A Christmas pudding needs no introduction in Australia. However, back in 1956 it did need explaining for us. We had never heard of a pudding dedicated to a religious event in Holland. Mind you, it was only a few years ago when I mentioned a spongy type of chocolate cake with shredded coconut that this was called a lamington. For most of my life I was ignorant of one the most hallowed and revered delicacies, as British as fish and chips or a Beefeater on his watch.
It is still the same with Christmas puddings. An event and tradition I have been excluded from till now. The exclusion was never deliberate. I never really experienced it, it was my own ignorance. The esoteric world of the dietary and culinary delights of Britain is lifting its veils and I am most honoured to have been accepted.
Little could I have foreseen that in my post middle age, but not yet in my final pre burial stage, I would be called upon to help and prepare and cook a Christmas pudding. Not only that, the lady who politely requested my help is English, very English. I have to be very careful not to mention my support for Australia’s push into a republic. It would not be a good ‘show’. She has taught me the whole lineage of English Royalty right back to the Prince of Orange of Nassau and a diversion even further back to William the Silent. I learnt to be just as polite ( and silent) not wishing to point out that the Dutch Royals are also Oranges of Nassau related.
The lady is our good and very lively neighbour. Too old to have bothered about the ways of her new stove, computers, skyping and all that electronic wizardry. I too have problems with this stove. As usual, too many options. I am surprised it doesn’t have photographic capability or Windows 8.1 Clouds with Sky-drive.
All the help she required from me was to simply switch this beast of an oven on with about 4 hours of cooking time on 140c heat. Please, could you be at my place at about 6 o’clock, she asked? On arrival she had a large ceramic container filled with all the fruity looking ingredients including bright red and viridian green glace bits. Most of it were what looked like raisins and lots of dark brown dried fruits, perhaps dried plums, apricots, persimmons, dates, currants and some nuts. The lot she kept turning and mixing in a churning type of electric powered machine.
I fulfilled her request by trying out all the buttons to find the 4 hours cooking time. On our own similar stove I usually put on many hours and just keep track on the required cooking time before switching it off. I rarely use the oven. In fact I cook mainly outside lately.
Before I go any further I must add that our neighbour cannot be hurried. Her cooking is more of a slow meticulously laboured organized way of life rather than cooking. I swear that the walk between the kitchen bench top and the oven takes her about two hours. She gets waylaid by lots of diversions. She will shake the salt or just look at the bowls contemplating something. She surveys her vast array of cake dishes, ladles, spices, and like a conjurer keeping rabbits well hidden or…a voodoo priest contemplating in deep concentration a beheaded chook, finally makes a decision…she calls a good friend on the phone!
I decided to give the oven a couple of extra hours, just in case! When I left, she was still on the phone. Next day I enquired. She said, “oh, I think I forgot the baking powder.” “It did not rise”. “It is solid though.” “It tastes alright.”
Very nice Christmas cake, thanks Gerard, she added.