1 large pot with lid
1 smaller saucepan
active time: 5 hrs, plus 4-5 hrs
cooking Christmas pudding
Have a large pot half-filled with water and a smaller saucepan of water on the stove. Bring both to the boil.
Submerge a sturdy, old saucer in the large pot. This acts as a buffer between the bottom of the pudding and the hot pan; it helps prevent any scorching. It also creates a mindless little rattle in the background to remind you the pudding is still on the stove (trust me; in the course of five hours, it's easy to forget about it!)
Lower the pudding gently into the boiling water. The water level needs to come up to the top of the pudding, just below the knot.
Remember, the water will rise considerably when you lower the pudding. Be careful that it doesn't overflow. If there is not enough water, pour some in from the smaller saucepan. Lift the tails of the cloth over a wooden spoon so that no water gets into the pudding through the top knot. Cover with a lid and boil for 5 hours.
Keep the smaller saucepan filled with water and at a steady simmer. Every 30 minutes or so, check the water level in the pudding pot and re-fill it with hot water from the small saucepan. This keeps everything at a boiling temperature.
When the time is up, lift the pudding out of the pot and hang it from a hook or, if you can finagle it, stick a broom handle through the loop and prop it at an angle across some corner cabinets so that the pudding can hang freely. This keeps it in a nice, round shape. I tuck a dish towel around the know so that the moisture from the top of the cloth doesn't seep into the pudding.
Next day, I remove the dish cloth and scrape out any floury residue from the inside folds of the top of the cloth.
The pudding needs to dry until the cloth feels hard and starchy. If I am late making the pudding and need to speed things up, I pop it into the fridge for a couple of days to dry it out.
On Christmas Day, set up your pudding pot and saucepan again. Repeat the whole procedure, boiling it for 4-5 hrs. Don't forget the saucer in the bottom of the pot and don't let it boil dry!
When it is done, remove it to a colander, cut open the string and peel back the cloth. Invert your serving platter over the colander and tip everything over so that the pudding is upright on the platter. Lift off the colander and peel off the cloth (don't throw it away; soak it and wash it and use it again next year).
Warm a little brandy / rum / whiskey and take it with the pudding platter to the table. Pour the spirit over the pudding and set it alight. Sing a carol, stare in wonder, take a moment to ponder your pudding wish...
Serve in small wedges; a little goes a long way.Traditionally you'd serve it with hot custard, brandy butter, hard sauce...but I prefer pouring cream and a sprinkle of white sugar!