Christmas Pudding & Wine Pairing
We are very delighted to have Imen McDonnell return this year with yet another stunner recipe that embodies Christmas and will get you all the oohs and ahhs at your festive gathering. A family Christmas Pudding recipe close to Imen’s heart and paired with some equally indulging wines guaranteed to make you feel very merry.
Imen McDonnell is a cook, author, and photographer who contributes to Condé Nast Traveler (USA), Town & Country Magazine (UK) and is the writer and photographer behind the popular food blog, Farmette.ie. Before moving to her husband’s family farm in rural Ireland, she worked as a broadcast producer for global food and beauty brands, and as part of the production team for an Emmy award-winning television series while living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
Imen’s recipes and images have been featured in The New York Times, The Irish Times, The Sunday Times (UK) The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Magazine, Saveur Magazine and more. Her first book, The Farmette Cookbook, Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm is a compilation of tried-and-true recipes with an emphasis on local, fresh ingredients and traditional Irish kitchen skills, which for Imen have healed homesickness and forged new friendships.
McDonnell Family Christmas Pudding
Without a doubt, and perhaps on either side of the Atlantic, the king of all holidays is Christmas. Of course, there are a certain amount of traditions that we both share, such as Santa Claus, midnight mass, hanging stockings on Christmas Eve and general eating to excess. What did come as a surprise to me, but shouldn’t have been a surprise, is that farm animals don’t celebrate Christmas? Nope. The cows and chickens are eating, drinking, and milking as usual. Which means, everyone still has to work. Even on Christmas morning. There is no rest for the weary. But there are no complaints, it’s part and parcel to farming. You don’t know any different if you grew up on a farm. And if you didn’t grow up on a farm, you can forget about ever spending another entire lazy holiday watching The Christmas Story for twenty-four hours on the sofa with your loved ones.
I find great humour in the irony that the royalty of Christmas confections in Ireland are essentially fruitcakes. In my experience, the fruitcake was mostly avoided during the holidays. There is a running joke in my family whereby someone would randomly turn up with a fruitcake on Christmas Eve and we would all stand around and laugh into our cocktails about it. I’m pretty sure we weren’t alone in that tradition, but if we were, then I deserve to be banished to the land of fruitcake.
Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, are staples in Irish homes around the country during the holiday season. Both are prepared with pound after pound of dried fruit and equal amounts of flour and fat. The Christmas cake is beautifully iced with marzipan and white fondant. The appearance of the cake is really extraordinary with lavish decorations and sensational sparkly bits.
Christmas pudding, on the other hand, is prepared over many weeks prior to Christmas. It is made with suet, dried fruits and booze. On the last Sunday in November, the ingredients are stirred up in a basin, steamed cooked for seven hours, then left in the pantry and fed with brandy each week until Christmas Day when it is then steamed for a further two hours. The pudding was somewhat unusual for my palate, but once it was topped off with a generous scoop of my rum raisin ice cream, I was sold for life.
Here is our tried and true family recipe.
McDonnell Family Christmas Pudding
½ lb white breadcrumbs
½ lb caster sugar
½ lb chopped suet
¼ lb raisins
¼ lb currants
¼ lb sultanas
¼ lb mixed candied peel
2 oz glacé cherries
½ oz mixed spice
pinch of salt
1 small bottle of Irish Stout
½ glass Irish whiskey
On the last Sunday in November, mix breadcrumbs, salt, sugar, mixed spice, peel, fruit and suet together in a large bowl.
Beat eggs well and add to dry ingredients.
Mix well and then add Stout and whiskey.
Spoon the mix into two 1.2 litre pudding basins.
Put a circle of baking parchment and foil over the top of each basin.
Place the basins in a large pan, setting them on two upside down side plates to raise up from the bottom of the pan.
Pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides of the pudding bowls. Cover and steam in 200c oven for 7 hours, topping the hot water up from time to time, if necessary.
When fully cooked, cool and tightly place on basin covers and put into a cool, dry cupboard.
Pour whiskey or brandy over pudding once a week and allow to soak in once a week until Christmas.
To serve, steam for 2 more hours and serve with brandy butter, thickly whipped cream, rum raisin ice cream or homemade custard.
Scullery Notes: Garnish with cream and fresh holly leaves and berries, or flambé with whiskey for festive charm.
Christmas Pudding Wine Pairing
Like in the McDonnells house, Christmas Pudding is a regimental necessity in many households after the big meal. If you want to mirror the richness of a good pud – these two wines are Christmas in a glass.
Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port is rich with complex flavours of red fruits and spicy character. Its elegant palate of soft tannins is a heady combination will have you in bliss as you retire by the fireside.
Domaine du Mas Blanc Rimage is a Grenache-based fortified wine and to describe it as divine is an understatement. If you don’t believe us, this is what wine critic Corinna Hardgrave had to say about it, “From the southwest corner of France, this wine is made in a style similar to Port, and has a concentration of ripe blackberry, plum and raisins with a touch of cocoa. Beautiful with Christmas pudding or blue cheese.”