Posted in Kafevend Blog

Like Thanksgiving in America, Christmas Day provides a good excuse for over indulgence here in Britain. A chocolate based breakfast isn't out of the question with the sudden influx of treats, and combined with a large dinner in the middle of the day, it can leave many feeling somewhat the worse for wear in the afternoon. For those with room to spare after dinner however, the Christmas pudding is a sure-fire way to tip you over into that uncomfortably full spectrum.

Otherwise known as plum puddings- despite the fact that plums aren't a feature; blame the Victorians for their confusing name for raisins- the first Christmas puddings began to appear in the 17th century, pulling together ingredients and methods from other styles of cooking. They can also find origins in foods like mince pies and pottage, both of which featured a medley of ingredients like meat, vegetables, fruit and spices all mixed up together. Of course, our modern affair leaves out the meat and veg in favour of the fruit and spice to which molasses or treacle are added, sometimes along with alcohol for an extra kick.

Traditionally Christmas puddings were made on the last Sunday before Advent begins, sometimes known as Stir-up Sunday. This is in reference to families who would get together in their kitchens and all have a hand in making the pudding, with the recipe being passed on to the children. Everyone would take a turn at stirring the mixture for good luck. Some families still stick to this tradition, though it has fallen by the wayside in recent years as ready made varieties found in shops have become more typical. Those going for the Real McCoy may well use something known as a pudding cloth. The pudding batter is wrapped up in this and left to mature for a few weeks before being cooked by boiling it in the bag.

Of course, not everyone may be up to stomaching the somewhat leaden affair that is the Christmas pudding. For those looking to enjoy something a little lighter, a trifle is always a good idea. The trifle is thought to be an evolution of a dessert known as the fool, which involves mixing pureed and stewed fruit into custard. Traditionally the fruit used in a fool is gooseberry, though obviously other fruits have made their way into the mix over the years. The earliest recipe for a trifle can be found in a 1596 book called "The good huswife's Jewell", which refers to a thick cream mixed with sugar, ginger and rosewater. The sponge part came a few decades later, when the cream/custard began to be poured over alcohol soaked bread. Evidence of swapping the alcohol out for jelly- which is often a good idea if kids are expected to tuck in- can be found in another recipe book from 1747 written by Hannah Glasse, though her method of using the bones of calves' feet to make the jelly may put the kids off altogether!

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