Time to Stir Again

Plum PuddingIf you enjoy the traditional Christmas preparations and haven’t got started yet, it’s time to think about the puddings and cakes – although the long maturing time favoured by our grandmothers isn’t strictly necessary, anything with dried fruit in it benefits from a month or two in a cool dark place before the big day.

For best results, use the highest quality ingredients you can find. Speciality shops worth seeking out for top quality baking ingredients include The Gourmet Shop, Highfield Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6 and, of course, Peter and Mary Ward’s Country Choice in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Plum Pudding

 Step-by-Step Baking (Dorling Kindersley, hardback, ?25). A whole new generation is taking up the deeply satisfying activity of home baking at the moment and a good gift for any aspiring baker would be this weighty tome, Step-by-Step Baking (Dorling Kindersley, hardback, €25).

A comprehensive reference, with lots of luscious photographs, it offers ‘350 baking recipes for every occasion’ and a wealth of how-to information too. Their version of the classic Christmas pudding (named plum pudding because it contains prunes) uses butter instead of the traditional beef suet.

Click for recipe

Jims Kitchen Christmas CakeJim’s Kitchen Christmas Cake

One rainy Monday last April, I called into Jim’s Kitchen in Portlaoise and bought Jim Tynan’s two cookbooks – Jim’s Kitchen and Jim’s Kitchen 2 – from this wonderful shop and restaurant.

A place renowned for its friendliness, lovely homely food – and, especially, great Christmas baking and speciality ingredients, it was a bit quieter than it used to be (isn’t everywhere), but everything seemed much the same as usual.

Yet, on Saturday 7th May, Jim closed the doors for the last time. The foodie world is still in shock – and hoping that, in time, Jim’s Kitchen will re-open once again. Meanwhile, here is one of their range of Christmas cakes, from the first book.

Click for recipe

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