Nannie Carson's Christmas pudding

8 oz (230 g) breadcrumbs
8 oz (230 g) sultanas
2 oz (60 g) cut mixed peel
4 oz (115 g) butter
4 oz (115 g) dark brown sugar
1 oz (1 tablespoon) black treacle
½ tablespoon
1 ½ oz (45 g) grated carrot
grated cooking apple
½ teaspoon
whig spice (see below)
½ teaspoon
1 measure (150ml) brandy

Whig spice: grind all following ingredients well:

½ oz (15 g) allspice
½ oz (15 g) ground cinnamon
½ oz (15 g) ground cloves
½ oz (15 g) grated nutmeg
½ oz (15 g) ground coriander
1 oz (30 g) ground ginger
pudding on serving plate

This pudding was an important feature of Christmas when Rowland was growing up at Osmond House. The quantities in the left-hand column are the ones as written in the original recipe from his mum and are all imperial-system UK measures. The second column gives metric or other practical equivalents. It's not clear how one might measure an ounce weight of treacle in a neat way, but a tablespoonful seems to be about right. The measure of brandy can be anything from a capful to about half-a-cup or even more. The quantities for the whig spice make many times more than is needed for one pudding, but it's hard to measure amounts much smaller, unless you've got one of those digital scales that resolves to fractions of a gram. The fastest way to make breadcrumbs is with a food-processor (NB a blender will not do it). An old-fashioned grater takes longer but works fine, provided the bread isn't too fresh. Pick over the sultanas to remove any stems before adding them. If you can find a small Bramley, use all of it. Keep the skin on the apple, but wash & core it before grating - quite coarsely, as it will break down readily in the cooking. The carrot should be grated more finely.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Then use your hands to work in the butter. When no lumps of butter remain, add the rest of the wet ingredients. It will probably finish up worryingly sloppy, particularly if you got enthusiastic with the brandy, but do not panic! Put it in a bowl that has been well-coated with butter and cover it. A 1-litre Pyrex bowl suits the above quantities. You can get plastic bowls with snap-on lids, but the old-fashioned method of tying a cover on with string is good too. This is easier if you choose a bowl with a rim like the one shown below. A rubber band is useful to secure the cover while you arrange and tie the string, but don't leave it on - boiled rubber does not smell good! Use 2 layers; greaseproof paper first then aluminium foil on the outside. Boil in a large saucepan of water for about 4 hours, reducing the heat in the early stages as the whole thing comes up to temperature, and making sure it doesn't boil dry later on. It will probably swell up during cooking and make the cover bulge; this is not a cause for alarm. When the time is up let it cool before trying to lift it out of the water (less danger of scalded fingers - oven gloves stop working if they get wet). Resist the temptation to open the cover, just leave it in a cool place to mature for about a month. Boil again for about an hour to heat through thoroughly before finally removing the cover and turning out to serve.

With no suet, this pudding is light and different from many commercially-offered puddings which can be heavy, black and bitter. It has found favour even with people who say they don't like Christmas pudding. Rowland can say from personal experience that it goes well with custard (from very thin to very thick), pouring cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, and can even stand the addition of more than one of those at once!

grating breadcrumbs dry ingredients
Grating the breadcrumbs All the dry ingredients
finished mixture mixture in bowl
The finished mixture Mixture in a 1-litre bowl with rim
greaseproof cover foil cover
Tying on the greaseproof paper cover Ready to cook with aluminium foil cover
cooking cooked
Cover bulging as mixture swells up during cooking Cooled and ready to store for maturing

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