A boozy Christmas pudding packed with soaked fruits and spices. Photo: Rheal Dalal
Most of us who are passionate about food, have memories of leafing through the recipe sections of magazines and cookbooks, dreaming of preparing many of the mouth-watering dishes. Among the innumerable things I browsed was the Christmas pudding. It sounded intriguing and delicious, the process complicated, and the idea of flambéing the pudding before serving was thrilling beyond belief. I never imagined that I’d be making the very same pudding many years later!
Knowing Katy Dalal
Making Christmas puddings has now become a yearly ritual for me, thanks to my mother-in-law, Katy Dalal. Marrying into this family of food-loving Parsis is definitely one of the best decisions I have made, and I don’t think there’s anyone who disagrees with me about that.
Katy had travelled the world and tasted different foods wherever she went. Since she was enthusiastic about food, she tried out many of the dishes in her own kitchen, recreating from recipes where available, and often from just her own memories of the dish.
How a pudding was born
Feroze, my father-in-law, was a radio officer at sea and often brought goodies back from his travels. Once he brought home a Christmas pudding. Katy loved it and decided to give it a try at home since getting one from England every year wasn’t possible. Tweaking recipes to suit the ingredients available here was something she excelled at, and soon Christmas pudding became a regular feature at home in December.
Many of the dishes she recreated ended up on the menus offered to her clients, and one of the biggest successes was the Christmas pudding. She always did things differently and here too, while the bakeries and upmarket patisseries offered Christmas cakes, Yule logs, and other baked offerings, she chose to make the traditional English steamed pudding that is ideally flambéed with brandy and served with a dramatic flourish.
I started helping her make puddings from the very first year after I was married. Sometime early in the year, Katy would order large quantities of dried raisins, currants, sultanas, candied peel, ginger, spices, and several bottles of rum and brandy. We’d sit at the dining table and meticulously clean the dried fruit picking out the stems and discarding any foreign bits that weren’t supposed to be there. Clean glass jars would be brought out and the fruit would be poured into them. Some whole spices would follow, and finally the rum and brandy would be poured in till the fruit was submerged. The jars would be shut tight and then tucked away carefully under her bed till December.
On the day we made the puddings, vast mountains of carrots and apples would be grated. A huge dekchi or vessel, large enough for me to sit in, would be taken, and into it would go flour, brown sugar, the grated vegetables and fruit, spices, butter, eggs, and of course, ground almonds. All this would be stirred carefully till it was well mixed. The jars of soaking fruit would be dug out from under the bed and the fruit would be drained. We’d all have a sip of that soaking liquid for good luck, and then the drained fruit would be added to the mix. After many minutes of straining the muscles and getting it all mixed well, the pudding mix would be ready to be put into the moulds and steamed for several hours.
Since not everyone was confident of flambéing the pudding themselves, Katy decided to send brandy butter along with it. All they had to do was steam the pudding at home for an hour or so, and serve it with the brandy butter.
How to eat the pudding
1. Put the pudding (still in the mould) into your pressure cooker.
2. Add two cups of water to the cooker, shut the lid and place the cooker on heat. Don’t place the weight/whistle on the spout, leave it open for the steam to escape.
3. Let the pudding steam for 45 minutes to an hour. Unmould the pudding onto a plate, flat side down so it sits like a dome.
4. To flambé, pour brandy in a large serving spoon or cup. Set it alight and pour quickly over the hot pudding.
5. Make sure you switch off the lights so you can see the brandy alight. Slice the pudding and serve with the accompanying brandy butter.
Katy Dalal's Christmas pudding is available in two sizes. Call 9820136511/ 9820904694 to book either a 1 kg pudding for Rs. 1,100, or a 1/2 kg pudding for Rs. 650 (delivery charges extra). They deliver across Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.