The proof is in the pudding: Northampton chef shares Christmas pudding secret

Christmas pudding

With Christmas just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to impress friends and family with the ultimate homemade Christmas pudding.  And now Northampton Marriott Hotel’s Chef is revealing his exclusive recipe.

After having experimented with endless combinations of fruity additions and the best tipples to top it with, Paul Buckley has well and truly perfected the perfect Christmas pudding recipe.

Here, he shares his top tips for making a Christmas pudding guaranteed to rival pigs in blankets on the tasty scale this festive period, as well as the recipe and method behind his signature creation.

  • Get the texture just right – Christmas puddings are as much about texture as they are the flavour – they should be lovely and dense, without being solid
  • Make it fruity – Fruit is the backbone of any Christmas pud and it’s important not to scrimp on your fillings. Prunes, plums, raisins, dried apricots; there are no rules when it comes to choosing the right fruity combinations so throw them all in
  • Enjoy yourself – TV cooking shows can often seem stressful and pressured, but ultimately baking should be fun and enjoyable. If things don’t go right, don’t stress, try and rectify it and if you can’t, start again
  • Cool it off – Treat your mixture to a Christmas break. Leave your pudding for up to a week before steaming it if possible in order to maximize the flavours

Here Paul shares his recipe for his signature Christmas pudding:


  • 450g/1lb dried mix fruit (use a mixture of sultanas, raisins, and snipped apricots)
  • 2l cooking apple, roughly chopped
  • 1 orange, finely grated rind and juice
  • 3 tbsp brandy, sherry, keep some extra for flaming
  • 75g/3oz butter, softened
  • 100g/3½oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g/4oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 40g/1½oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 40g/1½oz whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped 


  1. Measure the sultanas, raisins, apricots and apple into a bowl with the orange juice. Add the measured brandy (rum or sherry), stir and leave to marinate for about one hour
  2. Put the measured butter, sugar and grated orange rind into a large bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon or a hand-held whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the measured flour if the mixture starts to curdle
  3. Sift together the flour and mixed spice, then fold into the creamed mixture with the breadcrumbs and the nuts. Add the soaked dried fruits with their soaking liquid and stir well
  4. Generously butter a 1.4 litre/2½ pint pudding basin. Cut a small disc of foil or baking parchment and press into the base of the basin
  5. Spoon into the prepared pudding basin and press the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover the pudding with a layer of baking parchment paper and foil, both pleated across the middle to allow for expansion. Tie securely with string and trim off excess paper and foil with scissors
  6. To steam, put the pudding in the top of a steamer filled with simmering water, cover with a lid and steam for eight hours, topping up the water as necessary
  7. To boil the pudding, put a metal jam jar lid, or metal pan lid, into the base of a large pan to act as a trivet. Place a long, doubled strip of foil in the pan, between the trivet and the pudding basin, ensuring the ends of the strip reach up and hang over the edges of the pan. This will help you to lift the heavy pudding basin out of the pan of hot water when it has finished cooking
  8. Lower the pudding onto the trivet and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the side of the bowl. Cover with a lid, bring the water back to the boil, then simmer for about seven hours, until the pudding is a glorious deep brown colour, topping up the water as necessary
  9. For the brandy butter, place the butter into a mixing bowl and cream with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy – or for speed use an electric hand-held mixer. Beat in the sieved icing sugar until smooth, and then add brandy, rum or cognac, to taste. Spoon into a serving dish, cover and set aside in the fridge
  10. When cooked through, remove the pudding from the pan and cool completely. Discard the paper and foil and replace with fresh. Store in a cool, dry place
  11. To serve, on Christmas Day, steam or boil the pudding for about two hours to reheat. Turn the pudding onto a serving plate. To flame, warm the brandy or rum in a small pan, pour it over the hot pudding and set light to it. Serve with brandy butter