Christmas Pudding.

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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.

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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.

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21 Responses to “Christmas Pudding.”

  1. Chris Says:

    Your neighbour sounds like a member of Slow Food in its original form.
    Gastronomy with intent.

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  2. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes Chris;
    Slow food in its extreme. I think her idea of the food is in the contemplation, not necessarily the execution of it or indeed the eating. I could be wrong.
    Give me the reality of a slice of smoked salmon on a piece of dark rye- bread any time.

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  3. Els Bakker Says:

    After 40 odd years still do not do Christmas pudding, leave that to my Aussie sister in law. (do not like it that much either). But I make beef croquettes for Christmas
    from a recipe out of my mother’s 1930’s first electric cookbook. All vegetarians in my family take Christmas Day off just for the croquettes!

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Ah Els,
      Don’t get me going on those Dutch croquettes. I have acres of memories about them and if heaven is lying in a bed of Dutch croquettes, please don’t let me wait too long.
      I remember freezing winters delivering flowers and fruit on my bike in The Hague and from the tips, stopping over at those vans where croquettes were being sold. They were crusty, golden brown and piping hot. My dad could make them too. The ingredients I think were called ragout.
      As for Christmas cake, I am polite and don’t refuse, but…give me a croquette from Holland.

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  4. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Oh Gerard you’ve peeking into my kitchen! Not really, but today I am making many “Christmas cakes”, and addressing Christmas cards, and as you can see, reading blog’s written by friends in Australia! I sound like your old neighbor.

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  5. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Hilarious, you are. So well written. I must say that the lady is suffering from ADD since I can relate to her ways quite well. I must make myself focus sometimes and make a plan in my head of how I will accomplish all my tasks.

    Smoked salmon is so good and so is rye bread which I can no longer eat due to gluten in the bread and too much salt in the salmon. Gee it really is hell to get old.

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yvonne,
      How a cruel affliction not able to eat rye bread and salmon. I am curious about what nice delicacies you can eat. I, generally can’t eat sweet stuff easily and have no real longings for sugary drinks or cakes etc. Give me salami, cheese, herrings, croquettes, salmon or even any fish soaked in lemon juice and some garlic. I’ll eat any fish raw after soaking in lemon juice.

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  6. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Great story. I love the idea of an oven with Windows 8. Making the Christmas pudding is a grand and fun ceremony, but ‘a lamington’. I’ve been British for all of my lengthy years and I’ve never heard of it… ah misunderstanding. I looked it up, it’s an Aussie cake.

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Goodness me! A lamington an Aussie cake? Well, there is always something one can learn. I could have sworn it was a British institution.
      I wonder how this cake originated?
      We watched Rick Stein “in India” last night. Fantastic show.

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  7. roughseasinthemed Says:

    I am confused (not difficult). Are we talking christmas pudding or christmas cake?

    Cake, full of dried fruit, probably alcohol, and covered with marzipan MADE NOT BOUGHT and then icing. Pretty little snow people and reindeers and Santa Claus on top for decoration.

    In my part of the UK always served with crumbly cheese. Vile combination in my opinion but as my father sold cheese far be it from me to complain as our christmas sales of Cheshire cheese were huge.

    Christmas pudding. Basically dried fruit, nuts, and alchohol. Very nice. My mother would make batches of them and leave them to store for a few years, the older they were, the more fermented they were. Cooked in a steam cooker or pressure cooker. Served with brandy butter which we never had, we had brandy sauce instead – white sauce with loads of brandy. Excellent served for breakfast on Boxing Day as leftovers, if there were any.

    I am sure you will not believe this, but I do a mean vegetarian one. Just as rich and plummy as the normal one. You don’t even need to leave it five years.

    I thought lamingtons were aussie too.

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I’ll never get to get intimate with British food. A cake with cheese? What next, a wine with golden syrup?
      I never went in for Christmas cakes or puddings. I remember staying with a nice lady at Whitby UK who decided to take me out for ‘pudding.’
      Till that time I thought a pudding was something that quivered, like a jelly or custard. No, it was a cup-o-tea with a scone.

      Still, leave me for a few days reflecting over a vegetarian Christmas pudding. I’ll bet it is nice. I mean aren’t all cakes vegetarian or do some British people put in flounder or a piece of mutton?

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      • roughseasinthemed Says:

        Christmas cake and cheese is a Yorkshire thing. Although other northern counties may do it. They also have apple pie and cheese. And we have currents or blackberries in Yorkshire pudding too, while saved with savoury ie onion type gravy.

        Pudding used to refer to sweets/desserts, less so now, so that might be why she took you for tea and scones, I would not have called that pudding. Tea and scones more like.

        Puddings are usually steamed (like Christmas pud) – note the difference between pudding referring to the generality eg ‘What’s for pudding?’ and puddings themselves. So you get treacle pudding, jam pudding and at the savoury end, steak and kidney pudding which I’ve never had.

        Thanks to Patti for her reminder about the suet, I’d actually forgotten about that but you can get veg suet. Anyway, my recipe is actually vegan, so no eggs or dairy either which was what I was thinking of.

        I do hope that has served to confuse you further🙂

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  8. Patti Kuche Says:

    Talking about diversions, I started cleaning out the refrigerator hours ago . . . . Thank you for the distraction Gerard and can’t wait to hear how the pudding turned out after all that time in the oven. Perhaps your neighbor intends to steam the Christmas cake. What a fun neighborhood!

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It might well have been a pudding. How do I know? I am more of a ragout-croquette man. She did end up cooking it in the oven. A cake and pudding are now different according to an above respondent. How complicated a world it has become.
      How’s the Christmas spirit in NYC, any festivities and photos coming this way Patti? Is there a David Hockney exhibition on somewhere?
      On our walk this morning we past a girl and her baby in a pram. Her legs were dripping with tattoos and her lips and nose had a number of rings. I somehow thought of our neighbo(u)r’s large bowl of all that dried fruit to be cooked for 4 hrs in the oven.

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      • Patti Kuche Says:

        I am cracking up at thought of young Mother Pudding taking her baby for a walk!!! But back to the pudding and @roughseasinthemed (hello to you!) mention of a vegetarian pudding which means it does not have suet in it. Which, you may or may not be thrilled to know, is beef or mutton fat. Raw. The stuff that clogs arteries, or in the case of the cow and the sheep, keeps the loins and kidneys safe, warm and protected!

        Has your neighbour started on the mince pies yet? My favorite part of Christmas, served warm with a dollop of brandy butter!

        Christmas spirit here in NY? I am a last minute Christmas do’er and until then am happy to be in denial. I have a hard enough time working out what to cook for supper every day. Those croquettes sound so good!

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No, not those mince pies again. I am already sweating at night with how to avoid them from our dear neighbour. Last year, she had made them and both H and I are not too fond of sweets. (I don’t know why, probably dates back to childhood and a dysfunctional Dutch uncle with sweaty feet.)
      Anyway, I said they were delicious, so… how can I, in a polite way avoid them? Any suggestions? I did say they were nice!
      Shall I just stay in the toilet and wait for H, to give me the all clear?
      Or, shall I go around with the prawns while the mince pies are doing the rounds, all in perfect sync?
      Sorry. We all have problems.

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      • Patti Kuche Says:

        On the basis that there is a time and a place for everything even I couldn’t cope with a mince pie in the middle of an Australian summer Christmas. They go so well with the deep mid-winter chills of long dark hours. Prawn duty for you!

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    • roughseasinthemed Says:

      Thanks Patti for providing the suet info which I had totally forgotten about, it’s so long since I’ve had a non-veg Xmas pud. Or any puds tbh. I wondered how you were so up on Xmas pud in NY but I see you are from London. Do they have pud in America?

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      • gerard oosterman Says:

        The question ought to be asked; Is ‘haggis’ a pudding a cake or a meal? I reckon it is a pudding. Here from Wiki.

        “Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock”.

        The sheep suet is sure plucky. Who would have thought that haggis is a pudding?
        I’ll have to be alert next time I get asked to be taken out for a ‘pudding’. No offense Mr MacDonald.

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I asked H if we ever resorted in using mutton or beef fat in making cakes or ‘pud’. ‘Never’, she said and was getting vehement, so I left the subject alone. We use butter or margarine and never mix lamb or cow products in making sweets.
      I will write about the perfect Christmas dinner, called Raan. It does involve a sheep, so… perhaps if you leave out the sheep and replace with vegies it might still make for a good Christmas dinner for the Gibraltarians…

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