Get stirring and steaming: gluten free Christmas pudding


So it’s that time of the year again, when thoughts of Christmas begin to seep into our heads. It seems to come around faster each year. More than any other time of the year, planning is paramount to success – success being a stress-free Christmas.

I tend to give homemade presents for Christmas – puddings, jams, chutneys, jellies and syrups. I know it requires a little more effort than buying a present, but the effort and thought put into food gifts makes them more meaningful.

I usually place an order around now with for my bottles and jars. Dunnes Stores and discount stores often have gift boxes which are perfect for hampers.

I have started to stockpile my hamper contents. Having them ready to hand when the assembly time comes is always a great help. I will be offering more recipes for hamper fillers in the coming weeks. Be warned though, the moment you give a Christmas hamper packed with goodies it will be expected year after year.

Make a mental note where you have hidden your goodies, because if you are anything like me you may have to hide your stash from boys foraging for treats. My mother hid her handmade chocolates so well one Christmas that they were nowhere to be found. My dad got the blame for scoffing them and his pleas of innocence fell on deaf ears until Christmas morning when the hostess trolley was plugged in for its annual few hours and began to ooze melting chocolate.


I have been inundated with enquiries for a recipe for gluten-free puddings. The owners of my local health food shop tell me that customers with wheat intolerance buy the smallest possible gluten free puds for themselves and make the full-wheat version for the others gathered around their table. I am at a loss as to why they do this. I would like to dispel the notion that a gluten-free pudding is any less flavoursome or gratifying than its full-wheat counterpart.

The following recipe will make one 2lb pudding, but if you wish you can make two 1lb puddings, just reduce the cooking time by 30 minutes.

150 ml cider

1 tbsp treacle

A good tbsp brandy

100g raisins

100g sultanas

65g currants

35g mixed peel

35g glace cherries

20g ground almonds

40g chopped almonds

20g chopped walnuts

130g fresh gluten-free breadcrumbs (made by whizzing gluten-free bread in the food processor)

35g gluten-free self raising flour, sieved (I use Dove Farm)

65g brown sugar

1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg

65g melted butter

2 small eggs

1/2 a small cooking apple, peeled and grated

Juice and rind of an orange

Warm the cider with the treacle until the treacle has melted. Soak the sultanas, raisins, currants and cherries in the brandy and cider and treacle overnight; give it a good stir now and then.

The next day or so, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Pour the mixture into the 2lb pudding bowl, or divide between two 11b bowls and pack it in. Cover with greaseproof paper, folded with a pleat in the centre, as the puddings will expand slightly as they cook, then pop the lids on.

Christmas puddings are quite dense because of all the fruit and nuts they contain. Steaming is the best method of cooking because it allows a slow cooking which ensures a moist result.

Place the puddings in a deep roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin– the water should come almost halfway up the pudding bowl, and cook for three and a half hours in the oven at 100 degrees/gas ¼, or in a steamer on the cooker, topping up with boiling water as required. When the cooking time is up, allow the pudding to cool and store in a cool dry place. When ready to eat, steam for an hour and a half to reheat.


Cranberry sauce, delicious with pate, spiced beef and, of course turkey, can be made at least a month before Christmas. I often combine a jar of this with stewed apples for crumble, or add a few tablespoons into muffin recipes, turning them into something festive.

500g fresh or frozen cranberries

250mls of fresh orange juice

250g sugar

Simmer all ingredients together until the cranberries burst. Pot in sterilised jars. This should make three 285g jars and will keep for up to three months. Once opened the sauce should be stored in the fridge.