I can't quite believe a whole year has swung by and it's stir up Sunday again already. The full frosty chill of November might not have fully crept in yet, but the dark nights are already creating a massive internal battle in my yawning head: to resist the urge to cupboard-raid for something tasty, sweet and moreish, or to free-fall into its tempting, chocolate-y arms and say, to hell with fitting into my Christmas party frocks next month. Sugar and caffeine are dark nights' devils at this time of year, especially if you, like me, find yourself turning into a hibernating hedgehog, ready to curl up and sleep your way through the Winter. It's Sunday after all, so by all means, collapse into a cocoa cuddle by making my chocolate and espresso brownies, if you feel like it. Or, if you'd rather prevent yourself falling too far too fast with the excessive indulgence of Christmas just around the corner, why not make yourself feel useful and take your mind off your sugar cravings, by taking part in stir up Sunday. If you want to stick staunchly to tradition, you can find my recipe for Victorian Christmas pudding here, or, if you'd like to inject a slick of avant-garde glamour into this year's festive staple, why not try my triple chocolate Christmas pudding? There is certainly no skimping on the booze in this alternative and it has the good sense to keep as long as traditional Xmas pud, so you can be more productive than you thought possible by making an extra to serve as a decadent Valentine's Day dessert too.
Triple Chocolate Christmas Pudding
Enough for a 1.5 litre pudding basin.
100g soft, pitted prunes
100g dried figs
100g dried sour cherries
50g dried apricots
2 fl.oz/ 50ml Port
1 fl.oz/ 25ml brandy
1 fl.oz/ 25ml Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground black pepper
A pinch of salt
3oz/ 75g soft, unsalted butter
4oz/100g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs, beaten
7oz/175g plain flour
1oz/25g ground almonds
3oz/75g dark chocolate
1oz/25g white chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks
1oz/25g good quality milk chocolate (I like using Green & Blacks milk chocolate), chopped into smallish chunks
8 fl.oz/ 200ml Guinness, poured out of the can so the head settles
Zest of 2 oranges and the juice of 1
Butter and flour the inside of your pudding bowl.
- Chop the dried fruit and place in a bowl with the spices, Port, brandy and Cointreau, cover with cling film and leave to soak for at least 6 hours, so they all plump up deliciously.
- Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and leave to cool.
- Cream together the butter and sugar and gradually add the eggs, then mix in the almonds and then mix in the melted chocolate.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt and mix into the chocolate-y sugar, butter and eggs.
- Stir in the Guinness, orange zest and juice, and the boozy fruit with any residual booze left at the bottom of the soaking bowl.
- Fold in the white and milk chocolate chunks.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pudding basin. Fold a piece of greaseproof with a pleat and place over the top of the bowl and secure with string. Next, cover the top with a generously sized piece of foil and place in a steamer for 3 hours.
- Leave to cool, remove the foil and greaseproof and drizzle over a little brandy and top with a disc of baking parchment or wax paper, and cover in foil.
- Every week, top the pudding up with a bit more booze and then pop back the greaseproof disc and cover with foil again.
- On Christmas Day, take off the foil and baking parchment disc and place a folded sheet of greaseproof paper over the top of the pudding basin. The pleat should be in the middle. Attach the paper with string and cover the top with a generous amount of foil and steam for 90 minutes before serving with Cointreau custard or brandy butter.