Sunday, 24 November 2013


For me Christmas is all about tradition.  Those particular little things we do to make the yuletide even more special and help build the excitment of what's to come.  In my house it means family and a time to share and enjoy together, and some traditions like Stir up Sunday lend themselves perfectly to this.

Stir up Sunday takes place on the last sunday before advent and like so many Christmas customs is said to have been introduced by Prince Albert. Nowadays we either use the day to make our Christmas cake or Christmas pudding but the ritual is the same.  Everyone gathers round to stir the ingredients and make a wish.  Some add a sixpence or silver charm which is meant to bring wealth for the coming year for it's recipient.  I use the same sixpence I got in my pudding at primary school.

As with Christmas cake, Christmas pudding has a long shelf life so stir up Sunday means you have one of your many tasks all done and dusted way in advance of the big day.  It also acts as a signal for me that I should make a start on all the other jobs in hand.   This year I was very lucky to get all my ingredients from the good people at Sainsbury's so I had no excuse not to get it done. It's packed with plump fruits and warming brandy, just right for a festive treat.  I used:

385g Sainsbury's Mixed Dried Fruit
80g Sainsbury's Ready-to-Eat Dried Figs, roughly chopped
75g Sainsbury's Glace Cherries, roughly choppped
100ml Basics Brandy
1 Small Cooking Apple, peeled cored & grated
1 Small Orange, zest & juice
100g Shredded Suet
3 Medium Free-Range Sainsbury's Woodland Eggs, beaten
100g Ground Almonds
200g Soft Muscovado Sugar
140g Self Raising Flour
20g Sainsbury's Almonds, halved
1 tsp Sainsbury's Ground Mixed Spice
1 tsp Sainsbury's Ground Cinnamon

Put the mixed fruit, figs and cherries into a pan, I used scissors to cut mine up.  Add the brandy and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and ideally soak overnight.  If you've no time though, you could just leave it a couple of hours before continuing.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple, orange, suet, eggs, ground almonds, sugar and flour. Here is the 'Stir Up' bit.  Everyone stirs in the soaked fruit, almonds and spices, making a wish as they do.

Pour the mixture into a greased 1 litre pudding basin.  Cover the basin with 2 large circles of greaseproof paper then cover with pleated foil to allow for your pudding expanding.  Secure around the top with string making a handle so you can remove your hot pudding with ease.

Place the basin in a steamer or large sausepan with a lid, pour boiling water half way up the basin, cover and steam for 2 hours.  Allow to cool then wrap the whole basin in foil untill Christmas.

On the big day, place the pudding into a large saucepan or steamer and cook as before for 1 hour 30 minutes until heated through and springy to touch.

Top tip for flaming your pudding.  If you warm your brandy first, it's much easier to light.  I heat it over a flame in a ladle, light it then pour it over whilst still alight.