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Flavours of England to get into the Christmas spirit

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Festivities form part of tradition, meals and recipes as well.  With Christmas nearing, using a well-tried recipe is entrusting the success of these shared moments around a table to a flagship of gastronomy.  The Christmas Pudding is a must. As its name suggests, this Christmas pudding is a pudding-type dessert traditionally served on Christmas day in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in some places in the North of France. It is valued in Mauritius as well.  Gilberte Allet has  specialising in its confection for three years.  Meeting.

I started making cakes at 13 years old.  I learned how to make pastries with my mother and the decoration with my father. My parents enjoyed cooking.  And gradually, I started to please my family and friends”, says Gilberte, 55. Married to Patrick, she is the proud mother of Julien, 28, and Loïc, 21.

She has been making this Christmas pudding for three years now.  She had tried the recipe that a friend had given her, to the great delight of her family. Their appreciation encouraged her to continue, which she has done over and over again much to the delight of the gourmets around her.

“Stir Up Sunday”

The Christmas Pudding is baked on the last or next-to-last Sunday before the beginning of Advent, at the end of November.  It has to sit for one month. This Sunday is informally known as Stir Up Sunday. It is synonymous to a time of rejoicing.  The tradition demands that the entire household come together on this occasion since each member has to participate by stirring the mixture three times with a wooden spoon. Clockwise or for purists, from East to West, to commemorate the expedition of the Biblical Magi. Each one stirs with varying degrees of difficulty. According to some sources, twelve rounds have to be carried out, one for each month of the year.  Superstitions as well have been involved, claiming that this dessert has to be confectioned with thirteen ingredients representing Jesus and his apostles...

The Christmas Pudding is a cake which is prepared one month beforehand because it has to be "fed" every week with brandy, explains Gilberte. She uses sultanas, of average sized grains, tasty and of a clear brown colour, currants, small and black, cherries, almonds and candied fruits, home made candied oranges and lemon.  Butter, sugar, nutmeg, “black treacle” or molasses, eggs and flour make up the list of ingredients. The fruits will be soaked in Brandy first and cooked at a low heat, along with butter.

Served with ice cream

The Christmas Cake, as we know it today, has survived for centuries and has retained, in its conception, traditons dating back to the Victorian era. In the 14th century, it was a kind of porridge called "frumenty" made from beef and mutton, with dried grapes, plums, wine and spices as supplement.  It was then more of a soup than a cake and consumed as a light meal before the preparations for the end of year festivities.

In 1595, the porridge became thicker, garnished with eggs, breadcrumb, dry fruits and alcohol like liquors or beer. This soup gives way to a full-fledged cake and becomes the traditional Christmas dessert for the British. It differs from the simple bread pudding in its content and preparation, milk and eggs will be used throughout the year to reuse the leftover bread, brioche and pastries.   A popular myth claims that it is king George 1 who reintroduced the Christmas Pudding, asking that it be served to him, during his first Christmas as King of England in 1714. In that way, he lifted the ban on the cake after puritans, who scowled at everything pertaining to Christmas, having deemed the Christmas cake to be “too pagan to be honest”.

According to the experienced baker Gilberte Allet, “more and more people are requesting this type of cake”. “It is served with ice cream in Mauritius. I enjoy a thin slice of cake from time to time with a good cup of tea or a scoop of ice cream”, she says.

We each have our own way of appreciating and enjoying this centuries-old cake.  It is not prohibited to drool while thinking about Christmas.