By Susie Debney
Having introduced myself in the Christmas Blog as the old Aussie with a ‘thing’ for recipes & all things foodie, I am including a few more favourite Christmas recipes from my endless supply of family recipes, cuttings, & books galore. Each month I hope to share with you on this Foodies Blog site one or more recipes.
Nonna’s fab version of the English-style Plum Pudding
Plum ‘Puds’ are still loved Christmas fare for many Aussies, despite being a strongly English & Irish tradition. And yes, they are truly better suited to this lovely cold climate. While they are also truly gorgeous, I think they are a bit heavy if they include the traditional suet. The name ‘plum’ refers to prunes, which were in the early recipes (I’m talking early 15th century in England & Ireland), & as we know ‘prune’ means plum.
Serve a plum pudding with such as Brandy Butter/Hard Sauce, Custard (a real Crème Anglaise or a Sabayon, or creamy, brandy-flavoured Ice-cream). Flame the pud with brandy first – it wouldn’t be Christmas of you didn’t!
If you are adding coins, because they are toxic material when it comes to digestion, first sterilise, and then add them just before serving. If you can find little silver tokens, then they are OK to insert before. Careful with the kids!
Tradition/superstition (of which I’m fond) says to include silver coin/s, a sliver thimble & a ring. The finder of the coin/s will have good luck, a marriage will occur within the year in the family of the ring-finder, & the finder of the thimble is in for drudgery. No! No! I’m joking. Wealth will come to the finder of the thimble!
The other tradition/superstition is the whole family having a stir & making a wish.
This is my Mum’s recipe & I’ve never had a failure with it (a welcome event in my kitchen of frequent fails) & it’s easy- peasy to boot (another welcome event).
375g seeded raisins – chopped a bit
185g prunes, chopped
185g mixed peel
Grated rind of 1 lemon
90g blanched almonds – chop a bit
Large grated carrot
250g soft white, freshly-made breadcrumbs (not packaged junk!)
250g caster sugar (sucre finissimo from Coop)
125g plain flour
½ teasp salt
½ teasp nutmeg
1 teasp mixed spice
¾ cup milk
½ cup brandy or orange juice
250g melted butter
Makes 2 litre or 8-cup basins (Line base of basin). There also may be a bit left-over.
Mix together fruit, nuts, breadcrumbs & sugar. Sift in the flour & spices. Add beaten eggs, milk & melted butter.
Spoon into the pudding bowl (I usually grease it lightly first with butter), leaving a bit of space at the top. Make a cover with baking paper, pleating it at the top (allows for expansion of pudding), then put on a second tightly sealed cover of foil.
Place on saucer in large saucepan with water say half-way up sides, & boil slowly/simmer 4 – 4 ½ hours (watch the water level & top up with boiling water when necessary).
Re-heat on Christmas day by boiling the same way for about 2 hours.
Tip: Sizzle up left-over slices the next day in some butter, & blob a dob of vanilla ice-cream on top. Mmmmmmmm!
A Cold, Super-Special Party-Desert
Christmas always being a family/friends affair, where all the girls bring platters & plates of all sorts of deliciousness, one needs to pull out the stops to make Christmas puds of the non-traditional variety. Such puds are suited to our Aussie weather & need for prepare-aheadedness. Here’s a wickedly rich desert that suits the indulgence of the season in either hemisphere, & Panettone’s are readily available in the shops right now. I always double this recipe coming as I do from an ethic of there being no such thing as ‘enough’, so I’ll give you both measurements, with the larger one in brackets.
Caramel Panettone Pudding
112g (225g) caster sugar (Sucre Finissimo avail at Coop)
¼ cup (½cup ) water
The pudding bit
500g (1kg) panettone
5 (10) large eggs
300ml (600) double cream (Gruyere Double just perfect)
1 cup (2) milk
2/3 cup (1 1/3 ) caster sugar
¼ cup ( ½ ) Grand Marnier
½ teasp (1) cinnamon
½ cup (1) chopped almonds
½ cup (1) finely chopped mixed peel
Handful sultanas (you could be creative here -eg sometimes I have on hand some dried fruits that I’ve soaked for ages in Pedro Ximinz sherry, or Vin Santo or some other caramelly grog)
Prepare (grease with butter) a large loaf or cake pan(size depends on whether or not you’ve doubled the recipe).
Make the caramel: This is the only part that’s a bit tricky. The sugar MUST first dissolve completely in the water without the sugar/water mix coming to a boil. Otherwise it crystallises & will not form a caramel. If it’s any consolation, I usually end up doing the damn thing twice. Be patient (a big ask for me I admit).
Dissolve completely the sugar in the water slowly over low heat in saucepan, stirring all the time. When all crystals are completely dissolved, bring it to the boil & boil steadily, without stirring, until it’s a lovely golden brown. Watch it all the time –it takes a while but when it starts to brown it happens quickly & will burn easily.
Pour the caramel into the loaf pan & leave to cool.
The rest is seeeemple
Pre-heat oven to 160.C.
Cut panettone into 2cm thick slices & trim so they will fit into the pan in 3 layers. Pop the almonds, sultanas & peel into a bowl/container & set aside. Whisk eggs, cream, milk, caster sugar , Grand Marnier, & cinnamon together until combined.
Put the first layer of panettone in the pan on top of the caramel. Sprinkle over half your nut/fruit mix. Pour over enough egg mixture to cover.
Repeat another layer of panettone. Sprinkle the other half of the nuts/fruit. Pour over the remainder of the egg/cream mix. Finish with the 3rd layer of panettone.
Place the tin in a large pan (roasting pan) & pour in hot water to come up half-way of the sides of the pan. Bake about 50-60 mins or until just set. Remove from oven & water bath, cool & put in fridge overnight.
To serve, turn it out onto a plate & cut into slices. Serve with clotted cream & fresh fruits –if & as you wish
Style Tip: Wear something elastic so that you can fit a few servings in.
Fruit Mincemeat for little tarts, pies or crepes
Mincemeat recipes, another English tradition & similar to plum pudding in that it is a fragrant mix of dried fruits, often includes suet – a saturated meat-fat that I prefer to avoid. This recipe uses pears & no fats. It’s quick, easy, fabulous, & traditionally is made into little pies or tarts (you can cheat & buy little pastry/tart cases). It could also be used as a filling for crepes, or served warm over ice-cream.
Well before the 16th Century) Mincemeat pies did indeed contain meat or liver, but which was changed for fish with egg & ginger on fasting days. They later became enriched with dried fruits & nuts, & when suet replaced the meat in the 17th Century it was all fruit, soaked in stacks of grog so the mincemeat could be used over the year.
This recipe makes about 5 cups & can be stored in cool, dark cupboard 9-12 months. I’ve successfully stored mine for 4-5 years in our cool, dark wine ‘cave’ here in Switzerland. Once open, refrigerate.
1.5kg firm pears
4 tablspns finely chopped glace ginger (can’t find it? Try stem ginger in syrup or even crystallised ginger).
60g chopped almonds
1/3 cup lemon juice
grated rind 1 orange
½ cup orange juice
1 teasp cinnamon
1 teasp nutmeg
¼ cup orange-flavoured liqueur
Peel, core & finely dice the pears. Pop into saucepan with all the other ingredients, except the liqueur. Simmer gently uncovered about 20 mins, stirring occasionally.
Then cover saucepan & cook a further 45mins or until it’s quite soft & dark in colour. If it has too much liquid (some pears are juicier than others), cook uncovered some more until the mixture reduces.
Put mixture in bowl & cool slightly, then mix in the liqueur.
Spoon into sterilised jars, & cover with a circle of baking paper & seal well.
Torrone Molle (a to-die-for chocolate treat!!)
If one hasn’t eaten enough by now, a super-rich, decadent little treat to have with coffee is Torrone Molle. Italian (Tuscan) in origin, torrone means nougat, & molle means soft. It’s dead easy to make & keeps in the fridge, & is irresistible cut into little slivers to have with coffee over the Christmas holiday break. A wee bit goes a long way!
You can make this in a 1 litre cardboard milk carton (rinsed & dried out), or line a loaf pan with cling film.
60g currants (raisins de corinthe)
50ml Amaretto (or brandy, or orange-flavoured liqueur)
300g finely chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
200g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar (sucre finissimo from Coop)
100g amoretti biscuits, coarsely crushed
125g digestive (eg McVities), shortbread, or other un-iced biscuits
125g candied citron (or candied orange, or combination of both)
50g lovely soft dried figs, chopped (hard-tops removed)
60g blanched, whole almonds –roasted & coarsely chopped. (I usually don’t bother with blanched almonds, but rather roast whole almonds in their skins in a 180.C oven for about 8-10 mins. The have a gorgeous deep, earthy flavour).
Combine currants & alcohol in small bowl – soak 1 hour.
Melt chocolate & butter in bowl over simmering water (or microwave at low revs) & stir until smooth.
Beat eggs & sugar in another bowl, until the mixture is thick & ribbon-y. Stir the chocolate mixture into the fruit/alcohol mix. Stir in the remaining ingredients (biscuits, nuts, peel, figs).
Spoon the whole glorious lot into your container (tapping it to release air-pockets if using the milk carton).
Staple your carton, or cover your tin with more cling film, & leave carton in the fridge on it’s side to set (or tin in fridge)
Keeps in airtight container 1 week in the fridge although I’ve kept it a fair bit longer with no problems. To be authentic, turn out of tin/carton to serve, & dust with cocoa powder.