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Monthly Archives: December 2020

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding

 



Now I know posting a recipe for Christmas pudding on the day after Christmas is a bit.. well.. late! I made this pudding a few weeks ago and just got too busy with Christmas preparations and baking to post. But I wanted to show this excellent pudding so I am posting while we are still in that Christmas food and festivities zone.

And I’ll blog again next year in time to make the pudding for the big day!

Earlier in December I was lucky enough to attend an online event hosted by the wonderful Sydney Living Museums.

This organisation looks after significant buildings integral to Sydney’s colonial history. Visiting historic houses and public buildings is always a fascinating trip into Sydney’s past.

The demonstration was presented by Jacqui Newling, Assistant Curator and Sydney Living Museums resident expert in food heritage and colonial gastronomy.

I loved watching as Jacqui made the Christmas  pudding and really appreciated her step by step tips and tricks to making the pudding. She has a wealth of knowledge and importantly a really practical common sense approach to cooking.

I had to make the pudding! I made it the next day, and in order to be able to try it before Christmas Day, I made a baby one which I could eat on the same day.

What is amazing about this pudding is that it has no flour and no sugar! Bread replaces flour and the sweetness comes from the dried fruit. I have to admit I was a little dubious about the absence of flour and sugar, but I must say the resulting pudding was sensational! Deep, rich flavours with a strong caramel taste.

We ate the delicious pudding on Christmas Day. I served it with brandy butter, custard and cream – I think it deserved all three accompaniments.

Here is the recipe as presented by Jacqui Newling with her notations and this is the link to the original.

Classic Christmas Pudding

Adapted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of household management, 1861

Note

‘On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wine-glassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.’

So says Isabella Beeton in 1861, in her best-selling Beeton’s book of household management (1861). I’ve adapted her ‘Christmas plum pudding (very good)’ for modern measurements, replaced suet with butter, and added some extra spice now synonymous with Christmas.

Serves 12

Ingredients 

750g mixed dried fruit

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon

1⁄2 cup fragrant tea or sherry

200g butter, placed in freezer for 1-2 hours

250g freshly made white breadcrumbs (made from a day-old 375g loaf, crusts removed)

6 eggs, well beaten

1⁄2 cup brandy

Equipment

1.5L pudding basin or equivalent smaller bowls
Baking paper cut to diameter of the pudding basin/bowls
Good quality aluminum foil Kitchen string
Grater, chilled in fridge Trivet

Method

1. If the fruit looks a bit dry, soak it with the spices in the tea or sherry overnight or for at least a few hours.
2. Grate the butter into the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and mix through with a knife.
3. Add the soaked fruit and spices.
4. Add the beaten eggs and brandy, and encourage everyone in the family to stir the mixture (an old tradition).
5. Grease the pudding bowl with butter and spoon in the mixture, just short of the rim, as the mixture may swell during cooking.
6. Cover the pudding surface with baking paper cut to size, then cover the bowl with two pieces of foil pleated together in the centre – the foil should reach halfway down the bowl – and tie securely with string. The pleat is to allow for any expansion during cooking.
7. Place the pudding bowl on a trivet in a deep saucepan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides to create a water bath.
8. Cover and simmer for several hours, topping up with boiling water as needed (19th-century recipes invariably state
6 hours simmering to ensure a rich colour).
9. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until required.
Serve with Mrs Beeton’s Plum pudding sauce. You can find the recipe for the sauce here.

 

Christmas Summer Fruits Meringue Trifle

 


Trifle is one of those desserts that are a favourite on the big day. Trifle or pavlova are good alternatives to Christmas pud, or can be served  alongside the hot pudding as something sweet, creamy and delightfully cold!

I try to devise a different trifle each Christmas. I made this one a couple of years ago and it was delicious – peaches, blackberry and passionfruit are combined with passionfruit curd, meringue and cream and the obligatory cake and custard layers into a light and fruity trifle.

An important note: this recipe may look time consuming because you make the custard, curd and meringue. If you don’t want to do all that work, you can absolutely use bought elements! Christmas is stressful enough without adding extra work!

Layers are important in any trifle, you can really layer this one any way you like.

Here is the order in which I layered my version:

Cake
Peaches/ passionfruit
Passionfruit curd
Meringue
Cake
Blackberry compote
Custard
Cream
Meringue shards/peaches/passionfruit/individual meringues

Ingredients 

Meringue
3 egg free range whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
A few drops of yellow food colouring

Passionfruit curd
4 tbls sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Pulp of 3 passionfruit
2 free-range egg yolks
2 tbls butter

Custard
3 large free-range egg yolks
35g cornflour
50g caster sugar
600ml milk
300ml cream

Blackberry compote
500g frozen blackberries
3 tbls sugar
2 tbls water

2 bought sponge cakes (you can make your own but it’s much less time consuming to buy them)

6 yellow peaches, cut into slices
Pulp of 3 passionfruit

1/2 cup or to taste of an orange flavoured liqueur. (I used Cointreau and Orange Curaçao)

300ml whipped cream

Method

Meringue
Preheat the oven to very slow – 135 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Beat egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until frothy, add cream of tartar and beat on highest speed until peaks hold their shape. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons of the measured sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining sugar at once, fold in quickly and lightly with a metal spoon.
Using 3/4 of the mixture, spoon or pipe two discs, each about the size of the diameter of your trifle bowl, onto the prepared trays. With the remaining meringue, colour one half yellow, and put both meringue mixtures  into two piping bags. Pipe yellow and plain meringues, as many as the mixtures will make, around the edges of the baking trays where you have placed the discs.
Bake the discs and meringues for 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for a further 1/2 hour or until dry.

Passionfruit Curd
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all the ingredients are amalgamated and the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Put aside to cool.

Custard
Put the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar into a large bowl and stir together with a whisk. Heat the milk and cream together in a pan until hot but not boiling. Gradually whisk into the yolks, then return the mixture to the pan. Stir over a high heat until the mixture just comes to the boil and the custard thickens. Take off the heat, cover and allow to cool.

Blackberry compote
Put the frozen blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boiling point, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is softened and the liquid is reduced. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Assembling the trifle
Line the base of your glass trifle bowl with half the cake, making sure there are no gaps. Liberally sprinkle over half the orange liqueur.
Scatter half the piece slices and half the passionfruit pulp over the cake. Spoon the cooled passionfruit curd over the fruit.
Now carefully place one of the meringue discs on top of the curd, trimming the edges if it’s too big. Place the rest of the cake pieces on top. If you think there is too much cake, leave some of it out. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining liqueur. Spoon the blackberry compote on top of the cake.
Carefully spoon or pour the cooled custard over the trifle, then add the whipped cream. Again, if you think there’s too much custard or too much whipped cream, add a little less.
To decorate the trifle, carefully break up the remaining meringue disc into shards big and small (so lots of broken bits don’t matter!). Place the rest of the peach slices and passionfruit pulp around the edge of the trifle and artfully place the meringue shards wherever you like.
Then finish by topping the trifle with the individual meringues.
This is how I made my trifle – I’m sure there are endless variations to the layering and presentation, so be creative!

Christmas Beef Tagine


Christmas festivities are upon us! While there is a lot of traditional baking to be done, I have decided to go down a slightly different path for a dinner tonight that celebrates Christmas from around the world.

As a big fan of tagines, I decided to create a special Christmas Tagine.  Bright with the colours of Christmas, red and green, and deliciously fragrant with Middle Eastern flavours that remind us of the original Christmas story, this beef tagine is full of beautiful veggies too.

Of course, the beef tagine can be eaten at any time of the year! But it can be an alternative to the usual suspects eaten on the day, and would make a great Boxing Day or even New Year’s dish!

I have recently been researching the Keto Diet – not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf – but to better understand what a particular disciple of this low carb program can eat. So I had a go at creating something that might be at least keto friendly,  if not actually following all its tenets. I have certainly got to grips with the idea “above ground vegetables good, below ground vegetables bad”!

Here it is. You could substitute some non keto approved below ground veggies like potatoes or carrots, if you like, but they would need to be added in at the start of the recipe, as they take longer to cook. As prunes aren’t probably that great for the Keto Diet, but do add that traditional sweetness to the tagine, you could halve the amount to get the flavour without too much of the sugar. Or leave them out altogether!

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper corns – cracked in a mortar and pestle

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g diced shin beef/chuck steak

4 eshallots  and 4 spring onions, finely chopped

(Or replace both with 2 large onions)

1-2 garlic cloves, to taste, finely chopped

1  x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

175g prunes

1.5 tins water (use the tomato tin as a measure)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced

2 zucchini (courgettes), sliced

100g green olives

Chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

Combine the spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add beef and stir until well coated in the spices. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and spring onions or ordinary onions and cook them for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned. Remove all to a plate.

Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Tip in the beef and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned and caramelised.

Return the shallots/onion/garlic to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Stir in a third of the prunes. Lay several slices of the eggplant (about a third of the eggplant) on the top of the mixture.  Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and lay the rest of the eggplant slices and the zucchini slices into the casserole, as well as the rest of the prunes and most of the olives, reserving a few for serving. Cook, covered for a further hour or until the beef is really tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the beef pieces, you can cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining olives over the tagine, and some coriander leaves.

The tagine should be looking pretty festive with its tomato red and coriander green, but you could add some sliced cherry tomatoes for a little more red or even, if so inclined, a few slices of red chilli!

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