Figgy Pudding

08/08/2012 08:58

Its that time of year again for gathering ingredients together for  'Stir-up Sunday'. Christmas or Plum Puddings have a firm tradition at Christmas in the UK, despite them taking hours to cook! Traditionally made four weeks before Christmas, on or after the Sunday before Advent.The name 'Stir Up Sunday' comes from the opening words taken from the collect for the day in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later, and was read after Communion:

"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."

On Stir-up Sunday families returned home from Church to give the pudding a stir, always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men, and then each makes a silent wish.Then a coin is traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit. The Christmas pudding is also traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples.

Figgy pudding is mentioned in the popular secular sixteenth-century English carol.
"We Wish You a Merry Christmas" the origin of this Christmas carol lies in the English tradition where wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats to the carolers on Christmas Eve such as 'figgy puddings'

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here

The Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called 'frumenty' that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices.This would often be more like soup and was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities.

By 1595, frumenty was slowly changing into a plum pudding, having been thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit and given more flavour with the addition of beer and spirits. It became the customary Christmas dessert around 1650, but in 1664 the Puritans banned it as a bad custom.

In 1714, King George I re-established it as part of the Christmas meal, having tasted and enjoyed Plum Pudding. By Victorian times, Christmas Puddings had changed into something similar to the ones that are eaten today.


My Grandma's figgy pud recipe. A dark, moist pudding with chewy figs.
 Serves 12

* You will need ~ 1.1 litre/2pint pudding basin, greased, with a circle of greaseproof paper at the base.
* Requires the fruit soaking overnight.

225g/8oz ready-to-eat Figs, roughly chopped
125g/4oz Raisins
125g/4oz Prunes, roughly chopped
100ml/3 1/2 floz Brandy
75g/ 3oz Plain flour
75g/3oz Breadcrumbs
125g/4oz light suet
125g/4oz Dark brown sugar
50g/2oz Brazil nuts, chopped
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cloves
2 eggs, beaten
1tbsp black treacle

In a bowl, add the figs, raisins and prunes, and add the brandy. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

In another bowl, mix the flour, breadcrumbs, suet and sugar. Add the nuts, spices, eggs and the treacle, and mix well. Tip in the soaked fruit and stir until well combined -the mixture should be a moist dropping consistency. - if it is a little dry, then just add a splash more brandy or a little orange juice.

Pile the mixture into the prepared pudding basin and use a spoon to level the top. Add a layer of pleated greaseproof paper over the mixture and top with a sheet of pleated tin foil that overlaps the rim of the pudding basin.Tie a double length of string around the rim to secure the foil, adding a loop over the top to form a handle. Place the basin into a large saucepan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the basin. Cover with a lid and boil gently for 3 hours, topping up the water level as neccessary.

Remove the pud and re-top with clean greaseproof paper and tin foil. Store in a cool dry place until Christmas.

To Reheat your pudding on Christmas day - Steam the pud in a large pan of water for 2hrs.

If you have forgotten to make your traditional pudding, then need not worry, as the recipe below is a delicious light, last-minute, easy to cook figgy pud!

Serves 6
200ml dark rum
75g dried figs, roughly chopped, plus 3 whole figs.
75g raisins
50g glace cherries, roughly chopped
100g soft brown sugar
100g butter
2 eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour
50g pistachio nuts, shelled & chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice

For the sticky topping ~
50g dried figs
50g pistachio nuts
6 tbsp runny honey

Gently warm the rum in a pan, taking care not to boil, remove from the heat and add the chopped figs, raisins,and cherries. Soak for a couple of hours. Beat together the sugar and butter, add the eggs a little at a time,whisking continuously. Once all the egg is added, fold in the flour and mix well. Strain the soaked fruit and add to the mixtire along with the pistachios, nutmeg and allspice, mix well.

Carefully slice the 3 whole figs horizontally and arrange on the bottom of a greased 1.2 ltr pudding basin, seed-side down. Pour the mixture on to the top, being careful to keep the figs in position.Take a piece of greaseproof paper and make a pleat down the centre to allow for expansion. Place over the basin and secure with string. Cover with foil and tie again, making a handle with the extra string. Now place in a deep pan and fill with boiling water 3/4 of the way up the bowl.
Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Make the sauce by warming the figs, pistachios and honey in a small pan with 1tbsp water. When the pudding is ready turn out on to a plate and drizzle the sauce over the top, serve hot with rum butter.

TIPS ~ Cook this pudding a day in advance and store in a cool place (not the fridge). Steam for 20 mins to heat through before serving.


Quick and Easy ~ Cream together 75g softened Butter and 75g Icing Sugar until fluffy.  Stir in 2 tbsp Dark Rum. Then just pop into the fridge until ready to use.


* If your mixture starts to curdle when you are adding the eggs, save it by adding a generous spoonful of the flour and mixing well.


* Don't be temped to lift the lid from the pan during the first 30mins of cooking - any temperature drop will make the pud sink.

* During steaming the water level must remain the same to keep the temperature constant, so keep topping it up with boiling water.

'Serve the pudding with a sprig of holly'

Its also traditional to flame your christmas pudding to serve.When you set light to the brandy, or your favourite tipple, that is poured over the pudding, the flame is said to represent Christ’s passion, while a decorative sprig of holly is a reminder of His ‘Crown of Thorns’.

Tips for lighting your pud

Gently warm a glug of brandy, or your fave tipple, in a small pan, then pour over the hot pudding. Take the pud to the table and ignite.

* You will not need any more than 100ml of alcohol over you pud - any more, and the flame may not go out until the New Year!
* Gently heat the alcohol beforehand to get the vapours going, this makes the pud much easier to light.
* Always flame your pud the table, as anything can happen en route from the kitchen!
* Light at arms length, and don't light near anything that can catch fire.