The Christmas pudding has been a fixture on British tables for centuries -- even before Charles Dickens made such a pudding fuss in "A Christmas Carol."
Below is my recipe for the traditional holiday dessert over here in the U.K., as featured on "Nightline."
Paolo's Christmas Pudding
1 1/2 lb seedless raisins
1/2 lb currants
1/2 lb mixed candied orange peel
1/4 lb glace (sugared/candied) cherries
1/4 lb pint of brown ale
6 tablespoons brandy, rum or whiskey
1/4 lb blanched (flaked) almonds
3/4 lb fine breadcrumbs
3/4 lb chopped suet (vegetarian or beef)
The above quantities will give you two 1 1/2 pint or 2-pint basin puddings. (A basin is a large ceramic bowl you can steam for hours).
Cut the glace cherries into quarters and then halve them. Cut the peel into strips and then chop the almonds.
Mix these with the other fruit (raisins etc.) and the breadcrumbs and chopped suet in a big bowl.
Now separately beat the eggs hard until light and frothy. Stir these into the dry ingredients above.
Lastly stir in the brandy and beat the mixture just enough so it drops easily from the spoon, but is not runny.
Set the pudding mixture aside.
Butter both basins and place greaseproof paper at the bottom of each basin. Take muslin or a plain very light cotton cloth and lightly sprinkle some flour on the inside of each cloth, shaking off the excess. This is so the pudding doesn't stick to the muslin after you steam it and remove it from the basin. Cut the muslin so it is large enough to fit in the whole basin and the cloth can be twisted into a knob that can be tied to seal the pudding.
Now fill the basins 3/4 full. Make a slight indent in the centre of each pudding with a spoon.Cover the puddings with greaseproof paper and the pudding muslin.Twist the muslin into a knob and tie it with string.
Stand the puddings on a rack (I even use terra cotta plant holders) in a large pan Put water into the pan, but not so high that water will bubble over on top of your pudding. Put the puddings on the stove and steam for at least six hours, making sure that you regularly top up water in the pan as needed. Take care not to pour water on the pudding.
Once the pudding has steamed and then cool cover it with aluminum (tin) foil, and store in a dark, dry, cool cupboard or place. Puddings can be stored for months. Ideally make your pudding six weeks ahead, but it can be made just before Christmas.
Take the foil off and steam as long as possible on Christmas Day. When you are ready to serve untie the muslin and remove the muslin and greaseproof paper. Then take a plate and place it over the pudding and then tip it so the pudding is now on the serving plate. Serve with cream or brandy butter.
The pudding can be kept in the fridge for days if there is any left over.