Hopefully you've got your Christmas Day meal plans sorted by now.
Ours will start the usual way with chocolate pancakes, fresh fruit, croissants (proved overnight and baked fresh in the morning) and egg nog. I am not sure which of us is in turn to host the Christmas breakfast, which will be combined with the excitement of the eight grandkids opening and showing their presents from under the tree.
I have yet to consult "the head of the household" to confirm whether we are hosting the immediate family (and a few friends) for the feast at lunchtime or dinner - I am hoping dinner as with a breakfast like we always enjoy, a light lunch and full dinner will settle much better.
So this week we will start with the pudding.
Traditionally at Team Hawkes in Harvey St, Christmas Day puddings were trifle, pavlova and fruit salad, homemade icecream and whipped cream. All very enjoyable but as time has passed I have to say I have become a bit of a real "pudding" person, so this year have decided to stay away from the cold sweet style and hit the family with a sticky figgy pudding.
Christmas puddings have evolved immensely over the centuries and the sticky figgy is the result of that somewhat evolution. For many years the puddings were made some weeks before Christmas, generally a Sunday, which become known as "stir-up Sunday", when everyone in the household would give the mixture for the pudding a stir while making a wish. The pudding would then be boiled for several hours then hung out to dry, ready for reheating on Christmas Day when it would be flamed with brandy and topped with holly.
"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
As a sign to bring wealth during the coming year, silver threepences were often placed into the pudding and would be kept by the person whose serving they were in - a tradition that was kept alive in New Zealand right up until decimal currency back in 1967.
In these modern times, sticky figgy styles of puddings are much quicker and easier to make and do not need the time to mature as the old-style plum duffs did. They will freeze well and can easily be brought out the day before Christmas if one wished to get ahead, or just as simply be whipped up on Christmas Eve or even Christmas morning and served immediately from the oven. If you have a favourite sticky date pudding, you can easily adjust that by replacing some of the dates with chopped, dried figs and add some grated good-quality dark chocolate.
Today's is a very simple recipe - easy to achieve a good result - that can be cooked in individual ramekins or as I have in a round cake tin. The sauce is simply divine and will certainly have your guests looking for more on Christmas day.
WARM STICKY FIGGY PUDDING
1 cup chopped dried pitted dates
1 cup chopped dried figs
2 cups hot water
1 tsp baking soda
100g softened butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 free range eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
100g grated good-quality dark chocolate
Method: Place the dates and the figs along with the hot water in a microwave-proof bowl and microwave for 5 minutes or until the dates and figs have softened in the water and absorbed the water.
Remove from the microwave and allow cooling for about 5 minutes then add the baking soda.
In your mixer, cream the butter and the sugar in a reasonable-sized bowl then add the eggs one at a time and beat well in between.
Gently fold in the flour along with the date and fig mixture then, lastly, the grated chocolate.
Pour the mixture into a well-greased 20cm cake tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 20-25 minutes.
For the Sauce
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups cream
Method: Place the ingredients into a heavy-based saucepan and slowly bring to the boil.
Turn down to a low heat and simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved then raise the heat again to a boil taking care to continue to stir.
Once it comes back to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow simmering for about 5 minutes.
To Serve: Pour a generous amount of the warm sauce over the warm sticky figgy pudding and serve alongside vanilla icecream and freshly whipped cream.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times