English Ale-Soaked Christmas Pudding

Let everyone in the family have a stir and make a wish when you prepare Diana Henry's fabulous traditional Christmas pudding on 'Stir-up Sunday'
By Diana Henry
English Ale-Soaked Christmas Pudding
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 10, with plenty left over for Boxing Day
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes plus overnight soaking
  • Effort: medium


  • 200 g mixed dried fruit, such as sour cherries, cranberries, apples, pears and figs
  • 75 g raisins, preferably muscatel
  • 75 g currants
  • 75 g sultanas
  • 200 ml Theakston's Old Peculiar ale
  • 3 tbsp rum or whisky, plus extra for feeding pudding
  • 1 small orange, grated rind and juice
  • 1 small lemon, grated rind and juice
  • 85 g prunes, soaked overnight in tea, drained and chopped
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 large apple
  • 175 g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250 g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1' tbsp treacle
  • 2 large eggs
  • 85 g self-raising flour, sifted
  • ' tsp ground ginger
  • ' tsp cinnamon
  • ' tsp mixed spice
  • 175 g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 75 g mixed peel
  • 85 g mixed nuts, such as brazil nuts and toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

To serve

  • cream
  • brandy butter


1. Chop up the larger pieces of dried fruit. Combine the dried fruit, raisins, currants and sultanas in a large bowl. Stir in the ale, rum, orange and lemon juices and allow to soak overnight.

2. Next day, add the prunes to the fruit mixture. Mash the banana and grate the apple, including the skin of the apple, and add to the fruit.

3. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the citrus rinds and treacle and beat in the eggs, one at a time.

4. Fold in the flour, spices and a pinch of salt, and then add the fruit with all its soaking liquor. Mix well and add the breadcrumbs, mixed peel and nuts.

5. Put the mixture into a greased 1.7 litre pudding bowl.

6. Put two large rectangles of greaseproof paper together, and the same size of foil. Keeping them on top of each other, fold them over in the middle so that you have a pleat. Put the pleated cover on top of the pudding, folding it down at the sides, and tie it on tightly with string. Make a string handle and attach it at the sides as well so that you can easily lift the pudding. Trim the foil and greaseproof paper so there is about 4cm left below the level of the string. (The cover should not touch the water while steaming or you will end up with a soggy pudding.)

7. Lower the pudding into a large pan of simmering water, to come one-third of the way up the side of the pudding basin. Cover the pan with a lid and steam the pudding for 8 hours. Make sure that the pan does not boil dry - you'll need to top it up with boiling water from time to time.

8. Once the pudding has steamed, lift it from the water. Remove the paper/foil cover and replace it with clean foil or cling film.

9. Keep the pudding somewhere cool and 'feed' it every few days with good slugs of whisky or rum (or both) until Christmas Day.

10. On the day of serving, cover it in the same way as before, with paper and foil, and steam it again for about 2 hours or until warm all the way through.

11. Serve with cream or brandy butter, or both.

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