Where it got dark around 4pm, and the shops would stay open late, and you'd have to bundle up in your winter coat with a hat and scarf. Where you'd go Christmas present shopping after school and the wind would bite your nose, and the smell of roasted chestnuts would fill the air. In Glasgow, George Square would light up. When I moved back home to go to university, I'd go wandering around the center of town in the wee hours of the morning, and sit on a bench in George Square just looking up at the lights and the architecture. For some reason, that combination of modern lighting, and the old, soot-covered architecture did something strange to my insides; it made me feel timeless, and I loved it.
The year before my dad died, I went to visit him over Christmas. He picked me up from the airport, very tired. We went back to his house and hung out, reading, eating chocolate, drinking soup. I spent 2 weeks with him curled up on the couch eating and reading. We went through his entire stash of Dairy Milk, and had to make a Sainsbury's run to get more. And on Christmas, we had a chicken stir fry, with mashed potatoes, and then a christmas pudding. We ate the whole pud, dad and me, just the two of us. It was one of my favourite days that I've ever spent with him. When I left his house to go to the airport, and he stood in his doorway waving at me, I got this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling that made me want to stop the taxi and run back and look after him for a bit. A feeling that I'd never see him again; I was right.
It always strikes me as funny how foods can weave together memories. Happy memories and sad memories, that create such pain, and such joy all at once. It's like our history as people is so intimately connected to the foods that we eat that sometimes there is no separating them.
A couple of years ago, Jam's friend came back from a trip to london with a pud for us from Harrods. Harrods do a special pud every year that costs a ridiculous amount of money and comes in a special pudding bowl that says "Harrods" on it. Well, we ended up with one. And we ceremoniously cooked it, and shared it with a few worthy friends*. It was the most glorious thing that I'd ever tasted. And after that day I resolved to make one just as good.
Luckily there are people like Delia Smith in the world. Delia Smith is the fairy godmother of English cooking. And of course she had a pudding recipe. She also has a trifle, and a Christmas cake, and all kinds of other goodies, but I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. And so it was with the archetypical pud in mind (Which I had been lucky enough to taste! What wonders!) that I set forth with a twenty-something ingredient list and a few days of painful preparation.
Delia does not disappoint. Not ever. This year is my first year with a Christmas tree (sorry mum) and after our decorating party, we sat down and had the first of many Christmas puddings. I think that Harrods uses Delia's recipe.
There's not much time left, but if you still have a day to spare, I'd give it a go.
4oz suet (I used buffalo kidney fat)
2oz flour, sifted
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
8oz soft brown sugar
10 oz currants
1 oz candied orange peel
1 oz skinned, chopped almonds
1 1/2 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped quite finely
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
3 tb rum
3 tb barley wine
3 tb stout
(If you can't find barley wine then use all stout, and if you can't find either then use a dark beer like Guinness).
2 large eggs
In a big mixing bowl, place the suet (or whatever fat you use), flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, spice and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
Add the rest of the ingredients (mix thoroughly again).
In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the beer, wine and rum (note: if you are using 151 like I did, don't add that to the eggs first or they will cook and you will have scrambled boozy eggs= not fun).
Pour this over the rest of the ingredients, and mix well until it is a big sloppy mess. If it doesn't feel sloppy enough, then add more beer.
Leave it out, covered with a dish cloth, overnight.
In the morning, pack the mixture into a pudding bowl (NOTE: I couldn't find a pudding bowl. I used a well made ceramic mixing bowl, and then when I decided to make more, I went to Sur La Table and got more little bowls that looked a good shape, and asked if they could stand the heat of a hot water bath.) leaving about half an inch space at the top.
Cut baking parchment to the size of the top of the bowl, and pack tightly on top of the wet pudding.
Cover with aluminium foil.
Tie with a string, and lower into a hot water bath (boiling).
Cover and cook for 8 hours.
After 8 hours of cooking, remove from the bath, re-cover just like you did to cook it, and put it somewhere cool, dark and safe until Christmas day-- the longer it ages, the better it tastes... or do what I did and make 2, put one away until Christmas and have a pudding party with the other.
On Christmas day, serve for dessert with fresh cream, or custard.
* For the record, when you bite into the most delicious pud that has ever set down on a table, and the heavens open, and you hear angels start singing, and then you look up and see that a person has accepted a bowl, and just been pushing it around on their plate because they don't like it or don't want the calories, you might just want to punch them. I speak from experience.