Richard Cornish tests and selects the best Australian-grown festive fare.
There is something about the quiet bubbling of a pudding in a pot, filling the home with the aroma of butter, fruit and spice on a hot Christmas day, that speaks volumes about Australian culture. Puddings are all about those three ingredients. The butter (or suet) needs to be fresh, the fruit must be plump and the spices must tie the pudding together but not take centre stage. Puddings are hard to get right in a commercial kitchen but these three taste close to home-made.
Adamstown Pudding Kitchen
This is best commercially made Christmas pudding we have tasted. The butter and sugar have melded in the cooking to create aromas of butterscotch. It has a light texture, but not to its detriment, and the currants and sultanas are plump and sweet. Cooked in a high-density plastic bag, it resembles the traditional cooked-in-a-cloth pudding. Made by a team of volunteers in Newcastle, proceeds from sales support charities, both local and overseas.
1kg pudding $38; adamstownpuddingkitchen.org.au
Silver Penny Puddings
Sold in a beautiful decorative tin, this pudding is made with traditional suet and looks and tastes like an old-fashioned Christmas pudding.
900g pudding $47 ($52.20 a kilogram). silverpennypuddings.com
The Hotel Windsor
Every year the kitchen team at Hotel Windsor in Melbourne produces this quite-alcoholic pudding with the fruit soaked in French brandy and Cuban rum. The quality of the Australian fruit, however, really stands out.
500g pudding $30 ($60 a kilogram); thehotelwindsor.com.au
Fruit mince pies by Phillippa's. Photo: Jerry Galea
Fruit mince pies
It is a tradition in many households to have a plate of fruit mince pies sitting on the table ready for guests dropping in over Christmas season. A good fruit mince pie should have a buttery shortcrust pastry and lots of sweet plump fruit sitting in syrup with a touch of spice, a hint of citrus and the aroma of brandy. A lot of stores carry mince pies baked overseas or made in Australia with as little as 25 per cent local product. The following pies contain at least 90 per cent local ingredients.
Phillippa's Fruit Mince Pies
You can smell the butter in the short pastry before you put these little star-topped tarts in your mouth. The orange peel is hand-made, the fruit full-flavoured and finished with a hit of brandy and the pastry delicious, making these rather excellent little Christmas morsels.
$17.50 for six; For stockists visit phillippas.com.au
Emmalines Fruit Mince Pies
Lovely little squat pies with rich but fine pastry filled with flavoursome fruit that has a long and lingering flavour of vine fruit and preserved orange peel.
$13.99 for six; Call 08 8389 5188 for stockists
Valley Produce Fruit Mince Tarts
These small tarts come in the foil tin they were baked in and have buttery short pastry encasing a filling of juicy fruit mince made with some apple and a slug of St Agnes brandy.
$10.99 for eight; valleyproducecompany.com.au