Christmas pudding is a great part of the countdown to Christmas. Traditionally you make it a few weeks (up to 6 weeks) before and, once you’ve piled all the ingredients into a large bowl, everyone has a good stir and a wish. This year, my daughter Zoe’s friend, Emily, came round to stir. We hope your wish comes true, Emily! Here’s the recipe I used – it makes a much lighter, yet still very rich and moist, version of the classic – and all without gluten or dairy. As with the Christmas cake, you can feed it with more brandy while you wait for the day. If you’re making it in advance, leave to cool in the bowl once cooked, then wrap tightly in foil and store in a cool place. Then recover with foil and steam for 1 hour to reheat. I made 1 huge pudding but you might prefer to either make 2 puddings or halve the quantities.
preparation time 30 minutes cooking time 5½–8½ hours makes 1 large pudding to serve 20–24 or 2 puddings, each serving 10–12
contains soya (if using soya margarine), yeast (if using brandy and if present in gluten-free bread), nuts, eggs
dairy-free margarine, for greasing
1.5kg mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants
300ml brandy or apple juice
400g gluten-free and dairy-free bread, crusts removed
100g dried mango
100g rice flour
50g gram flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp xanthan gum
¾ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground cloves
a large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
350g fruit sugar or caster sugar
200g vegetarian suet
1 apple, grated
50g flaked almonds
6 eggs, beaten
Lightly grease 2 pudding basins with dairy-free margarine and cover the base with a circle of greased baking paper. Put the sultanas, raisins and currants and 1litre water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 30–40 minutes until all of the fruit has softened and the water has been absorbed. Pour the brandy in, mix thoroughly, and leave to one side.
Put the bread in a food processor and blend to make (about 250g) breadcrumbs. Remove and put the mango in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the ground almonds, breadcrumbs, xanthan gum and spices and mix well. Add in the sugar, suet, grated apple and flaked almonds and stir well with a wooden spoon. (Ask everyone to stir at this point – and don’t forget to make a wish!)
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Pour into the pudding mixture and stir in thoroughly. Pour the mixture equally into the 2 bowls and smooth the surfaces with the back of a metal spoon. Cover with 2 layers of greased foil and tie a piece of string tightly around the basin rim to secure it.
Put each pudding basin into a large saucepan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the bowl. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 5 hours (or 8 hours if you’re cooking 1 large pudding), adding more boiling water if needed.
Leave to cool in the bowls for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and turn out. Serve hot.