With the prospect of newly decorated trees, festive markets and twinkling lights brightening up the city streets, the Christmas season is well and truly upon us.
And this Sunday the food festivities commence too. The traditional 'Stir up Sunday' marks the day that families join together, gather round the kitchen and make the all important Christmas table centrepiece – the traditional Christmas pudding.
After all, what would the trimmings and the turkey be without the legendary winter pud that follows?
Taking place on the last Sunday before Advent (November 25), the customary cooking ritual is an apt reminder to get that festive dessert sorted, leaving it plenty of time to mature. The tradition dates back to when families would return from church and take turns to stir the ingredients, making sure to stir from east to west to honour the three wise men who visited baby Jesus.
A coin is traditionally added to the ingredients as the person who finds it on Christmas Day is said to be blessed with fortune, happiness and wealth for the new year ahead. Whilst stirring the mix, each family member has to make a secret wish.
But the sweet yuletide dessert we know and love – complete with brandy butter, dark sugars, lemon zest, nuts and flavoursome fruit – has not always been the post-turkey treat we are accustomed to.
It once contained meat, usually mutton or beef as well as onions, wine and spices. Enjoying the dessert on Christmas day was actually forbidden by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century because he was convinced that the ritual of flaming the pudding harked back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.
Over the next couple of centuries the meat ingredient disappeared and nowadays the only remaining token of meat left is suet.
Containing at least 13 ingredients, (which represent Christ and his disciples) the majestic pudding's distinctive rich aroma cannot be achieved all in a flash, despite what some recipes say. The sumptuous, mouth-watering taste is solely down to meticulous forward planning and attention to detail, taking a whopping total of 7 hours to prepare, marinate and steam.
And for those who profess to loathe Christmas pudding – and believe it or not there are quite a few – this is usually down to a supermarket’s altered vision of dry-tasting ingredients and lack of home-made touch, which is essential in order to appreciate the dessert in all its glory.
From sultanas to cinnamon, sweet to spice, take a sneak peek at our favourite traditional Christmas pudding recipe and get involved in the family festivities this Sunday…