It turns out that I won't be going to Germany next week. Long story, but basically inefficiency and complications in the immigration department mean that our friend still doesn't have official residency here, so - since she's not a European citizen - she doesn't want to leave the country until it's all through. At least the tickets hadn't been booked. Disappointing, but not really surprising.
Even though I shall now be here next week, I decided to make my Christmas puddings today. I'd been looking, for a while, for a recipe that doesn't use suet. I switched, some years ago, to veggie suet since Daniel's vegetarian and I don't really like the thought of beef suet in mincemeat and Christmas puddings. In Cyprus, only vegetarian suet is available anyway - and then only around this time of year. The problem is, it contains hydrogenated vegetable fat, which these days is considered by far the worst form of fat. Butter, it seems, has had a reprieve. Saturated fat, at least in moderation, is now not just acceptable but positively good for us.
That may change again, I'm sure. But since most of our long-lived relatives ate butter and cream and red meat into their eighties and nineties, I suspect it's correct.
So I was pleased to discover, in my new 'Good Housekeeping' book, a recipe for Christmas pudding that uses butter rather than suet. It also uses ingredients I've never put in Christmas puddings before: prunes, and dates, and chopped pecans, and grated carrot. Also Guiness, which I've never seen here, and Grand Marnier, whatever that might be..
Still, it looked good, and the photo was appealing. I usually adjust new recipes somewhat, anyway. I wasn't going to take any notice of the requirement for white crustless bread made into crumbs. The only bread we have here is home-made wholewheat, so I used that. And I always put a can of KEO beer into Christmas pudding; we were recently given some cans by people leaving our guest flat who had bought them but hadn't drunk them all, so I thought I'd use it again.
Trouble was, the pudding recipe asked for 100ml of Grand Marnier and 100ml Guiness. Cans of Keo beer have 330ml. So I decided to make one-and-a-half times the quantity, and not worry about the extra 30ml since brown bread requires more liquid than white anyway.
Prunes and dates were easily found, although I decided to substitute some of the dates for dried apricots. We happened to have some pecans in, left over from a year ago when I made a pecan pie for the house group we used to be part of. Still in shells, so still good as new.
So, today I made the puddings. I jotted down my own version, roughly working out the quantities I'd need, making adjustments here and there (muslin bags? No idea where I'd find those!) It was a much more complicated recipe than I'm used to: I had to shell the nuts first, then toast them, then put them in the food processor to grind. I had to remove stones from the prunes and dates, and chop them. I had to peel and grate the carrot, too. And all the dried fruit had to be soaked in the alcohol for an hour before I put the rest together.
The resulting mixture was a bit sloppier than I'd expected. There also seemed to be rather a lot of it. My usual recipe makes exactly the right amount for my three 600ml pudding bowls, that fit perfectly in the three-tier electric steamer.
Ah. I looked at the quantities for the recipe, and it said it was enough for two one-litre bowls. So my increased quantity would be enough for three one-litre bowls. Or - I hoped - three 600ml bowls and one litre bowl. It seemed to fit, anyway. Not having any muslin bags, I used the tried-and-tested method of greasing the bowls well with butter, and then covering with greaseproof paper, with a fold in the middle, and then another covering of aluminium foil
Then I went to look for the string to hold these in place... only to discover it wasn't in the drawer. I then vaguely remembered Richard having taken it to the new boat...
So I scrunched the foil around the rims, and it seemed to hold. Should be fine with the steamed puddings, but the bigger one had to go in a saucepan with water half-way up the side. I've no idea how I'll get that one out... but will cross that bridge when I get to it.
They're looking good. I just hope they taste as good as the usual Christmas puddings.