Good Christmas pudding recipes are hard to come by, unless you're lucky enough to have one passed down to you by a relative. This one, laden with both fresh and dried fruit, flavoured with orange and spices, and based on breadcrumbs, won't disappoint.
110 g (3 3/4 oz) fresh dates, pitted and chopped
120 g (4 1/4 oz/ 2/3 cup) raisins
115 g (4 oz/3/4 cup) currants
120 g (4 1/4 oz/ 2/3 cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
55 g (2 oz/ 1/3 cup) mixed peel (mixed candied citrus peel)
115 g (4 oz) coarsely grated carrot
110 g (3 3/4 oz) coarsely grated, peeled apple
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
35 g (1 1/4 oz/1/4 cup) slivered almonds
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) brandy or dark rum
2 eggs, at room temperature, whisked
1 tablespoon treacle
110 g (3 3/4 oz/1/2 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, extra
120 g (4 1/4 oz) chilled unsalted butter, grated
110 g (3 3/4 oz/3/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon mixed (pumpkin pie) spice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
100 g (3 1/2 oz) fine breadcrumbs, made from day-old white bread
20 g (3/4 oz) unsalted butter, extra
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
Rich brandy sauce or pouring custard, to serve
1. Place the dried fruit, peel, carrot, apple, zest and almonds in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Heat the brandy in a small saucepan until warm, then pour over the fruit mixture, mix to combine and set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Add the eggs, treacle and brown sugar to the soaked fruit and mix to combine. Stir through the grated butter. Sift the flour and spices together over the mixture and stir to combine. Stir through the breadcrumbs.
3. Trace around the top and base of a 1.375 litre (48 fl oz/5 1/2 cup) pudding basin onto non-stick baking paper, then cut out both rounds. Grease the basin with the extra butter. Put the smaller round of paper on the base. Spoon the pudding mixture into the basin, smooth the surface and cover with the larger round of paper.
4. Place a double sheet of foil on a work surface and fold the centre to make a pleat. Place on top of the pudding basin and use kitchen string to tie it securely below the rim. Use more string to make a long loop across the top, attaching it to the string already tied around the rim, this 'handle' will help you remove the basin from the saucepan later.
5. Place a small trivet or heatproof saucer in a saucepan large enough to hold the basin. Place the basin on the trivet, then add enough boiling water to the pan to reach two-thirds of the way up the side of the basin. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 hours, checking every hour and topping up the boiling water as needed.
6. Remove the basin from the pan. Remove the foil and paper and invert the pudding onto a serving plate. Remove the paper. Sprinkle over the combined extra brown sugar and caster sugar. Serve with brandy sauce or custard.