I had never tasted Christmas pudding until December 2004. To be honest, I couldn't even have told you what it was. Growing up on Long Island, "pudding" was usually either chocolate or vanilla and served in bowls or glasses - what a Brit may consider "angel delight" - that was pudding.
My only connection to Christmas pudding was through reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol and I understood from that, that the Christmas pudding was positively the pinnacle of the meal. But I still couldn't understand how anyone could eat something, "...like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy..."
Thankfully, my first taste of Christmas pudding, made by my father-in-law's fair hand, was nothing like a cannon-ball. As for the brandy, well, let's just say he has a fair and a liberal hand! However, not everybody at the table could enjoy it because of food allergies. So, in the years to follow, I set about trialing different Christmas pudding recipes with all sorts of substitutions and I'm delighted to share with you the fruits of my labour. Happy puddings, everybody!
GlutenFreegan Christmas Pudding
Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus overnight to soak fruit)
Steaming time: 6 hours
Total time: 6 hours 10 minutes
200g (half a pouch) GlutenFreegan vanilla cake mix (reseal the pouch to make another pudding or 6 delicious cupcakes, 12 yummy buns or a cobbler topping with the remaining mix)
1 tsp mixed spice
110g dark brown sugar
1tbsp golden syrup
450g mixed dried fruit (can be a premixed selection of raisins, sultanas, currants and mixed peel - easily available from the supermarket - or see below for other suggestions to change things up!)
90g dairy free spread
180ml (6 fl oz) brandy (120ml for soaking the fruit and 60ml for the pudding)
300ml (10 oz) water (120ml for soaking the fruit and 180ml for the pudding)
1) Overnight, soak your dried fruit in120ml (4oz) brandy and 120ml (4oz) water
2) Grease your pudding bowl or steamer and line the bottom of it with a disc of non-stick baking paper
3) In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring together the soaked fruit, 60ml (2oz) brandy, 180ml (6oz) water, dark brown sugar, golden syrup and dairy free spread. Stir mixture until the spread is melted and then take it off the heat and transfer it to a heat proof mixing bowl.
3) Add the GlutenFreegan vanilla cake mix and mixed spice to the fruit mixture and stir together until combined
4) Pour the pudding batter into your pudding bowl or steamer and cover with a layer of non-stick paper and foil. Secure the foil with the lid of the steamer or some kitchen string.
5) Place your steamer in a large saucepan with enough water to come about half-way up the side of the bowl. Simmer it, covered, for about 6 hours and check on it periodically to add more water. Let it stand for about 10 minutes and run a knife along the inside of the bowl before turning it out.
Ways to change things up!
Instead of brandy, or instead of water, use apple juice or pineapple juice for flavour and extra sweetness
Instead of the pre-packed fruit mix, try my family's favourite dried fruit mixture: 50g chopped dried apples, 50g chopped dried apricots, 100g chopped prunes, 120g sultanas, 70g raisins, 70g chopped dates.