Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Book of Christmas - Christopher Winn

It’s more or less a hive of pre Christmas preparation around here, today is stir up Sunday so I’ve made Puddings. Five of them, because to late has it occurred to me that I could have halved the recipe, and having a lot of small Puddings seemed better than having larger ones. Only 2 of us eat it on Christmas Day, so they’ve got smaller every year. A couple will be presents, and that leaves 2 spare if anybody local fancies a small Christmas pudding (contains nuts, alcohol, and eggs).

In truth it’s possibly more trouble than it’s worth to make them just for me and my mother, but it’s a tradition I particularly like - if not specifically a family one. My sister gave me Christopher Winn’s ‘Book of Christmas’ last year and I’ve been dipping back into it recently.

I generally like winter, but Christmas is a mixed bag of emotions tied up with a whole lot of memories. Inevitably the older I’ve got, the more people there are to miss and. November begins with the anniversary of a cousin killed at 21 in a car crash, this year will be first without my sisters fiancé, who died unexpectedly in April.

The year my mother’s late partners cancer was diagnosed as terminal I went a bit mad preserving things - and made my first Christmas pudding. We had destroyed one in his very eccentric microwave the year before, so decided to go old school and use his AGA. Watching what Christmas baking does to my smart meter reading really makes me miss having someone else’s AGA to call on.

I’m not overly bound by tradition, but there’s a lot about the Christmas ones that give time and space for all those memories and emotions. Winn tells me that whilst it was the Victorians who specifically coupled Christmas with plum pudding, it goes back in one form or another to medieval times. He also tells me that Christmas cake as we know it has the same common ancestor. I find this long history deeply comforting. There is nothing transient about a solid slab of fruit cake.

The smell of strong ale, mixed spices, and dried fruit is delicious as well.

I guess this book was meant specifically for last years gift market and that something new will be piled up on bookshop tables this year but I particularly like this one for its historians view of the season. It’s definitely worth a look, and it’s been good company through the 3 hour wait for the Puddings to cook.

There are no shortage of good pudding recipes around - Delia’s is boozy, and obviously a classic based on the number of people who used to ask for a combination of stout and barley wine. I use Dan Lepard’s version based on a 1930’s recipe*. Nigella Lawson’s is bound to be excellent, Regula Ysewjin’s Pudding books (Pride and Pudding, or the National Trust Book of Puddings) are both a delight and an inspiration. If the closest you want to get to a figgy or plum pudding is reading about it her books are exquisite as well as useful.

It’s a list that could go on, and on, that lot isn’t I even the half of the recipes I’ve got on my own shelves. It’s not to late to make a pudding this year and despite the time, and electricity bill, I think it’s worth it.

*One of the things I like about this recipe is that it calls for only 3 hours steaming on the day of making rather than 8.


  1. That sounds festive to make Christmas puddings, and I will check out the Christmas book. Did you know I co-authored a Christmas book? Published in 2008, now that is a long time ago. It was a joy to write.

  2. I did not know that. What was it called? Puddings are now bathing in whisky all ready for the big day.