Sunday, 23 November 2014

Stir Up Sunday - Super Scrimpers style

Two years ago I blogged about Stir-up Sunday here. I'll quickly recap for those who have got better things to do than flit around blogs reading old blog posts. 

It's the last Sunday before Advent and the Collect for the day (the 25th Sunday after Trinity) gives Stir-up Sunday its name, serving as a reminder to church goers to get the pudding ready so it had time to mature before Christmas:

'Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord,
the wills of thy faithful people, that they plenteously bringing forth
the fruit of good works,
may be of thee plenteously rewarded.'

Other Stir-up Sunday traditions are that the Christmas pudding should have thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles, and that the mixture should be stirred in an east to westerly direction - that in which the wise men travelled.

This year I was not sure whether to bother with making a pudding. We're on a tighter budget than two years ago and if you're buying in the full list of pudding ingredients it does not come in cheap. Although I love all the rich, spicy, fruity Christmassy stuff, the rest of the family are not that bothered. I could go and buy a ready made pudding for a couple of quid and nobody would mind.

But you know what? Although there's plenty that I don't like about the typical 21st century Christmas one of my favourite parts is sharing the traditional celebratory foods with family and friends. And I enjoy preparing that food. Quality rather than quantity. I'd rather spend more on the ingredients for a good Christmas pudding and less on biscuits and chocolates.

So I set about looking for a budget Christmas pudding recipe. I didn't have to travel far. There's a whole thread devoted to the topic in a forum on Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert website. And Channel 4's Super Scrimpers has a Christmas pudding recipe. I ran with the latter as I already had most of the ingredients.

Here's Dev demonstrating the method:


50g breadcrumbs
50g plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
150g sultanas
150g dried fruit
50g flaked almonds
2 grated apples
rind and juice of one lemon and one orange
100g butter
100g brown sugar
2 eggs
6 tbsp brandy
4 tbsp milk
2 tbsp treacle

Mix all the ingredients together well, and put into a greased pudding bowl. I made two small puddings.

Puddings waiting to be steamed.
As ever, I deviated from the specified ingredients; I purchased a bag of mixed fruit and used that rather than using half sultanas and half mixed fruit. 

I downgraded the alcohol content (if you don't have brandy or rum to hand, buying a bottle will bump up the cost of a Christmas pudding hugely) to the cheapest fortified wine I could find - a drink called Scots Mac , which is a blend of British wine and whiskey (it's only a fiver so don't get too excited about the whiskey content). The idea was to hide the bottle, once I'd extracted six tablespoonfuls for the pudding, until Christmas. However there's no point in doing this if it tastes foul, so we've had a couple of sherry glasses each - purely for scientific reasons, to see what it's like. (Very drinkable, it transpires). To cut costs further you could leave the alcohol out completely.

Dark brown sugar happened to be in the cupboard rather than soft brown, so I used that. Similarly I used golden syrup rather than buying a tin of treacle. 

Ooh and I didn't have an orange so I left that out...Actually this epitomises my entire approach to cooking - if it's not going to make too much difference to the end result, exclude ingredients or substitute with what I already have. It makes good sense if you're keen on reducing your food waste.

One reason for making your own Christmas pudding is that you get to enjoy the waft of Christmas spices while it steams for hours, so I ignored Dev's microwave instructions entirely (plus we don't have a microwave) and steamed my pudding in the slow cooker (medium heat for 7 hours).

Written down it all sounds like a real faff. What a lot of fuss just for a Christmas pudding. Actually it's really easy and one of those things where, anyway, it's the process rather than the product/journey rather than the destination.


  1. I've always loved the idea of making a Christmas pud but it really is only me who likes them and to make a single portion really isn't worth it for me. I love your give it a go attitude and to add/subtract as necessary without getting all fraught. I've never heard of the scots mac and the tasting made me laugh esp at the don't get your hopes up comment. Hope you pud is delicious on the day.

    1. You'd laugh even more...we've had to test the Scots Mac so much it's nearly all gone already...but at least we're absolutely sure we like it and I know what to buy my hubby for Christmas...Maybe you should make a pud one year just for yourself and freeze some portions to enjoy later in the year!

  2. Interesting tradition of stirring the pudding from east to west. I watched the video and he served it immediately after cooking it. What about the aging you talked about?

    1. I guess it wouldn't have made such good TV if he'd wrapped it up and put it in a cupboard. I guess it would still taste nice even if you ate it straight away! The aging is part of the whole custom and tradition though.

  3. When I got home from work yesterday my landlady invited me down to her kitchen to stir the pudding and make a wish. She definitely didn't stint on the booze, the smell when she lifted the teatowel off was amazing!! Hoping there might be one for me for Christmas!!

    1. I hope there's one for you too! Sounds delicious - I can almost smell it from here :-)