There has been so much in the news recently about Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas Pudding, which includes a whole orange, that they have completely sold out, and are now changing hands on eBay for ridiculous amounts.
It has been pointed out to me that it should be possible to adapt my very own Christmas Pudding recipe, so I’ve had a good think, done a bit of research (including talking to a couple of chef mates in the pub) and have come up with something that should work. And you still have time to make it before Christmas.
WARNING: this is theory only as…
1) I haven’t even seen the “real thing” except in pictures.
2) I won’t be making one myself, as I’ve already made mine, and I’m too busy with other tasks.
But if you want to give it a go, here’s how I reckon it would work.
Find my Christmas Pudding recipe here. Use the full amount given to make one “Heston-Style” pud, and one plain, so you’ll have a spare in case of disaster (I’m giving you fair warning).
Get yourself a nice firm orange: a Seville orange (the type used for making marmalade) would be great as they are both firm skinned and somewhat bitter, to offset the sweetness of the pud and the processing you are going to do to the orange. If they’re not available, use any firm and fairly thick-skinned orange of a size that will leave a good margin of pudding mixture between the orange and the bowl.
Use a skewer or similar to make many perforations in the fruit, going right through into the centre (hold the orange in a thick cloth if you’re clumsy). Make a “stock syrup” of equal quantity by volume of water and sugar: enough to cover the orange. You can make the stock syrup on the hob by heating until all the sugar dissolves, or do it in the microwave. Be very careful with hot sugar, it sticks to the skin like glue and can cause nasty scalds.
Add a few spoonfuls of a good orange marmalade to the syrup. Add some seasonal and Christmassy flavourings: I won’t be specific, just whatever you like or already have around, such as cinnamon, cloves (only a few), ginger (powdered, fresh grated, or preserved stem ginger), maybe a shot or two of Cointreau or Orange Curacao.
Pop in the orange, and let it cook away very gently for an hour or so. You may need to improvise a way of keeping it submerged, or to keep it well agitated so that all of the skin gets a good dose of the treatment. Do not let the orange get too soft – it should still be firm. Remember, I have not done this, so it may take less time than I have suggested, depending on the original “hardness” of the fruit and the thickness of the skin.
Remove the orange, using a slotted spoon or tongs, then boil the stock hard until it has reduced to a thickish, but still liquid, caramel – don’t let it burn. Take off the heat, roll the orange around in the caramel until it is well coated, then leave to stand on a rack until the coating has hardened.
Proceed with the Christmas Pudding recipe as given until you have completed the mixture and are ready to fill the bowls. Fill the pudding basin about a third, insert the prepared orange, then pack the rest of the pudding mix round the edges and on top of the orange until the basin is full. Follow the rest of the recipe/method as given.
The only problem I can foresee is that the orange may collapse into a soggy mess during the steaming of the pudding, hence my suggestion of making a spare plain pud – which is a very good pudding in it’s own right - just in case.
Feel free to adapt my mix to give it a little more orangey flavour, adding grated orange zest, or whatever, if you like, but it shouldn’t really need it.
Remember, I don’t claim that this will be identical to Heston’s: I very much doubt that it will resemble it much at all, other than the fact it will be a Christmas Pudding with a (hopefully) candied orange in the middle. Heston is a very clever bloke, and I don’t doubt his research kitchen spent months on getting this right: some recipes for candied whole fruit that I have found take months for the complete process. We haven’t got that long, obviously.
And, if you do make this, please do let me know how it turns out. I'm ready to accept all praise if it works, but don't blame me if it doesn't - I gave you fair warning.