These are best made months in advance and left to mature. We are late this year, I originally planned to do this back in January but never got around to it. Never mind, any left over will be perfect for Christmas 2012.
1 lb each of: raisins, currants, sultanas, prunes (chopped into sultana-sized pieces).
Approx. 2 pints of brandy (this is our secret addition)
1 lb breadcrumbs
1 lb brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 lb mixed peel
1 lb plain flour
1 lb suet
1 dessert spoon marmalade
1 dessert spoon coffee
1/2 pint milk
Note on quantities
These quantities are direct from our recipe, but this makes a huge amount. I guess this is from the days of larger families. We always halve this, which makes three decent-sized puddings, each one giving maybe six to eight servings.
Measure out the dried fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas, prunes) into a sealable container. Add enough brandy to cover the fruit. Seal the container and leave the fruit to soak for at least a day.
It doesn't matter if you leave it for longer (a few days), that just gives more time for the brandy to soak in.
Measure all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the fruit and the remaining ingredients, and mix well.
Turn the mixture out into greased pudding basins. Don't over-fill. The mixture should be just below the top.
Cover each basin with a sheet of parchment paper and then a clean cloth or handkerchief. The paper and cloth should be pleated to allow the mixture to rise. Tie the covering with string.
I always make a loop of string over the top as well, to make it easy to lift the basins in and out of the pan.
For each pudding, put an inch of water into a large saucepan, put the basin into the pan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 4 hours. Check the pan occasionally and top up with boiling water if needed.
Don't let the pan boil dry, and don't put so much water in that it can bubble over the top of the basin. The water level should be about 1/4 to 1/2 the way up the basin at all times.
Leave to cool, then store in a cool, dry place.
When you want to serve, re-heat the pudding for an hour or so in a pan of water, like when cooking, then turn out onto a plate. If you want to be fancy, you can pour a shot of brandy over the pudding and light it before serving. Be sure to dim the lights so you can see the blue flames.
Serve with any or all of: ice cream, custard, cream, brandy butter (the most traditional).
Any leftovers can also be reheated in a microwave, but be careful just to warm through and not to overdo it.