250g dried apricots, pitted prunes and dried figs (any combination), roughly chopped
4 tbsp brandy, rum or medium sherry
100ml cold tea
1 tsp orange zest, plus juice of half an orange
1 tsp lemon zest, plus juice of half a lemon
1 banana, mashed
2 medium carrots, grated (about 150g)
2 eggs, beaten
75g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
75g wholemeal breadcrumbs
1. Soak the dried fruit in the brandy, rum or sherry, tea, fruit zests and juice overnight.
2. Add the mashed banana, grated carrots and the eggs. Sift in the flour and spices, add the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Butter the basin (or basins) and spoon in the mixture.
3. How to steam the pudding: cover the pudding by using two sheets of greaseproof paper cut larger than the basin. Lay them on top of each other and make a pleat down the middle by folding the layers over on themselves, about an inch wide. This allows for the pudding to rise while steaming. Do the same with a piece of foil and place on top of the greaseproof paper. Lay the paper and foil on top of the basin and tie a string tightly around the rim of the basin, thus securing the paper and foil. It is helpful to make a 'handle' with another piece of string to help you remove the basin from the pot. Trim some of the excess paper and foil.
4. If you have a steamer large enough to hold the pudding basin, fill the bottom with water and bring to the boil. If using a large saucepan, place the pudding inside and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the basin but not touching the string or paper. Cover the steamer or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for six hours. Keep the kettle full of boiled water, checking the pan from time to time and topping up with water. Whatever you do, don't allow the pan or steamer to boil dry!
5. After six hours, remove the pudding using the string handle and allow to cool completely. Remove the string, greaseproof paper and foil and re-tie with fresh.
6. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a year. If you want to feed the pudding with more rum, unwrap and poke long holes with a cocktail stick or skewer. Drizzle a tablespoonful over the top and rewrap, remembering to make another string handle.
7. When ready to serve on Christmas Day, steam for another two hours. Carefully unwrap the hot pudding and invert onto a serving plate. To fire the pudding, fill a large soup ladle with rum or brandy and carefully light with a match. Gently ladle the flaming liquid over the pudding and garnish with a sprig of holly. Serve with brandy butter, rum sauce or cream.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours Serves: 8