Thursday, 18 December 2014

Steamed Pear & Ginger Pudding

Tradition is very important to me and never more so than at Christmas time. I remember one year when my mother decided that rather than dish up turkey and ham for Christmas dinner, we would instead dine on fillet of beef en croute (aka beef wellington). Now, as anyone who has ever cooked fillet of beef will testify, it is an INCREDIBLY expensive cut of meat and this is a very luxurious dish to serve; but I was disgusted!

For me Christmas dinner is just not Christmas dinner unless you have roast turkey and baked ham with brussels sprouts, roast parsnips, roast potatoes and lashings and lashings of gravy made with the turkey giblets. The ironic thing is that beef wellington is one of my all-time favourite dishes, but I still staged a one-woman protest that Christmas and refused to eat it.

For dessert on Christmas day I love homemade sherry trifle or Christmas pudding served with brandy butter. My pudding recipe is based on the one that my grandmother used every year and to this day I haven’t found one that comes anywhere near it. She made her puddings in early October so that they would have a chance to ‘mature’ before Christmas and swore that they tasted better for it.  Rather than use suet, which can be a little heavy, she used butter which made the pudding all the more flavoursome. I just loved it and still do.

It is hugely disappointing to me that none of my children or my husband like Christmas pudding (or traditional rich fruit cake for that matter) so I tend to have a solitary serving of it later in the evening as we settle down to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special. In fact, I am slowly realising that pudding is one of those polarising foods; you either love it or hate it! The reality is that, even for fervent devotees, launching into a bowl of pudding after a big meal is a dining challenge in itself! Sometimes, something a little less heavy is what is required after the excesses that have gone before and I think this pudding fits the bill perfectly.
Like traditional Christmas pudding, this is also steamed - so it has the comfort food factor - but it doesn’t have to be made months in advance. It can be quickly mixed up the night before or in the morning on Christmas day and then steamed for a couple of hours before you want to serve it. The fresh pears add a juicy fruitiness which is perfect against the warm spiciness of the ginger. I have used both stem and ground ginger for a warm and spicy kick. Ginger is a flavour that I have long associated with Christmas and it is one that seems to have broad appeal with both young and old liking it.

You can chop up the pears and mix them through the pudding before steaming or do as I have and place them around the edge of the pudding bowl. When the pudding is turned out they look so beautiful standing proud against the ginger sponge.

I served the pudding with warm homemade custard, but you could always opt for vanilla ice-cream or lightly whipped fresh cream. Any leftovers can be heated up in a microwave or can be sliced, covered with some aluminium foil and steamed in a steamer for 30 minutes.

This is a delicious pudding, a great alternative to traditional pud and one that even the fussy eaters in my house like!

N.B. I cannot stress how important it is to grease your bowl well.


Ginger sauce:
25g caster sugar
25g butter
4tblsp golden syrup
2tblsp syrup from jar of stem ginger
3 pears (I used Conference), peeled, halved and centre core scooped out
150g butter, plus extra for greasing bowl
150g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
50g stem ginger, finely chopped
50ml milk


Ginger sauce:
1. Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat over a gentle heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
2. Generously grease a 1.5 litre pudding bowl with butter and place a little circle of non-stick baking parchment in the bottom. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ginger sauce into the bottom of the bowl and put the rest aside for serving with the finished pudding.
3. Arrange the halved pears around the edge of the bowl with the round side directly against the edge of the bowl. The thinner ends of the pears should be pointing down to the narrow end of the bowl. Set aside.
4. Place the 150g butter into a large mixing bowl with the muscovado sugar and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.
5. Sift the flour and ground ginger together and add in three batches, and then add the milk and stem ginger and mix briefly so that everything is well distributed.
6. Spoon the mixture into the centre of the pudding bowl so that the pears remain towards the edge of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a layer of non-stick baking parchment and a layer of tinfoil (both pleated in the middle to allow for expansion and secure by tying string around the lip of the bowl.  Steam for 2 hours either using a purpose built steamer or by placing in a large saucepan sitting on top of some scrunched up aluminium foil (to protect it from the direct heat of the bottom of the saucepan) and pour in some boiling water so that it comes half way up the outside edge of the pudding bowl. Cover the saucepan and place over a low to moderate heat so that the water is just bubbling gently. Steam for the required time, but make sure to check every 25 minutes or so and top up the water levels as necessary.
7. Allow the pudding to sit for 10 minutes before turning out by upending onto a serving plate. Remove the little circle of non-stick baking parchment that you had previously placed in the bowl and serve with warm pouring custard, ice-cream or softly whipped cream and some of the reserved ginger sauce.
Serves 6-8.

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