ston Bloomin­likely laid down the gaunt­let and stuffed a whole or­ange, then a cle­men­tine, inside his puds, chefs have knocked back the cook­ing sherry and gone into flavour free-fall.

I am sur­prised none of them has stuffed a gaunt­let into one yet... ed­i­ble of course. This year the Dr

Faust of the kitchen has come up with a pud­ding filled with candied ap­ple, drenched in cal­va­dos and “dec­o­rated in a de­light­ful gold shim­mer”.

I’ve seen brioche and cran­berry bombes, melt­ing snow­fall sponge, pud­dings with choco­late and gin­ger, pud­dings with pineap­ple.

As for the mince pies, sloe gin mince tarts, black for­est mince pie crum­bles, frangi­pane mince pies, salted caramel mince pies and won­der boy’s of­fer­ing? Choco­late and sour cherry crum­ble mince pies.

I am sur­prised he has not gone the whole caramel salted hog and called them “de­con­structed” with the in­gre­di­ents in sep­a­rate pack­ets for us to put to­gether! Don’t get me started in his prof­iter-coals. Black prof­ite­role “coals with a flame-coloured man­darin or­ange crème pâtis­sière fill­ing driz­zled with a warmed smoked or­ange caramel sauce and scat­tered with crack­ling pop­ping candy to give the mag­i­cal il­lu­sion of glow­ing em­bers”. Crack­ling? I wouldn’t put it past him!

Ev­ery­thing has got to have a twist nowa­days. Are our over­worked palates so de­prived and jaded that we need new flavours?

Well I found my proper old­fash­ioned Christ­mas pud­ding a week last Sun­day courtesy of Miche­lin-starred chef Michael Caines.

Michael and I are both pa­trons of the very or­gan­i­sa­tion that helped with his adop­tion Fam­i­lies For Chil­dren. Ten years ago on Stir Up Sun­day, he started what has now be­come a tra­di­tion of mak­ing Christ­mas pud­dings with the lit­tle ‘uns who have found lov­ing homes through FFC.

James, Paul and Michael Dart gen­er­ously not only give us the Es­tu­ary Room at Darts Farm to host the event but pro­vide party food and all the in­gre­di­ents nec­es­sary for 30 lit­tle ‘uns to make a mini Christ­mas pud to take home.

They all line up with a par­ent for a hand wash and work their way down the pro­duc­tion line of bowls of in­gre­di­ents, pieces of muslin and lengths of string that Michael sets up.

He shouts the in­struc­tions and gees them all up and I help them weigh out the in­gre­di­ents and get mix­ing… with or with­out spoons… in fact bare hands are def­i­nitely prefer­able. It is chaos and I love it.

A week later and I am still pick­ing clumps of mince­meat out of my hair. The recipe used is one handed to

Michael by his mother. Cin­na­mon, nuts, sherry, sul­tanas, raisins… in­gre­di­ents we all recog­nise.

Af­ter a visit from Fa­ther Christ­mas and a raf­fle in which ev­ery­one wins, they all go home clutch­ing their pud­dings and hope­fully with mem­o­ries of the day they made them.

So you see, I have made Christ­mas pud­dings… and proper ones!

I found my proper old-fash­ioned Christ­mas pud­ding courtesy of chef Michael Caines

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