Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Pudding

Most of us here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen turn to our old favorite recipes at the time of year (or variations upon them), and I’m happy to add mine.

At my house when I was young, the Christmas menu was as set in stone as the Thanksgiving menu: standing rib roast, with potatoes cooked in the drippings in the pan; something green like peas; creamed onions for one die-hard member of the family (nobody else would eat the things); and for dessert, chocolate steamed pudding.

Pudding is kind of a deceptive term, that we usually associate with goopy milky glop, and is no doubt a tribute to the English origins of the dish. The English often use the term pudding for any dessert. But this is officially a pudding. The virtue of this recipe for holiday meals is that you mix it up, put it in a pudding dish or steamer mold, stick it in simmering water, and ignore it for a couple of hours while you deal with the rest of dinner.

I was once again reminded of this dish when I picked up a cookbook in a secondhand store in Ireland: Winter Puddings, a collection of sweet/dessert recipes adapted from the Cordon Bleu Cookery School and published in England in 1971. Perfect for the season, right? And of course it included a number of recipes for steamed puddings of various flavors.

In the past I’ve made the chocolate version, as well as a cranberry variation, but what caught my eye this time was a Steamed Ginger Pudding. Of course the details of the recipe were given in British units with some ingredients I seldom use (suet?? is that like, uh, lard? or what we feed the birds?), but I soldiered on. After all, I possess more than one pudding mold, and they must earn their keep.

Cordon Bleu Steamed Ginger Pudding


10 oz flour (this turned out to be two cups)

(Note: if you watch the Great British Baking Show, you know that ingredients there are often measured by weight, and in their honor I have a kitchen scale and now use it regularly)

1 rounded tsp ground ginger (really? is that all? I added a tablespoon—I like ginger)

a “good pinch” of mixed spice (oh, heck, I don’t know what that is—how about some cinnamon and a dash of ground clove?)

1 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

5 oz shredded suet (seriously? Beef fat? I substituted butter, at room temperature)

1 large egg, beaten

6 fluid oz (6 Tblsp) golden syrup or treacle (alas, both are hard to find locally. I could have brought both back from Ireland, but together the cans weighed about five pounds, and my suitcase is always pushing the limits. Plus they’re liquid, and I’m not sure how the government feels about that these days.) I used dark molasses.

about 6 fluid oz milk (I’ll assume whole milk), at room temperature


Sift the flour, spices and baking soda into a bowl.

Add the butter, then mix. Pour in the beaten egg and molasses and mix.

Pour the milk into the bowl. Stir well: the mixture should drop easily from the spoon (not too thick).

Find yourself a pudding basin (or use a metal bowl that will stand up on its own) and generously grease it.

I have two. The one on the right was the one I
grew up with, so that's what I used.

Pour the batter into the basin, level it off, and cover the top of the basin (or bowl) with a piece of greased waxed or parchment paper held on by string. (Or clamp the lid on over the paper, if you have that kind.)

Stand the basin in a large pan of boiling water. The water should reach somewhere between half-way and two-thirds up the side of the container (it shouldn’t be floating!). 

Cover the large pan and steam the pudding for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours (yes, really). Do not let it boil, merely simmer. If the water is boiling off and the level is sinking, replace it with more boiling water as needed.

See how much it rose?
When you open the basin/bowl, if all has gone well the pudding will have risen to the top. Let it cool for a bit, to make it easier to handle, then invert the mold onto a plate, and it should slide out easily. Serve it warm, sliced into wedges, with a sauce if you like. If you use Redi-Whip, I won’t tell.

And it even came out of the mold!

If you’re feeling adventurous, the cookbook also contains recipes for Rich Fig Pudding, Chocolate Pudding, Spotted Dick (don’t ask), Valencia Pudding, and Six-Cup Pudding. 

May your holidays be merry, and may you get whatever you wish for!

The three wise men, er, meerkats


  1. Thanks for sharing. You are a true foodie. I love the old recipes. Merry Christmas 🎄

  2. The recipes are fun to work with, since you can no longer get half the ingredients, or they've gone out of fashion.

    You could look at a steamed pudding and think, why not just make cake? But the pudding version is lighter in texture, and no harder to make. And it's a family tradition!

  3. Wow! Those are pretty impressive. They're so tall! I can imagine what a showstopper they are when they're brought to the table!How did the ginger one taste?

    1. I'm glad I added the extra ginger--they might have been a bit blah without it. In general they're nice because they aren't too heavy at the end of a big meal (and they're very low maintenance!).

  4. Our British friends always talk about leaving room at dinner for "pudd."
    I love the containers, although they do look rather like garbage cans!
    A very merry to you and yours.

    1. What intrigues me is that no recipe I've seen says how large a container to use, which suggests that they're all the same size, and they'll rise just the right amount.

  5. Wow that is really impressive!! Not sure I am up for something like that, but looks fabulous! Thanks