chocolate christmas pudding

this is a note to self for next year, more than anything else. a christmas pudding to end all christmas puddings - chocolatey, fruity, boozy and with none of the bad stuff in it. it IS sweet so let's not pretend this is low in carbohydrates and will help you lose weight. but it has no sugar added and consists chiefly of fruit and nuts, with a bit of booze and a surprise ingredient: 100 per cent cacao.

the recipe comes from willie harcourt-cooze, the king of chocolate and an erstwhile star of a tv programme about the trials and tribulations of growing and processing cacao on his estate. his 100er is stocked by waitrose but you can of course substitute 90 or 85 per cent if you can't find it. interestingly, you can't really taste the chocolate much - it's more of a subtle background flavour. in fact, i'd say you can probably smell it more than it being a distinct taste.

i should add that i halved this recipe and baked two small puddings - one of those was just enough for four people. the large pudding, as below, would feed more than a dozen. probably 15, in fact.


250g dried unsulphured apricots
200g pitted prunes
145g whole almonds, roughly chopped
145 ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp nutmeg
750ml prune juice
90g 100 per cent cacao grated or chopped
300g sultanas
300g raisins
200g apples, peeled, cored and grated
zest of 3 large oranges, grated
4 large eggs
180ml sherry
50ml brandy
splash of olive oil

chop the apricots and prunes (or whizz in a food processor, as i did), place in a large bowl and add the ground almonds, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. set aside.

bring the prune juice to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. lower the hear until reduced by about two thirds. remove from the heat and stir in the cacao until melted and smooth. leave to cool for 10 minutes or so.

stir all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil into the prune juice and chocolate mixture, then tip into the bowl with apricots. cover the bowl and leave in a cool place for a day or two, stirring occasionally. having said 'the cool place', i confess to hating the expression: it basically assumes you have a pantry. i don't. stick it in the fridge.

when ready to cook, lightly grease a 1.8l pudding bowl or two 900ml ones. fill almost to the top with the prepared mixture, then lightly oil the top of the pudding with the olive oil and cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper. tie the paper firmly in place with a length of string, allowing a little extra to make a handle.

place the pudding bowl in a large pan. add enough water to reach about halfway up the sides of the bowl, then place over low heat, cover the pan and simmer gently or 2 1/2 or 3 hours. i did my mini puddings for 2 hours. make sure you keep the water topped up as you don't want the puddings to boil dry.

when finished, allow the puddings to cool. when they are cold, take off the paper and replace it with a fresh piece, tied firmly with string. now you can keep the puddings in that same cool and dry place - i.e. the fridge - for six months.

reheat to serve by steaming again for 2 hours. turn the pudding onto a plate, light a ladle-full of brandy and pour over the pudding to set it alight. switch the light off, for maximum effect, and lots of aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhs. yum.


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