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Archive for November, 2013

Because A Good Christmas Pudding Can Be Laid Down Like Wine

I don’t know why we, as a species, still ask each other if we’re ready for Christmas yet. There are only two possible answers, and both answers will make at least one of you sad and angry. “Are you ready for Christmas yet?” we ask each other. And then the other person will turn out to be either way less prepared than you are (which gives you the Christmas High Ground, but makes them feel terrible), or way more prepared than you are (which puts them on the Christmas High Ground, and gives you the rage). There is no way for everyone to be happy with the answer to this question. Competitive Christmas Preparation is the very definition of the zero sum game.

Billy Bob Thornton Bad Santa

In a perfect world, we’d all agree to never ask the Competitive Christmas Preparation Question ever again, ever ever ever. Since we all know that’s not going to happen, here’s a Christmas Pudding recipe that will allow you to win every single round, basically for the rest of time. It takes a bit of time, but the skill involved is absolutely minimal, and the sheer joy of winning the Competitive Christmas Preparation Game hands-down makes it well worth the investment.

Ingredients
For the fruit mix:
450g mixed dried fruit
100g currants
2 tbsp from a bottle of cheap nasty brandy

For the dry mix
225g Muscovado sugar
50g self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
110g white breadcrumbs

For the batter mix
1 Bramley apple, grated
2 eggs
125g suet
150ml Oyster Stout
2 tbsp double cream
2 tbsp black treacle
150ml more from the nasty cheap brandy

For the decorations
Some glace cherries, some almonds, some walnuts or any other kind of edible thing you fancy seeing on top of your Christmas pudding come Christmas Day

Other stuff
Greaseproof paper
String
Either some form of improvised steamer (saucepan, colander, saucepan lid) or if you’re really posh, an actual steamer
Two 1L pudding basins that you won’t be needing for a long, loooong time
A good book
A clear day

Method
1. Check the time and date. Ideally, this pudding should be made at some time in November (although don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get round to it). However, unless you’re a real night-owl, it is quite important that you start making this recipe before 2pm.
2. In one bowl, mix the dried fruit and currants with a couple of tablespoons of nasty cheap brandy. Leave it all to soak for a bit while you make your other two mixes.
3. In another bowl, mix together your batter ingredients.
4. In yet another bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.
5. Take a quick swig from your nasty cheap brandy, just to make sure that it really is only fit for cooking with.
6. Take a quick swig from your remaining Oyster Stout, just to see if it has anything to do with actual oysters.

Disturbing Oyster

7. Take a swig of something you actually like, to take away the taste of the nasty brandy and the Oyster Stout, and to wash away the disturbing memory of the oyster picture above. (optional but recommended)
8. Get one last mahoosive bowl. Mix everything together. Inhale the scent of Christmas. Feel free to secretly try out a bit of the brandy soaked fruit.
9. Gather up everyone in the household and induce them all to give the pudding a stir.
10. Get your two 1L pudding-bowls and line the bottom with glace cherries, almonds, walnuts or whatever you fancy.
11. Pour half of your mixture into each basin. Then make a greaseproof paper lid by folding a pleat into a long rectangle of paper, then tying the paper around the lid of your bowl with string. For some reason, this is remarkably like putting an octopus into a string bag, so you might want to get someone to help you.

Time for more cheap nasty brandy

Time for more cheap nasty brandy

12. You are now going to steam each of your puddings for about four hours each. If you have a steamer, off you go. If you don’t, here’s how to build one: put a couple of inches of boiling water in the bottom of a saucepan, put your colander on top, put the pudding in the colander, put the lid over the pudding and put the whole thing over a medium ring on the stove. Congratulations! You have now built a steamer. Because the water will (obviously) evaporate, you’ll need to hang around and supervise your pudding by topping up the water level every forty minutes or so. Take out your good book. Remember to keep checking the water levels.

13. Alternatively, you can just zone out for a while and contemplate the mysteries of the Christmas pudding. (For example: Do I, or do I not, like the smell of cinnamon? Is buying a loaf of bread solely for the purpose of making breadcrumbs from it the ultimate expression of First World-ism? Black treacle: why? Is it better to throw away the second half of the suet packet right now, or should I first put it back in the cupboard in the pretence that I will one day make dumplings with it, keep it until it is several years out of date, and then throw it away? No, seriously: black treacle – why?) Don’t forget to keep checking the water levels.

14. After about four hours, your first pudding should be cooked. Take it out of the steamer and put in the second pudding. While the second pudding cooks, change the greaseproof paper lid of Pudding One for a brand-new one (remember to include the pleat).

An octopus disguised as a spider.

An octopus disguised as a spider.

15. Keep checking the water levels of your second pudding.

16. No, seriously – keep checking the water levels. This is literally the only thing that can go wrong, and as time goes on it’s deceptively easy to forget to keep topping up. Do not let your pudding boil dry. When the four hours are up, take your second pudding out and give it a new lid too.

17. You now have two cooked puddings. One pudding is this year’s pudding. (We’ll get to the second pudding shortly.) You are now going to feed this year’s pudding once or twice a week from now until Christmas, by taking off the paper lid, pouring over a couple of spoons of brandy, and replacing the lid.

19. On Christmas Day, pop this year’s pudding into a steamer for about three hours. You can’t warm this pudding up in the microwave or it will be dry and nasty – it has to be steamed – but when you taste it, you’ll know why you bothered.

20. But what about the second pudding? Get your game-face on and prepare for the ultimate Christmas Smugness. Here’s how it works.

Cat passing on secret

21. The second pudding is an investment. This pudding does not get fed. Instead you put it away somewhere quiet, where it will go into a state of suspended animation until you are ready to wake it up again.

22. About November of the Christmas you want to eat your second pudding, take your Christmas pudding out and start feeding it brandy once or twice a week. This will wake it up. On Christmas Day, you steam it for a few hours, just like the first pudding. And for THE WHOLE OF THE INTERVENING PERIOD, YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY THE WINNER AT COMPETITIVE CHRISTMAS PREPARATION, BECAUSE:

23. There is no known upper limit to how long you can keep your Christmas pudding. They don’t go off; they simply mature. One year, two year, five years, whatever. I have family members who have reanimated Christmas puddings laid down a decade ago, and people talk about how unbelievably delicious those puddings were for years afterwards.

24. And the coolest part is, whenever anyone asks you “Are you ready for Christmas yet?” you can smile and reply, “I’ve started preparing for Christmas 2017, actually…how about you?”

Kirsty Alsop Christmas

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[TEX MEX RESTAURANT, INT., EVE. HUSBAND AND I ARE HAVING DINNER BEFORE A MOVIE]

ME (tugging frantically on husband’s sleeve): Oh my God lookit lookit lookit!

HUSBAND: What? What? What’s the matter?

ME: Look at that menu!

HUSBAND: [LOOKS AT MENU. LOOKS AT ME. WAITS FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN]

ME: Look!

HUSBAND: [IS UNDERSTANDABLY NOT IMPRESSED BY HIS WIFE’S BEHAVIOUR]

ME: Just look! That thing! On the bottom! What is it?

HUSBAND: What? What? It’s just some fried…oh.

Chiquitos menu

ME: What is it? I think it’s a lizard. Does that look like a lizard to you?

HUSBAND: It does look like it’s got a head.

ME: Or a dinosaur embryo. Could it be a dinosaur embryo?

HUSBAND: Of course it’s not a dinosaur embryo, where are they going to get a dinosaur embryo? It’s a lizard.

ME: [VERY, VERY HAPPY TO BE MARRIED TO A MAN WHO WILL INDULGE ME IN MY WILLFUL MISINTERPRETATION OF FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY]

HUSBAND [THOUGHFUL]: That’s definitely an embryonic head. You can see where it’s folded over from being in the egg. And that’s some sort of arm hanging over the edge of the skillet. Why is it so fat, though?

ME: Baby creatures always have disproportionately fat middles. Remember what the kids were like?

Embryo chick in egg

HUSBAND: Or maybe it’s been genetically engineered to be really fat and meaty.

ME [RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY]: This is brilliant. I’m going to take a photograph.

[I TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH, GIGGLING THE WHOLE TIME. AS I DO SO, OUR WAITRESS ARRIVES WITH OUR DRINKS]

WAITRESS [FROSTY BUT PROFESSIONAL]: Have you decided what you’re having yet?

HUSBAND [VERY QUIETLY]: Dinosaur embryo.

ME: Um…I think I’ll have the steak.

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