I've never really liked Christmas Pudding. The thought of such a heavy dessert after a hearty main course of turkey with all the trimmings actually makes me feel a bit queasy. When you've loaded up on brussel sprouts, chipolatas, stuffing et al, then a small dessert or something a bit lighter is the only way to avoid a digestif of Gaviscon later in the day.
If you want to be match fit for that afternoon game of Twister with Grandma and Aunty Sue, then you need to think ahead. While your greedy relatives are scoffing their flaming fruited puds, you can be pacing yourself with a tastier, lighter alternative. You'll be smiling to yourself when the Twister spinner falls on 'left foot - blue' and Uncle Reg, heavy with pudding, hits the deck taking out Granny in the process. Winning is everything on Christmas Day. The Bible says so.
Here is a festive make-ahead dessert that can be served in small glasses, perfect for anyone wanting a shot of sweetness to round off a Christmas meal. You can make the mulled fruit days ahead, in fact it improves over time. For the rice pudding, again you can make a day ahead and keep in the fridge. When you want to serve, just pop the glasses of rice pudding in the microwave for a minute to warm through, gently heat the fruit separately and spoon on top. It should all be just above room temperature when it reaches the table, topped with user-friendly crumbled Crunchie bar, sprinkled on at the last minute.
For the rice pudding:
325ml full fat milk
110ml double cream
1 cinnamon stick
½ vanilla pod.
3 tbsp caster sugar
80g short grain rice
For the mulled fruits:
250ml of red wine
75ml of ruby port
1/2 star anise
1/4 orange zested
1/4 lemon, zested
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 black peppercorns,
30ml of orange juice
20g of dark muscavado sugar
1 firm pear, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 fresh fig cut into chunks
1 plum, stoned and each chunks
10 blackberries, frozen and thawed
2 tbsp cornflour, slaked
1 crunchie bar, placed in a freezer for 10 minutes then pulsed in a food processor or chopped into small crumbs by hand.
For the mulled fruits, place the wine in a saucepan and over a high heat, reduce by half. Add the port, sugar, and orange juice and turn off the heat. Make a muslin bag for the spices and then place them in the wine to infuse. Add the pear and plum. When the mixture has cooled, add the figs and blackberries. Leave to infuse overnight.
Slice the vanilla pod in half and then scrape out the seeds with the end of a knife. Place ½ tsp of sugar onto a chopping board and mash the seeds into the sugar granules. Add the vanilla sugar to the milk and cream in a saucepan, along with the pod. Add the rest of the sugar along with the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil, then turn off and allow to infuse overnight in the fridge.
Strain the mulled fruit and remove the spices. Pour the liquid back into the pan and reheat, stirring in the cornflour little by little to thicken to a syrup consistency. It should coat the back of the spoon but be slightly thinner than honey. Return the fruit to the pan and reserve until required.
To make the rice pudding, bring the cream mixture to a simmer and add the rice. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the rice is soft but still al dente. As the mixture thickens up, add the water a little at a time to loosen the mix.
Pour into serving bowls or glasses. Allow to settle and cool to room temperature, then top with warm mulled fruits, and sprinkle on the Crunchie crumbs on top.