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Wednesday 7 December 2016

A pale imitation of Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding lover Joanna Kiernan attempts to make the traditional Yuletide treat

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joanna+
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all in the cooking

The only time in my life I had ever made a Christmas pudding before this was as part of a very large group effort.

I was about nine at the time and a member of my local Cub Scouts club when we spent two evenings making puddings for 'an old folks' party.' I'm not sure if the end product was edible, but all that mattered to me back then was that I got to write down that we had fed some very brave senior citizens that week in my 'good deeds' diary.

My aunt, who is a very talented baker, makes puddings and Christmas cakes every year for all of the family. So when she was informed that I was about to voyage into her territory, there was some initial hesitation on the other end of the phone line. I'm still not sure whether it was a case of me stepping on her toes, or that she feared I could blow up my kitchen in the process, but either way, she advised me as best she could over the course of numerous phone calls that evening.

I decided (just to make life even more difficult for myself) to use a recipe from what has always been my mother's kitchen bible - a book called All in the Cooking, which she has had since her school days.

All in the Cooking was the go-to cook book for anyone studying home economics or domestic science in Ireland for decades. It was first printed by the Educational Company in 1946 and has just recently been reprinted by O'Brien Press and The Educational Company.

With a tried-and-tested age-old recipe like that and two eager phone-a-friend options on call, what could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a bit, it turns out.

I was perhaps a little overconfident going in, particularly as my mother had promised it was pretty simple stuff. The first lesson? It may be called 'Plum Pudding', but there are no plums in it.

Putting all of the ingredients together was the easy part. The boiling of my pudding was a whole new world. After a few more phone calls, I was told to place an upside-down plate on the bottom of a saucepan of boiling water, place my pudding bowl (with its lid firmly on) on the plate and allow the boiling to do its work, making sure to check every so often that the water had not boiled off.

Nobody told me to watch out for my pudding bowl bobbing away across the pot every time I took my eyes away from it, nobody told me that somewhere after the three-hour mark, the plate on the bottom of the pot would smash into smithereens and I would let out a squeal to wake the dead from the other end of the house, fully sure there was an intruder in my midst.

And alas, nobody warned me of the array of confused facial expressions that would greet me, once all of those hours of boiling had passed and my finished product was ready to be judged by my two favourite matriarchs.

Verdict

My verdict: not enough alcohol or sweetness. My aunt's (very diplomatic) verdict: "It's edible, there's nothing wrong with it, but I think it could do with being boiled longer; an eight out of 10 for effort."

And my mother, who it turns out has never actually attempted this recipe from the book herself: "It's different ... it is bit too pale, but God loves a trier."

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