Tag Archives: pudding

So Can You Cook ? 15

Christmas Edition
I must confess to not understanding the whole ‘Christmas in July’ thing, or why people go ape over it, trundling themselves off to the coldest climes to celebrate something that has no relevance here whatsoever. This is Australia, and Christmas means heatwaves, bushfires and flies. If you are an American, or English, it kind of makes sense to want to have snow for Christmas, but if you’re an Aussie, and only ever associate Christmas with summer, it just doesn’t work. And apart from that, it is hard to imagine Christmas happening in the middle of the year – snow or no snow.
The whole Christmas thing in Australia has always been too tied up with English and European traditions, and catering to our climate at this time of the year never seems to be something anyone used to consider. I remember my mother slaving over hot stoves months before Christmas even started to get the cake and pudding done on time for it to mature before being reheated and eaten with hot custard in steamy 30-odd-degree heat. Everyone sweated in the hot house, just wanting it to end so that they could kick back with a cold beer. When I lived with my stepfamily back in the 70’s, I remember my poor sister-in-law catering a hot lunch for twenty people every Christmas day. Her reward was a stinking headache, and near dehydration. You have to query if this is the right way to celebrate Christmas day in Australia, especially with our tradition of breaking traditions, and our usual irreverence for anything considered over-the-top.
When I lived in Darlinghurst, I used to cater a orphans Christmas lunch on Christmas day, for anyone who had nowhere else to go. I used to do the full traditional thing for anywhere from 12-15 people, with glazed ham, pork, turkey and pudding. I used to get to bed at about 3am on Christmas Eve, to be back up again at 7am to finish all the prep work. After my last of these – many years ago now – and finding myself with a migraine, I decided it was time to change my approach to Christmas eating.
My partners mother was quick to realize the advantages of having a chef in the family. She swings a couple of hundred dollars my way, and I do the whole thing – but not the old way. I have started a tradition of fresh oysters in the half-shell, with various toppings arranged in small bowls, as an entrée. Everybody in his family – bar his Grandmother – loves them. We go to the fish markets about 10pm on Christmas Eve to get them – take this as a time hint. This is followed by cold ham, cold lamb and cold chicken with a range of salads, and finished off with an ice cream fruit pudding. On a hot day, this is a really refreshing meal, and no one has sweated themselves into oblivion to put it all together. I still do mince fruit tarts, a cake and shortbread but this is all easy to do, and involves little stress on my part. If you are still doing it all the traditional way, I suggest you consider a rethink, and start your own Christmas traditions.
I hope everyone else can enjoy a stress-free and refreshing Christmas day.
Happy Christmas to all readers.

Christmas Cake:

Gluten-Free Christmas Cake – for coeliacs
250g unsalted butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon coffee essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 kg mixed dried fruit
300g glace fruit, chopped
100g slivered almonds
180g soya flour
90g baby rice cereal
90g maize cornflour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup sweet sherry
extra 2 tablespoons sweet sherry

Bake in 20cm square tin.
Cook for 3½ hours

Per slice (weight of cake; 2.1 kg)
Kilojoules 985/calories 235; protein 4g; fat 10g; carbohydrate 34g;dietary fibre 3g; sodium 55mg.

Sugar-Reduced Christmas Cake – for diabetics
180g mono-unsaturated margarine
½ cup soft brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons coffee essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon cherry jam
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 kg mixed dried fruit
100g currants
100g glace fruit, chopped
50g slivered almonds
1½ cups wholemeal plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy
125g pecans for decorating – optional

Bake in 23cm round tin
Cook for 3½ hours

Per slice (weight of cake 2kg)
Kilojoules 785/calories 185; protein 3g; fat 6g; carbohydrate 31g; dietary fibre 3g; sodium 100mg.
TO CONVERT THESE TO A TRADIONAL CAKE, substitute soya flour for 2 cups plain flour, and rice cereal and maize cornflour for ½ cup self-raising flour.

Preheat oven to slow 150°C. Line the base and sides of your cake tin with greaseproof paper. Using an electric beater, beat butter or margarine and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Add essences, molasses, marmalade or jam and rind. Beat until well combined.
Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the fruit and/or almonds. Using a metal spoon, begin to fold in the sifted dry ingredients.
As you begin to fold in the dry ingredients, alternate with the combined juice and spirits (or juice only). Stir until just combined and the mixture is almost smooth. Spoon mixture into prepared tin. Sprinkle the top with a little cold water and smooth surface with wet hands.
Tap the cake tin gently on the bench top to settle the mixture. Decorate with fruit or nuts if desired. Wrap a double thickness of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure with string or a paper clip. Bake for required time, or until a skewer comes out clean. If top is browning too quickly, or is starting to burn, cover the top of the cake with a layer of foil.
Store in an airtight tin outside of fridge for 4 weeks, or in fridge for several months.

Frozen Brandy Christmas Pudding:
1 x 475g jar fruit mince (from supermarket)
1 x 1lt tub Old English Toffee ice cream, softened
1 x 1lt tub vanilla ice cream, softened

Combine fruit mince and ice cream in a bowl. Spoon into 10 1-cup size plastic drinking cups. Wrap in plastic, and place in freezer for 6 hours. Dip into hot water, and upend onto plate. Serve with…
Summer Berries and Mango Slices;
2 x 250g punnets strawberries, washed, hulled, halved
1 x 150g punnet mulberries
1 x 120g punnet raspberries
60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons icing sugar mixture
4 ripe mangoes

Combiner berries in a large bowl. Add lime juice and icing sugar mixture, stirring gently until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the cheeks from the mangoes close to the seed. Peel and thinly slice lengthways. Add to the berry mixture and gently stir to combine.

Traditional Shortbread:
2 cups plain flour
½ cup pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons rice flour
250g butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Sift plain flour, icing sugar and rice flour together into a bowl.
Using fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Press mixture together to form a dough.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead gently. Halve mixture. Roll or press out each half into rounds about 1cm thick. Place on prepared trays. Decorate edges by pinching. Mark out 8 equal portions on each petticoat. Prick with a fork, and if desired sprinkle with a little castor sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.


This delicious Italian Christmas treat can be difficult to make using many recipe. This recipes is not so difficult, and is tried and true. You need to work quickly, so have all ingredients ready to go.

1 cup roughly chopped dried figs – stalks removed
¾ cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed (roll and rub them in a tea towel after baking)
¾ cup roasted almonds
½ cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
finely grated rind 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 150°C. Lightly spray and line base and sides of a square cake pan (20cm) with baking paper.
Combine figs, nuts, chocolate, spices and orange peel together in a bowl.
Combine sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring until beginning to melt (DO NOT STIR AGAIN OR SUGAR WILL CRYSTALISE)
Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, until a little of caramel dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when moulded between fingers.
Working quickly, pour caramel over nut mixture, mixing well. Pour into prepared cake pan. Smooth top with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool. If mixture has not set, place in fridge.
Remove baking paper and dust surface liberally with icing sugar. Cut into small squares to serve.

Sugar Dusted Spice Biscuits
125g butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup golden syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1¾ cups plain flour
½ cup hazelnut meal (from supermarkets or health food stores)
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixture and beat until pale. Add the egg and beat well. Add the flour, hazelnut meal, spices and soda and beat until just combined.
Roll 2 teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place on baking trays lined with baking paper, allowing room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8 minutes or until light golden. Cool and dust with icing sugar.
Makes approx 50. Great for gift-giving if presented in a fancy jar.

Cheats Fruit Mince Tarts:
Yep, even I look for shortcuts in hot weather. Buy a packet of frozen sweet tart cases from the supermarket, some sheets of sweet shortcrust pastry, and a jar of good quality fruit mince. Blind bake the shells according to the packet directions. Spoon in the mince. Cut rounds or shapes from the pastry sheet and place on top. Brush with a little beaten egg, sprinkle with some castor sugar and bake in a 180°C oven until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015


So Can You Cook? 26

The Season for Giving

I can’t believe it is nearly 12 months since my last Christmas column. Time to steam puddings and bake cakes…again. Well, on the good side I have managed to win the Christmas lunch debate with my mother-in-law. We are going to Canterbury Leagues for lunch. This battle has been going on for some years now, but after the whinging that went on last year I knew it was a good time to push the point. I think it is a relief to all of us. I think we are all sick of slogging ourselves to a melting-point-lather at a very hot time of the year getting food ready that everyone is only half inclined to eat if it is a really hot day.
We have a Christmas bash every year for friends in the jungle…oops, I mean backyard. It happens sometime between mid-November and early December, depending on everyone’s calendar. It is always looked forward to, and usually involves a lot of champagne cocktails – I have most of a bottle of Vanilla Vodka to get rid of at the moment, so know already what sort of cocktail it will be – a lot of wine, and bring-a-plate of food. Fortunately for us, all our friends are gourmands so the food will always be great and adventurous, despite the inevitable battle of who provides what for which course. It’s bad luck to the rest of them that I have desserts planned already, which they will be notified of shortly. Suck eggs, I say!
Part of the Christmas bash traditions is the exchange of gifts – another traumatic buying exercise, and usually ending up being CD’s. However, part of my traditions is the giving to each guest of what is laughingly referred to as a ‘charity bag’. Considering that most of them are too busy or too lazy to make any little luxury items for themselves, I try to do it for them. I find this kind of gift giving to be personally satisfying. There is something genuine about giving friends gifts that you have made yourself. I used to make the bags a mix of biscuits, sweets and preserves, however I have dropped the biscuits as from last year. They have to be made early due to my other commitments, and with the humidity and heat associated with Christmas, I have found that they go soft before they can be given out – as happens with biscuits with no preservatives. So, preserves it is…and a CD.
I have included a bit of a mix in this column of things you can either make to use for yourself, or use as gifts for your friends. They say it is better to give than receive…but they had better make sure I get something in return.
Happy Christmas to all my column readers. Keep yourself safe, don’t drink too much…meaning not to the point of passing out. Enjoy the conviviality of friendships and have a great New Year where all your wishes and hopes and dreams are fulfilled.
See you next year.

You can make this mixture a month in advance, and store in a cool place like the fridge. Can be used in cakes, puddings or mince tarts. Or bottle and give as a gift.

6 cups (1kg) sultanas
2½ cups (375g) currants
2¼ cups (425g) raisins, chopped
1½ cups (250g) seeded dried dates, chopped
1½ cups (250g) seeded prunes, chopped
1¼ cups (250g) glace cherries, quartered
½ cup (125g) glace apricots, chopped (substitute dried if glace not available)
½ cup (115g) glace pineapple, chopped
½ cup (115g) glace ginger, chopped
¾ cup (120g) mixed peel
3 medium apples (400g) peeled, grated
2/3 cup (240g) fig jam
2 tablespoons finely grated orange rind
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 cups (440g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 1/3 cups Grand Marnier (or substitute for any citrus-flavoured liqueur, rum, sherry or brandy)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store mixture in cool, dark place for a month (or longer) before using. Stir mixture every two-three days.

¼ quantity basic fruit mixture (above)
250g butter, melted, cooled
3 eggs, beaten lightly
4 cups stale breadcrumbs
¼ cup plain flour

Combine fruit mixture in large bowl with butter and eggs, then breadcrumbs and flour.
Fill large boiler three-quarters full of hot water, cover and bring to boil. Have ready 2.5 metres kitchen string and an extra ½ cup plain flour. Being cautious, place a 60cm unbleached square of calico (if new, soak in cold water for 1 minute, then boil for 20 minutes, then rinse in cold water) in the boiling water for 1 minute, squeeze excess water out, then working quickly spread the cloth out and run flour into centre of cloth where the skin of the pudding needs to be thickest.
Place pudding mixture in centre of cloth. Gather cloth evenly around pudding, then pat into a round shape. Tie cloth tightly with string as close to mixture as possible. Gather and tie of the corners into a handle to make the pudding easier to move.
Lower pudding into boiling water, and tie the ends of the string to the handles of the boiler to suspend the pudding. If your boiler doesn’t have handles, place an inverted saucer or a round metal trivet in the bottom of the boiler to keep pudding from sitting directly on bottom of pan. Cover with tight fitting lid; boil rapidly 4 hours. Check water and refill regularly.
Remove pudding from the pan when cooked and DO NOT PLACE ON BENCH TO COOL. Suspend on a wooden spoon placed between 2 chairs or stools, or over a large bucket. If must suspend freely. If pudding has been cooked correctly, patches of cloth should to dry almost immediately. Suspend for 10 minutes.
To store pudding, allow to cool to room temperature, then either wrap in Glad wrap or store in a freezer bag. Store in fridge for up to 2 months, or in freezer for 12 months.
To reheat, bring to room temperature, then steam for 2 hours.

½ quantity basic fruit mixture (above)
250g butter, melted, cooled
5 eggs, beaten lightly
2½ cups plain flour
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or whatever you used to flavour the fruit mix)

Preheat oven to 150°C. Line base and sides 22 cm square cake pan with one thickness of brown paper and two thicknesses of baking paper, extending paper 5cm above sides.
Combine basic mixture in large bowl with butter and eggs; add sifted flour in two batches.
Spread mixture in pan. Drop pan from 20cm height 2-3 times to settle fruit. Level top with a spatula. Bake about 3 hours. Brush top with liqueur; cover hot cake in pan with foil; cool in pan.
Can be made three months ahead, and stored in an airtight container under refrigeration.

300g toasted marshmallow with coconut, chopped coarsely
400g Turkish Delight, chopped coarsely
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped coarsely
½ cup roasted, shelled pistachios
450g white eating chocolate, melted

Grease two 8cm x 26cm bar tins, line base and sides with baking paper, extending paper 5cm above long sides of pan.
Combine marshmallow, Turkish delight and nuts in large bowl. Stir in chocolate; spread mixture into pans; push mixture down firmly to flatten. Refrigerate until set, then cut as desired.

500g fresh cherries, pitted
¾ cup caster sugar
2 cups vodka, approx

Place clean jars on sides in large saucepan; cover completely with hot water. Boil, covered, 20 minutes. Remove jars from water, drain upright on board until dry.
Layer cherries and sugar in jars. Pour over enough vodka to cover cherries completely. Seal.
Stand in cool, dark place for at least six weeks before using; invert jars occasionally to help dissolve sugar.

Makes about 4 cups

½ cup pouring cream
300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
cocoa powder for dusting

Place the cream in a saucepan over medium heat and bring almost to the boil. Add chocolate and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Pour into a greased 15cm square cake tin lined with non-stick paper; refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm.
To serve, cut into squares and dust with cocoa powder. Store in refrigerator for 10 days. Stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Makes 16

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
8 medium tomatoes (1.5kg), peeled, chopped
6 medium (780g) blood plums, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 cup port
2 teaspoons juniper berries

Heat oil in large pan, add onions and garlic; cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add remaining ingredients, stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
Blend or process mixture in batches until finely chopped, strain, discard pulp. Pour hot sauce into hot sterilized jars. Seal immediately.

Makes approx 4 cups.

200g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut, toasted

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence in bowl with electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in flour and coconut. Cover, refrigerate 1 hour.
Divide dough in half. Place each half onto plastic wrap and shape into a 22cm long log. Then wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.
Cut dough into 5mm thick slices. Place on baking paper-lined baking trays about 5cm apart. Bake in moderate oven about 8 minutes. Stand cookies on trays about 5 minutes before coolong on wire racks. Dust lightly with sifted icing sugar.

Makes about 60. Will keep for 1 week in an airtight container. Keep uncooked dough in fridge 1 week, or in freezer for 2 months.

3 eggs
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup caster sugar
1¾ cups plain flour
¾ cup self-raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whisk eggs and sugars in a small mixing bowl with electric beaters until just changed in colour. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Stir in sifted dry ingredients; mix to a firm dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into 2 portions. Using floured hands, roll each portion into a 30cm log, place on lightly greased oven trays. Bake in moderate oven 35 minutes or until firm. Cool on tray.
Cut logs diagonally into 1cm slices, using a serrated knife. Place slices, cut side up, on oven trays. Bake in moderately slow oven about 15 minutes or until dry and crisp, turning once during cooking; cool on trays.

Makes about 40

1kg grapefruit
2 medium lemons
10 cups water
10 cups sugar, approx

Cut unpeeled grapefruit in half, slice halves thinly, discard seeds. Combine fruit and water in large bowl; cover; stand overnight.
Transfer mixture to a large pan, bring to boil, simmer, covered, about 45 minutes or until rind is soft.
Measure fruit mixture, allow 1 cup sugar to each cup of fruit mixture. Return fruit mixture and sugar to pan, stir over heat until sugar is dissolved.
Boil, uncovered, without stirring, for about 15 minutes or until marmalade gels when tested on a cold saucer. Pour into hot, sterilized jars; seal immediately.
Makes about 10 cups

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014