“It is a problem certainly, that Christmas plum pudding. There is here something that I do not understand at all.”The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
by Agatha Christie (1925)
As Laurent mentioned over at Larry Muffin At Home this past few days has been a flurry of Christmas cooking. By tradition I should be making the Christmas Pudding today , Stir Up Sunday. (For an explanation see Excita, Quæsumus) However today is our much anticipated second concert of the season and I have a busy day ahead of me. It should be a great concert: Space and the Rocket: Gustav Holst’s The Planets and a fun setting of Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater by Abigail Richardson-Schulte. I’m pleased to say it’s almost sold out. If you’d like to take a look at the programme notes I compiled they can be found here.
Having said that Friday and Saturday were filled with dried fruits macerating in brandy, suet being chopped, ginger being peeled, bowls being stirred (clockwise), and makeshift systems straight out of steampunk novels being erected to cook more puddings than I intended to make. At one point in time I did have a “traditional” recipe that I followed, clipped as I recall from the New York Times some thirty-odd years ago. However it seems to have disappeared so I, in a fit of inspiration, turned to Nigel Slater. Good old dependable Nigel! Just one thing Nigg, we have to talk. Your recipe makes a bit more than two average puddings!
Anyone who has followed a recipe from an English cookery books or websites knows that there are certain quirks, shall we say. We could start with term “cookery” but that’s a bit of a nit-pick. The measurements are given in metric and the temperatures in Celsius or even more quaintly in “gas marks”. Fortunately Siri is quick to convert measures and temperatures – okay not so much with the gas mark thing. So that’s really not a major problem. (As a sidebar my lad Siri has the most lovely Galway accent*.)
Then there are the ingredients which can cause a touch of confusion e.g. many people confused caster sugar with confectioner’s or icing sugar. Not the same thing at all my dears. Over here caster sugar goes by the name baker’s sugar, bar sugar or superfine. It’s virtue is that it dissolves quickly and gives a smoother result. A search on the web tells me that ordinary granulated sugar can be turned into caster sugar with a quick whiz in a spice or coffee grinder. For 1 cup simply use 1 cup plus a tablespoon, hit the button for 30 seconds and ecco là* 1 cup of caster sugar.
On the topic of sugar how about that old British standby Muscovado or Barbados Sugar! It’s an unrefined cane sugar with a strong flavour of molasses and the texture of Brighton Beach sand. And it is not the same as brown sugar or even demerara sugar, though it can be used in a pinch. I was able to find muscovado last year in a holistic food store down the street but they only sold four bags in a year so stopped ordering it! Though I went the demerara route according to Mr Google you can make your own by mixing 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 or 2 tablespoons of molasses. Just mix with a fork and voilà* muscovado sugar.
As for self-rising flour, well that one is dead simple: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Blend it all thorough and within no time at all you have self-rising flour.
Now to the final grip, and this doesn’t just apply to British recipes: the matter of time! I’m not sure where the hell these kitchen mavens get their preparation times from but, as an example, it takes more than 15 minutes to peel 600 grams of ginger root! That is unless you have a bloody kitchen staff worthy of Downtown Abbey or whatever it’s called.
Okay whinging and wining over! Next up – use the mincemeat to make mini-pies and freeze them. But for now I’m hanging up my mop cap and apron, making a cuppa tea and having one of those muffins I made from the over abundance of dried apricots we had on hand.
*Take that you “Leave” bunch. That’s my stand for Europe, that is!
November 24th is Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day – hmmmm. Is surviving 41 years without committing murder a talent or just an accomplishment in self-interest?