Posts Tagged ‘Christmas in Ireland’


Traditional Irish Plum Pudding on a white plate


I know it’s late…but it’s not too late…to make your plum pudding for Christmas. This traditional Irish dessert is rich in spices and gloriously packed with delicious fruit.

A few weeks back I made homemade Mixed Candied Peel for this very recipe and it is incredibly more-ish…if you have the time and the inclination, I highly suggest you make you’re own too as it really is magic.

Of course, as one would expect, there are some superstitions {or call them traditions, if you will} that go hand in hand with making Irish plum pudding. They include:

* You make your Christmas plum pudding the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent, also known in the north of Ireland and the U.K. as Stir-up Sunday.

* It must be made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His disciples.

* Every member of the family should take a turn stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west in honor of the three kings.

* If you make a wish as you stir your pudding, it will come true by Christmas morning.

* When serving, present the pudding with a sprig of holly on top as a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns…or…add the holly for good luck…you decide the meaning.

* And set your pudding alight with a wee bit of brandy, to represent Christ’s passion.

Personally, I make plum pudding at Christmas for one reason…it’s my husband’s favourite dessert for the holiday and I want to make him happy. Though this might sound old fashioned and sappy, I don’t mind. Christmas is a time for giving and this is one of my gifts to my husband.

If you’ve never made plum pudding, fear not! This recipe is easy to make. The hardest part is being home for six hours while it steams. The recipe I use has been handed down from my mother-in-law, to my sister-in-law, to me…and now to you. It originally came from one of those little Stork Margarine leaflets written by Paula Daly back in the late 1970s. One last tip, however, if you’re making a pudding to give as a gift, a pot of brandy butter makes it all the nicer. Enjoy!

Irish Plum Pudding

Makes 2 Puddings

8oz/225g Stork margarine {or whatever margarine you can buy}, melted
8oz/225g dark brown sugar
7oz/200g plain flour {or self raising}, sieved
12oz/350g currants
8oz/225g raisins
6oz/175g sultanas
2oz/50g mixed cut peel
1oz/25g chopped almonds
1oz/25g glace cherries
6oz/175g fresh breadcrumbs
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 rounded teaspoon nutmeg
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice {or pumpkin spice}
2 large eggs
3-4 tablespoons beer/milk
2 tablespoons of whiskey or rum

1. Mix all of the other ingredients together in a large bowl {don’t forget to melt the margarine first}.

2. Cover with a round of greaseproof paper that has been greased with margarine and leave overnight. {The greased side goes against the mixture in the bowl.}

3. The next day, grease a 2.5-3 litre pudding bowl with margarine.

4. Stir the pudding mixture again, very well, and pour into the prepared pudding bowl. Fill to about 1-inch of the top of the bowl. Smooth out the top.

5. Cover with greaseproof paper, which has been pleated in the centre and greased with margarine, and tie it down tightly under the rim with cotton twine.

6. Cover a second time, with a piece of aluminium, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine. Make a twine handle so you can remove the bowl easily after the pudding has been steamed.

7. Place the bowl in a saucepan* and add enough water such that it comes halfway up the side of the bowl. Cover the saucepan with a lid and steam for 6 hours. Be sure to check every hour and top up with boiled water, if necessary.

8. After 6 hours, turn the heat off. Remove the pudding from the saucepan and allow to cool.

9. Re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper, be sure to put another pleat through the middle of the paper, and tie with more cotton twine as before. Store in a cool, dry, place until Christmas Day.

10. On Christmas Day, steam the pudding again for another 2 hours.

11. After two hours, turn the plum pudding out onto a warm plate, pour over some Irish whiskey or brandy and, very carefully, ignite with a match. Serve with brandy butter or cream.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* The way I steam a plum pudding is I use a saucepan that has a steam basket insert. I place the insert into the saucepan, put the covered bowl into the steam basket, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Then, when I have to check the water in the saucepan, I only have to lift the steam basket up to take a look.

** If you’re looking for an Irish music playlist for Christmas, checkout this one over at Spotify.

*** The meaning of holly and ivy at Christmas in an Irish home is explained well in this article from The Irish News.



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DSC_0663Oh my gosh! Oh my goodness! These biscuits (cookies) are to-die-for good!!

The first time I made them, they didn’t turn out so well. Silly me, I didn’t chop the crystallised ginger near enough and they were lumpy. The second time I made them, however, I did everything right and even my pickiest eater liked them.

They are a doddle to make. {Which is all the more important in this busy holiday season.} It probably took 10 minutes to mix up the ingredients.

The only hitch is you have to let them rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours before popping them into the oven. Actually, since I’m thinking/writing out loud, these are the ideal biscuits to make while you are wrapping presents…you mix the ingredients, refrigerate, wrap, bake, wrap, enjoy – what could be simpler? Right?!

While you’re busy baking and wrapping, turn up the volume on your computer/iPad and have a listen to this podcast on Irish Christmas food. Eoin (sounds like O-wen) Purcell of HistoryJournal.ie interviews Regina Sexton, food and culinary historian at University College Cork, about the origins of the foods we eat at Christmastime. If you’re not familiar with HistoryJournal.ie {which I was not}, it is an “exclusively online Irish history journal, covering a wide range of topics across Irish history and the wider Irish worldwide community”. 

And, for a bit of cheer to those living abroad, here’s a few of the best 2013 Christmas food advertisements playing on telly.

From Lidl –

From Cadbury –

From Baileys –

Lastly, for a bit of a laugh {you can’t take him too seriously}, here’s a clip of Colin Farrell’s interview with American television late-night-host Jimmy Kimmel about his traditional Irish Christmas.

Avoca Handweaver’s Crystallised Ginger Shortbread

Makes about 16 biscuits


1 cup/130g plain flour

1/2 cup/60g icing sugar

1/2 cup/60g cornflour

9 tablespoon/130g unsalted butter

130g crystallised ginger, finely chopped

30g caster sugar (for top of shortbread)


1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. Place the flour, icing sugar, cornflour, and butter in a food processor and blitz until starting to come together, then add the crystalized ginger and continue to process until the mixture combines fully. {I also added a few drops of ice water at this point}

3. Remove and roll into a ball.

4. Roll out the dough to 0.5cm thick. Cut into rounds with a small scone or cookie cutter.

5. Place on a lined baking sheet and allow to rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours, then bake for about 40-45 minutes.

6. Remove, and while still warm, sprinkle with a little caster sugar. The shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

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English: Wicklow Street, Dublin, Ireland. A Ch...

Wicklow Street, Dublin, Ireland. A Christmas greeting in Irish Gaelic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Christmas countdown begins tonight in our Irish home and we are all a flutter with bringing home the Christmas (dressing the house and making treats). 

Our many boxes of decorations are sitting unopened in the hallway as I type this post, the tree is in the house waiting to be dressed, and the crèche is still in its boxes {as are my mom’s Department 56 holiday villages} but not for long! Tomorrow is December 8th which means Christmas in Ireland is officially underway.

Without a doubt this is one of the loveliest times of the year. Starting 8th December, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and going through to 6th January with the Epiphany, there are lights to see, pantos to attend, singing choirs and street musicians to listen to, festive windows to visit, pubs to stuff into {mind your packages}, and traditions to keep.

Speaking of which, traditionally people living in the “country” come up to Cork, Dublin and Galway to start their shopping on 8th December but that’s not where the fun ends. There’s mid-night mass, a swim at the 40 Foot Christmas morning, the horse races on St. Stephen’s Day, and Nollaig na mBan on 6th January. I particularly like the last event as it’s the day when women meet up with one another or put their feet up and the men of the house do the housework, cooking and take down the Christmas decorations. {Laughter}…that’s never happened in our house!

So there you have it…Irish Christmas 2013 is just beginning. Hope you feel all the joy of the season and have a very Happy Christmas!

Read more: 

More about an Irish Christmas then and now at: http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/XmasthenNow.html

Christmas in Ireland Traditions at: http://christmas.guide-to-nireland.com

A typical Irish Christmas at: http://www.dochara.com/the-irish/irish-christmas/a-typical-irish-christmas/

Top Irish Christmas Traditions at: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/The-top-ten–Irish-Christmas-traditions-that-make-the-season—SEE-PHOTOS-112236619.html

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