Magic pudding and honouring memories

My sister, Isabella Hennen, with Nan’s Christmas pudding.


LOVE it or hate it, the classic Christmas pudding is an iconic part of the festive season.

Fruit, nuts, brandy, flour, butter, spices and sugar come together to make a hulking monolith which dominates the Christmas dessert table.

My Nan would make a Christmas pudding every year and it was served on Christmas Eve after our customary walk to look at the local Christmas lights.

The process would start a good month or so ahead, with the fruit being soaked in a liberal helping of brandy.

When mixing the ingredients together, Nan would invite us to make a wish.

As we got older, we would give the pudding a stir and think of every person who was no longer with us.

Once the ingredients were mixed together, the mixture would be poured into a square of calico cloth and boiled in an old aluminium pot for six hours.

The cooked pudding was then hung from a cupboard door knob in the corner of the kitchen for several weeks before Christmas.

Come Christmas Eve, the pudding was boiled again for an hour, then Nan would perform the impressive feat of pouring burning brandy over the pudding.

The flames would burn blue due to the ethanol in the brandy, and Mum always worried that the house would catch fire.

Us kids were always mesmerised by the blue flames, which flared up over the pudding and only lasted for a few seconds.

Unfortunately, my Nan died in October 2020 and Christmas has not been quite the same without her.

I wanted to try to recapture some of the magic we experienced as kids when we spent Christmas with her and my Grandad at their home in Wollongong.

So, I set about making Nan’s famous pudding.

I ended up making two smaller puddings so that I only had to boil them for three hours.

My sister, who doesn’t drink alcohol, gave me a spare bottle of Black Bottle brandy that belonged to my Grandad.

He would drink anything, but particularly loved brandy and dry ginger ale.

As I put the puddings into the boiler, I realised I’d forgotten to add the almonds!

Oh well, they can go into the brandy butter.

Nan’s Christmas recipe comes from the Commonsense Cookery Book.

She would add 10-12 eggs, but I found this can make the pudding quite stodgy, which is not ideal after a big heavy meal in an Australian summer, so I stuck to eight.

For those who don’t like brandy, rum or fruit juice can be used instead.

Other dried fruits can be added to the mix, such as chopped dates or glace ginger.

Christmas Pudding

1kg mixed fruit

125g blanched almonds

500g butter

500g brown sugar

8 eggs

⅔ cup brandy

250g soft fresh breadcrumbs (you can grate a few slices of bread)

250g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp nutmeg

2 tsp mixed spice

Fill up a large pot with water and put it on the stove to boil.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add well beaten eggs and brandy.

Stir in all the fruit.

Add the breadcrumbs, sifted flour, salt, bicarb, nutmeg and mixed spice, and mix it thoroughly.

Tie up in a square of unbleached calico cloth, placing the tie about 10cm or so away from the pudding so that it can swell up.

The mixture can also be placed into a two litre pudding basin, allowing space for the pudding to swell.

Boil for six hours.

On the day of eating, boil for 3 hours (you can do this first thing in the morning Christmas day or after lunch Christmas Eve)

Two smaller puddings can be boiled for three hours on the first cook, then 90 minutes on the day of eating.

The secret to a successful pudding flame is to warm the brandy gently on the stove before using a kitchen lighter or long matches to light the vapour.

Have your phone ready for a video, as this spectacular effect only lasts a couple of seconds!

Hopefully I made Nan proud, and by sharing this recipe with you all, it has evoked my own memories of the fun family Christmases I had with my grandparents.



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