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Testing Christmas puddings with Xanthe and the Sunday Telegraph

Testing Christmas puddings with Xanthe and the Sunday Telegraph

We have already made a couple of Christmas puddings, a tradition every year, but this year was special as it was the first ones we made in our copper pudding pot.   We also ate the spare one form last year, as the tantalising smell of dried fruit, spices and booze filling up the fuggy, foggy, figgy pudding kitchen is irresistible. But that is not the only Christmas pud to have been consumed this month………….

When the call went out from Xanthe Clay for volunteers  for a Christmas pudding taste test, for the Sunday Telegraph, our hands went up quicker than you can say, “who’s got the sixpence?” 



Even better, the venue was Box E, the pocket sized restaurant at Bristol’s Wapping Wharf, high on our must-visit list and now even higher!   And so, on a cold November morning a willing band of hungry “critics” arrived to offer their verdicts. We took our place at the table along side chefs, a food blogger and a doctor/food writer, as well as Xanthe and restaurant front of house duo, Tess and her right hand woman  Lexie.

Elliott, the chef at Box E had valiantly cooked all the puddings, studiously observing to a letter the instructions printed on the packaging.  Perhaps it’s as well that the restaurant is not a ground level, those steamed up windows would have been quite the conversation starter! Each pudding was passed to us without an identifying clues, we tasted “blind”, all we knew is that this were premium offerings from a range of retailers ranging from budget supermarkets to high ends food halls.



And each was rigorously subjected to scrutiny in terms of appearance, smell, texture and most importantly, taste.  There was certainly enough difference between them to make a choiceand it was interesting tat there was a consensus among the panel. Two stood out as clear winners, as you can see in the article and we would certainly be happy to pass either of these off as our own.

So if you are not planning on making your own this year, be sure to heed our recommendations.


Stir up Sunday

Things you probably didn't know.................
"Stir-up Sunday is an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. It gets its name from the beginning of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with the words, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people".
But you are probably more familiar with it as the weekend on which to make your Christmas pudding; a tradition based on the fact that most recipes for Christmas pudding require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas Day, so the collect of the day served as a useful reminder.

The Verdict

You can see our final verdict below or here on-line, whilst the Telegraph operates a paywall, you can sign up for 2 free articles a week, if you are not a subscriber.

You can find out more about Stir Up Sunday here:
Read about our copper pudding pot here:…/pudding-pot


12 of the best Christmas puddings, tried and tasted by our experts 

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 26 NOVEMBER 2019 • 11:14AM  by  Xanthe Clay
Christmas doesn’t mean committing to do-it-yourself. No one is expecting you to pluck your own turkey and, while I love a homemade pud, it’s also top of my list of things that are fine to buy ready made. After all, nature of the beast is that it is made in advance, it keeps well, is possibly improved by being cooked in large batches.
The Christmas Day steaming is essentially just reheating, although if you can do it in a steamer rather than the microwave, the flavours will have a chance to develop to their full mellow richness.
But which one is best? The choice is huge, so I gathered a dozen to try, and asked on Twitter for some real Christmas pudding lovers to help me out with tasting. Box-E, one of my favourite restaurants in Bristol, stepped in and offered to cook the puddings and host the tasting.
We duly gathered on a chilly Friday morning, raring to go. Chef Elliott Lidstone sent the puddings over one by one. We tasted all the puddings “blind” – simply turned out on a plate with nothing to identify them. There was cream to go with, but no brandy butter, which may be why the testers seemed to prefer the boozier puds.
We were judging simply on how it tasted, although I predict that next year the supermarkets will be trying harder with sustainability. I was surprised almost all were in non-recyclable black plastic bowls.
All but two (Fortnum’s and Aldi) contained palm oil, whose farming is blamed for large scale deforestation, and only two of the puddings with palm oil listed their oil as sustainable (Sainsbury’s and Figgy’s).
"I asked on Twitter for some real Christmas pudding lovers to help me out": Xanthe Clay presents the puddings to her tasters CREDIT: JAY WILLIAMS
I also scanned the ingredients for anything notable, including the good (like high quality spirits), and the bad (emulsifiers like mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids).
And our crew of (booze-loving) testers included Tess Lidstone who runs the front of house at Box-E, along with her right-hand woman Lexie Jennings, chefs Henry Eldon and Scott Lucas, doctor Ishita Wilkins, blogger Lisa Cadd, and Sue Currie, who with her husband Neil makes Netherton Foundry pans, beloved of food writers.
All the team professed to be fans of The Pudding, although none more than Andrew Dowson, who told us he keeps a stash in the cellar and eats about one a month.
Figgy’s Christmas Pudding
£17.95 for 550g (delivery £1.95)
Verdict:  Nicely shaped, with a “very soft, open texture” and “greasy taste”, but “not much spice or booze”
Cooked in:Ceramic pudding basin
Ingredients: Port stout, cider brandy, free-range egg, but also “sustainable” palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 2 out of 5
Asda Extra Special 9 Month Matured Luxury Christmas Pudding
£7 for 907g
erdict:  A nice dark pudding that “smells of Christmas cake”, had “lots of fruit”, but tasted “bland”
Cooked in: Red plastic bowl
Ingredients: Cider, rum and cream, but also palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 2 out of 5 
Waitrose No 1 Cherry and almond-topped Christmas pudding
£14 for 800g
Verdict: A “jewelled” pud with “a nice orangey smell” covered in yellow, red and dark glace cherries, whose “oversweetness detracts from the pudding”, making it “almost toffee sweet”
Cooked in: Ceramic pudding basin
Ingredients: Cider, amaretto liqueur, cream, but also palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 2 out of 5
Booth’s 18 month Matured Brandy Port and Walnut Christmas Pudding
£10 for 908g
Verdict: Testers loved the ball shape, which stood out from the other puds, and “lovely almond aroma” but found the pud “over dense”, “mild flavoured” and “malt loaf like”
Cooked in: Muslin and plastic wrap
Ingredients: Prunes, apricots, but also palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 3 out of 5
Bettys Classic Christmas Pudding
£16 for 800g
Verdict:This “matt not shiny” pud “smells of mulled wine” and is “very firm, almost like cake” with a “pleasant but not thrilling” flavour lifted by citrus peel
Cooked in: White plastic bowl
Ingredients: Yorkshire ale, brandy and egg, but also palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 3 out of 5
Carved Angel Christmas pudding
£10.95 for 454g (delivery £3.95)
Verdict:A pale pud with “light boozy aroma” and a “soft, spongey texture” and “plump fruit” and strong flavour of spice but “not traditional”
Cooked in: Clear plastic bowl (a 680g version in a ceramic pudding basin costs £18.95)
Ingredients: Brandy, ginger and free-range egg but also palm oil and emulsifiers
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 3 out of 5
Lidl Deluxe 24 month matured
£11.99 for 907g
Verdict:A smooth pud, with “a good amount of nuts” but flavour was “underwhelming”
Cooked in: Black plastic bowl
Ingredients: Courvoisier cognac and vostizza currants, but also palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 3 out of 5
Morrison’s The Best Christmas pudding
£5 for 400g
Verdict:Crumbled as it turned out of the bowl, but testers liked the “giant raisins” and “citrus notes”. The flavour was “bordering on too sweet”
Cooked in: Black plastic bowl
Ingredients: Sherry, cognac, flame raisins, cream, but also palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 4 out of 5
Best vegetarian and palm-oil free
Aldi Specially Selected Exquisite Vintage Pudding
£12.99 for 800g; available from Dec 5
Verdict: Well-shaped pudding, with a light texture and discernible flavour from the walnuts, but “a bit standard”
Cooked in: Ceramic pudding basin
Ingredients: Cognac, cider, walnuts, free range eggs, butter and no palm oil
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 3 out of 5
Best treat for a lone Christmas pudding lover
Fortnum & Mason King George Christmas Pudding
£12.95 for 113g
 (delivery £5.95)
Verdict: Beef suet gives an unparalleled light-but-rich texture, and while this wasn’t our panel’s favourite for flavour (perhaps because it’s not that boozy), with a dollop of brandy butter it would be outstanding. Plus the doll-sized pudding basin is a brilliant keepsake. 
Cooked in: A tiny ceramic pudding basin complete with Fortnum’s logo and a cloth cover
Ingredients:Turkish raisins and sultanas, free range egg, milk, Marcona almonds, cognac and beef suet – no palm oil
Vegetarian? No
Score: 5 out of 5
Overall runner-up
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 18 month matured Christmas pudding
Currently £8 for 900g (saving £1)
Verdict:A “classical” pud, with a “good smell of booze” and a “dense but not heavy” texture and “plump fruit”. “A safe choice” the panel felt
Cooked in: Black plastic bowl
Ingredients: Cider, cognac, cream but also “sustainable” palm oil 
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 4 out of 5
Overall winner
Tesco Finest 12-month matured Christmas pudding
£4 for 400g
Verdict: Testers loved this “superbly soft but not claggy” pud, with a “treacly” smell and “very boozy, almost too much” flavour, which meant “you could just have a small bit of this” and be satisfied. The Tesco Finest 9 month matured hidden clementine Christmas pudding (£4 for 400g) also scored highly.
Cooked in: Black plastic bowl
Ingredients: Include Courvoisier cognac, eggs, cream, but also palm oil and emulsifiers
Vegetarian? Yes
Score: 5 out of 5


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