My family has two puddings on Christmas Day: one Christmas pud for Mum, who adores it, and another, usually a chocolate affair, for those who don’t. But this year, I hope to unite us all with a lighter, brighter version of the traditional dessert, packed with freshly grated (not candied) citrus, lots of stem ginger and chunks of marzipan throughout. This, with a jot of custard or cream, will hopefully win over the sceptics at the table. My favourite festive treat of all has to be lebkuchen. They always grace the plate we put out for Father Christmas, who seems to like them, as he only ever leaves a few crumbs.
A lighter Christmas pudding
This is a lighter version of Christmas pudding, with a golden crumb, the fresh zing of zest and the brightness of ginger. You will need greaseproof paper, foil and string. And I can vouch, after using up the leftovers from several tests, that it is even better fried in a little butter (or coconut oil for vegans) the next day.
Prep 20 min
Cook 3 hr
Serves At least 8
Vegetable oil, for greasing
5 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
100g apricots, finely chopped
100g prunes, finely chopped
100g marzipan, cut or crumbled into 1cm cubes
125g plain flour
100g vegetable suet
100g golden caster sugar
30ml sherry (I used oloroso)
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp ground ginger
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 2 clementines
Zest of 2 lemons
150g ground almonds
200ml oat milk
Using a piece of kitchen paper, rub the oil evenly around the inside of a 1.5-litre heatproof pudding bowl.
Mix together the stem ginger, apricots, prunes, sultanas and marzipan in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients apart from the oat milk, and mix together with a wooden spoon.
Next, stir through the oat milk until you have a thick batter, then spoon it all into the greased bowl.
Cut two sheets of greaseproof paper into circles big enough to cover and hang over the rim of the bowl. Grease the piece that sits over the mixture with a little oil, then top with the second piece and a sheet of tin foil. Use the foil to secure the greaseproof paper, then tie some string up and over the bowl to tie the covers tightly in place.
Put a small plate (one that you don’t particularly mind about) in the bottom of a large saucepan, and put the pudding bowl on top. Pour cold water into the pan until it comes halfway up the side of the bowl.
Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for three hours. Check the water regularly, so it doesn’t dry out – top up to halfway again, if necessary.
Carefully lift the pudding bowl out of the pan – at this point, you can turn it out and serve it at once, or leave it to cool in its foil package. When cooled, replace the greaseproof and foil with fresh layers and tie again with string; this way, you can steam it to heat through again for 30 minutes when ready to serve. Put in the fridge or in a cool, dry place until needed.
Candied citrus, honey and almond lebkuchen
This year I consulted the queen of German cooking, Anja Dunk, for some lebkuchen tips, and I think I’ve just made the best batch yet. These little biscuits are traditionally made at the end of November, then stored until Christmas (they have no butter, so they keep). But I am never that organised, so I make them in the days before Christmas Eve. The authentic recipe for lebkuchen suggests chilling the dough for at least eight hours before baking, to ferment it slightly, but if you don’t have time, these work well after 30 minutes.
Prep 25 min
Chill 30 min +
Cook 12 min
Makes about 30
For the biscuits
100g light brown sugar
1 tbsp dark honey
125g ground almonds
65g mixed peel, finely chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp mixed spice
3 cloves, ground
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp baking powder
2 sheets filo or rice paper, cut into 30cm circles (you can do this with the end of a cookie cutter)
For the icing
75g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp runny honey
Juice ½ orange
Beat the egg and sugar with an electric whisk until the mixture is pale and thickened. Add the remaining ingredients, apart from the filo or rice paper, (measure out the honey on a lightly oiled spoon to make it easier to handle). Mix to combine, then wrap the mixture and chill for at least half an hour – preferably eight hours.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 160C (140C fan)/325F/gas 3.
Divide the filo or rice paper circles between two baking sheets. Measure out spoonfuls of dough, about 15g each, roll between your hands to form balls, then press them down flat to fit the circles. Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes, until just golden.
Meanwhile, make the icing. Mix the icing sugar, honey and orange juice to create a runny, creamy glaze. You can make this ahead but you might need to loosen it just before you paint it on to the biscuits.
Once golden, remove the biscuits from the oven and paint the tops with the glaze right away; you want to cover the top of the biscuit. Leave to cool on the tray, then serve or store in an airtight tin for up to a week.