Eliza Acton`s Christmas pudding

This is an extract from my first book Modern British Food (see Books) which is filled with Neil Packer’s quirky illustrations of (see picture opposite).

Although plum pudding had been as essential a part of the eighteenth century man’s diet as roast beef, it was Prince Albert who popularized it as a Christmas pudding, along with the candlelit Christmas tree.  Every family has its own favourite Christmas pudding recipe.  Mine is Eliza Acton’s.

Serves 6

Use a 1.5 litre/2 ½ pint pudding basin

170g/6oz raisins

170g/6oz currants

140ml/ ¼ pint brandy

85g/3oz plain flour

85g/3oz white breadcrumbs

170g/6oz shredded suet

115g/4oz peeled, cored and roughly grated apple

140g/5oz caster sugar

55g/2oz chopped candied peel

½ teaspoon mixed spice

pinch of salt

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons extra brandy for flaming the pudding

For the brandy butter

170g/6oz softened unsalted butter

1 lemon, finely grated

6 tablespoons icing sugar or to taste

4 tablespoons good brandy


1 If you have the time, soak the raisins and currants in the brandy overnight.  Beat together all the ingredients – not forgetting to make a wish as you do so.  Lightly grease a pudding basin and fill with the mixture.  Cover with a circle of greaseproof paper.

2 Lay 2 sheets of foil on top of one another and make a pleat in them before laying them on top of the pudding basin. Tie securely and lower the basin into a large pan of boiling water.  Boil for a good 3 ½ hours. 

3 The pudding can be served at this stage.  However, if you like a very dark pudding, reboil it every day until it is as dark as treacle.

4 To make the brandy butter, beat together the butter, lemon zest, icing sugar and brandy.  Adjust the flavouring according to your taste.  A few drops of lemon juice can added if wished.  This can be made in advance and chilled or frozen until needed.

5 Carefully turn out the hot pudding and place a sprig of holly (with berries) on top.  Warm 3 tablespoons of brandy, then, when you are ready to serve, pour this over the pudding but be careful not serve any holly berries.  Eat with lashing of brandy butter.




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