26/11/2014 15:53 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Stir-Up Sunday: Making Easy Christmas Puddings

I have to admit stir-up Sunday isn't a tradition we've ever observed - in fact, I'll also admit that I hadn't even heard of it before some nice people at John Lewis asked me if I'd like to give it a go with my son.

"Er, what is it?" I replied, vaguely wondering if it was the day you start laying the foundations for the traditional Christmas Holiday Feud.

But no, it was nothing to do with family rows, but Christmas puds. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure.
Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before the start of Advent, when families get together to make their Christmas pudding in plenty of time for the flavours to develop and mature. This year, it falls on November 21st.

So here's the deal: in a nutshell (well, actually a pudding bowl) you combine all your Christmas pudding ingredients, and each member of the family gives the bowl a stir in an East to West direction in honour of the Wise Men who travelled to visit Jesus. Tradition also dictates that a wish should be silently made whilst stirring.

Despite a) not knowing of Stir-Up Sunday, and b) having never made a pudding, Christmas or otherwise, in my life before, William (7) and I decided to give it a go. (I'll admit I was also swayed by having interviewed Nick Coffer from My Daddy Cooks the other day - it was high time, I decided, that I got my own offspring familiar with all things cooking).

This is the recipe we followed, and honestly, if we could do it and not end with either a pig's ear or a burnt out kitchen, anyone can.

John Lewis Stir-Up Sunday Recipe

25g blanched almonds
1 large cooking apple (Bramley)
100g of festive fruits (candied peel)
1 whole nutmeg
500g of raisins
70g plain flour
50g soft, fresh white breadcrumbs
50g light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp brandy plus extra for flambe on Xmas day
125g of butter, straight from the fridge


Chop the almonds and the festive fruits. Peel, core and chop the apple. Grate the nutmeg.

Mix all the ingredients - except the butter - into a large mixing bowl.

Holding the butter in its wrapper, grate a quarter of it in the bowl and stir. Repeat until butter is used up, stirring for 4 minutes. Each member of the family must stir at this point - East to West remember - and silently making a wish. My son didn't get the silent bit - and frankly, I hope his doesn't come true (I don't want a pet wolf, thanks).

Butter a one pint pudding bowl and line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof paper. Pack in the pud mixture tightly and cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper. Pleat it a bit so it dips in the bowl - this allows for expansion. Then tie the paper around the side of the bowl with string.

After trimming the paper, stand the bowl on a roll of foil and bring the edges of the top, then put another sheet of foil on top and make a double layer to keep the pudding water-tight.

Tie more string around the bowl plus a loop for for lifting it in an out of the pan.

Boil the pudding for eight hours, topping up with water as necessary

Re-wrap in new greaseproof paper and foil and store away for Christmas.

Easy or what? Like I said, if we can, anyone can...and I use 'we' in the loosest sense of the word - I mainly stood around taking pics whilst William did all the work. But it was all very simple, great fun, and I got to have a swig of brandy in the process. I think this is going to become a tradition we're going to adopt from this Christmas onwards...hic...

Obviously, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating come Christmas Day, but given the gorgeous smells wafting through the house, I think me and the boy (mainly the boy) did good.

What Christmas traditions have you started with your children?
Or have you carried over traditions from your own childhood?