Before I begin please let me assure you that details I provide below relate to my real family recipe. Whether it is a secret or not is up for debate, but the fact that this recipe was handed down from my maternal Great Grandmother is beyond question. As for its secrecy it may be more accurate to say that this is a recipe shrouded in apathy because to my knowledge only my mother and I from the Wilkinson clan have ever used it. As far as my mother can remember the recipe originated from her Grandmother, a certain Mrs Gurtrude Parker (possibly Gurtrude Earle) who resided in New Southgate, North London, and would have been born somewhere around 1870. Mum thinks that her married name would have been Parker and possible her maiden name was Earle. Mum’s middle name is Earle as an acknowledgement to that lost family name.
The physical recipe itself was wonderful. It looked like a pirates treasure map with yellow aged paper, dog eared corners and spidery handwriting. Recently I was trying to track down this ancient piece of paper, but I think when my parents moved from Southgate to Carlisle about 10 years ago, it must have got lost in the move; such a crying shame.
For reasons that will only ever be known to my mother she only made Christmas pudding every two years, one for that year and one for the year after. To this day I cannot fathom the reason for this strange behaviour, but that was the way it was and nothing was going to change that tradition. Stranger still was the fact that she cooked them both at the same time and the ‘next year’ one would be wrapped up in butter papers and tin foil and put into the loft for twelve months. To be honest the vintage one wasn’t that bad, but you did have to remember in which part of the pudding cycle you were in and adjust the quantity of custard accordingly.
Another peculiarity of pudding culture in chez Wilkinson was the coin exchange. I can’t remember if she used sixpences or thrupenny bits, but she would spend ages shoving this pre-decimal shrapnel into the pudding with some force (especially in the case of the year old model) but only when you had broken a tooth extracting this worthless tender from your dessert would she would swap it for a pound coin. Again, suggesting that maybe inserting pound coins in the first place might be easier fell on deaf ears.
These memories are from my youth and it has sadly been many years since I have had the pleasure of sampling one of mum’s Christmas creations. Work, the passing of years and life in general prevented me from attending our family Christmas for far too long, and in the end there must have been a fifteen year gap between my last home cooked pud and starting here at One Great George Street in June of 2000. It was only then, when writing my first Christmas menu for Brasserie One that I remember the old recipe and asked mum if she would mind me putting it on the menu as ‘Granny Wilk’s Christmas Pudding’.
This recipe is essentially the same as the original except that I have added some more moisture to make it less heavy and taken out some of the coin stuffing craziness!
For the best results I would mix it and put it in the fridge somewhere around Halloween and then cook it on the day you intend to eat it. It is delicious and you may even convert some Christmas pudding haters.
Have a very happy Christmas from all of us in the kitchens at One Great George Street!
Granny Wilk’s Christmas Pudding
Firstly, and most importantly, make sure that you have a glass of Champagne on the side. This has nothing to do with the recipe, but it sure does do wonders for the Christmas spirit.
Secondly, mix together all the dry ingredients:
250 g sultanas
250 g raisins
250 g currents
180 g self-raising flour
250 g suet (beef or vegetarian)
250 g breadcrumbs
250 g brown sugar
125 g mixed peel
125 g nibbed or ground almonds
1 flat tsp cinnamon
1 flat tsp nutmeg
1 flat tsp mixed spice
1 flat tsp salt
Thirdly, mix in all the wet ingredients, not forgetting to make a wish of course:
1 zest and juice of one lemon
1 Grated apple
1 Grated carrot
4 whole eggs
1 bottle of very cheap brandy
½ lt Milk
Black jack (gravy browning)
When all the ingredients have been added the mixture it will appear quiet wet and very brown! Slowly add the gravy browning until your preferred level of darkness has been achieved and don’t worry about the wetness because the other ingredients will soon soak that up. Wrap up your mixture and put it in the fridge for as long as you can, but I would suggest no less than two days.
To cook place your mixture into a buttered pudding basin, put a circle of cooking parchment on top of the mix and then securely place a cloth or tea towel over the top of the basin. Steam it in a covered pot for 6 hours (I use a rice cooker and cook it out in the garage to save space in the kitchen) and the job is done.
When you turn it out onto a plate it has a certain Dickensian quality about it, especially if you have a little left over brandy which you can warm, set light to and pour over the pudding. Get someone to dim the lights when you bring it into the dining room and your status as legendary pudding maker is assured.
Serve it with custard, brandy sauce, brandy butter, ice cream or just pouring cream and enjoy.
If you do make this pudding maybe raise a toast to Gurtrude Parker of New Southgate and thank my Great Grand Mother for your Christmas fare.