Darina Allen is a true celebrity in Ireland. Her cookery shows have been televised and her books are a staple in
most Irish homes. She is the founder of Ballymaloe,
a successful cookery school in East Cork which she runs with her husband Tim Allen.
Darina has kindly agreed to provide a weekly recipe on the site, so get out that apron and start cooking!
Time for plum pudding
A dear friend had spent her entire life, highly achieving everywhere but in
the kitchen. Recently married and deeply in love, she's desperately anxious to
delight her newly acquired husband who adores his food, so there are regular
urgent phone calls - yes I must be disturbed at my meeting or called out of
class. It's an emergency, she must have a recipe immediately for something quick
and easy to dazzle his pals, something warm and comforting to soothe his
frazzled nerves after a long day - now he wants to make gravy, I'm exhausted
from trying to keep this marriage on course. She never has time for a cooking
lesson so all of these instructions are given over the phone.
I suggest a bit of forward planning - "great idea", she wants to
make their first Christmas together really memorable, "he'd be so impressed
if she made her own plum pudding!" - Is it frightfully difficult to make
the delicious plum pudding she ate at our house last Christmas - and does it
have to be made months in advance ?
My Mother’s recipe for plum pudding, passed down in her family for many
generations, is absolutely wonderful, nothing to do with nostalgia or sentiment
it is quite simply the best. My Mother-in-law makes a great pudding too but
Mummy's has the edge in flavour and juiciness.
At the beginning of November for as long as I can remember, Mummy would
announce that she would be making the plum pudding on an appointed day that week
and we'd all be invited to stir the ingredients and make a wish.
The 'well-wished' plum puddings were packed into bowls, covered tightly, tied
securely and steamed for 6 hours. By tradition we ate the first plum pudding
that night and I don't know if it was my imagination but it seems to me to taste
even better than the one on Christmas Day which by then would have matured for 6
- 8 weeks. As ever the quality of the ingredients greatly effect the finished
product. Buy plump good quality dried fruit for the plum pudding. Use natural
glâcé cherries, they'll be dark in colour but infinitely superior in texture
Why not make your own candied peel (see recipe) alternatively use whole peel
and chop it yourself.
Use really fresh free-range eggs.
This plum pudding was originally made with suet. One can substitute butter
but it won't be the same - so don't compromise, use really good quality beef
To make bread crumbs, allow white bread to stale, cut off the crusts, cut
into cubes and whizz a few at a time in a liquidiser or a food processor. Bread
crumbs may be frozen and used directly from the freezer.
Traditional Brandy butter made by a cook with a generous nature is of course
delicious with plum pudding but nothing quite matches Mrs. Hanrahan's Sauce; in
fact this sauce could redeem even a mediocre plum pudding.
It's so easy to forget to top up the water level as the plum pudding steams,
so don't risk letting the water boil dry - set a pinger for every hour to remind
you to check. Plum pudding is best served on hot plates, if the plates are cold
the suet will congeal and be most unappetising!