Stir Up @landmarklondon


Christmas pudding is a big deal in the Beetroot household, and not solely reserved for the month of December. One is as likely to have pudding and custard on the 25th December as on 9th March or 28th September.

In previous years Muv and I have got together on Stir Up Sunday to begin our marvellous Christmas cake, making sure everyone has a turn with the wooden spoon for good luck.

This year I saw an advertisement in Good Food magazine for a Christmas pudding masterclass including champagne on arrival and a two-course lunch at none other than The Landmark Hotel- one of my favourite places in London.

A few weeks later, we emerged from Marylebone station to find the splendour of old railway hotel in front of us. Once armed with a flute of champagne, an apron and a chef’s hat, we were seated at a high table with a mixing bowl sunk into the centre and surrounded by many, many ingredients. 

Chefs Gary and Oli arrived, talking us though the history of the Christmas pudding, pudding traditions and the world’s most expensive pudding (£23,500 and created by ex-Savoy chef Martin Chiffers, if you’re interested). Then it was time to get our hands dirty; chucking in the ingredients as directed by chef, giving it a good old stir and getting drunk on the scent of the alcohol infused fruit.

 Once everything was mixed and given the nod of approval by chef, we divided the mixture between three pudding basins- pressing it down firmly- covered in baking paper, tin foil over the top and tied with string to hold it all together. We were instructed to steam the puddings within the next 24 hours and then keep them in a cool, dark place until they were ready for their second steaming on Christmas Day (if we could wait that long!) 

Next came a delightful surprise- a barman from the Mirror Bar arrived with arms full of of cocktail shakers and magically, a host of other ingredients appeared on our tables.
  
After some pouring, vigorous shaking and a bit more pouring we each had a glass of eggnog. It’s not something we’d tried before, it’s never really appealed in all honesty, but we both really enjoyed it. Thankfully a recipe card was tucked into our gift bag so we’re certain to recreate this festive cocktail in the near future.

 By this point, and feeling rather sozzled, we were more than ready for lunch. Smoked salmon followed by slow-cooked beef- absolutely delicious. 

 Post luncheon we were presented with gift bags containing our three puddings, all beautifully presented in celophane and ribbon, a Landmark embroidered apron, a pudding competency certificate and copies of all the recipes. I think there might have even been a Landmark pen.

Muv either had a wonderful time or still considers herself incompetent, as has asked to book us places next year! Perhaps Gary could run a stollen masterclass instead to broaden our Christmas baking skills.

Stir Up Sunday

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Friday night, wrapped in a blanket I watched a film called Snow Valley on TV. Very much a straight to TV movie, starring no one you’ve ever heard of and a pretty cliche story line. The thing that really got me was all the lovely Christmas traditions the family had. They very much had a programme of Christmassy events all the way through December, from decorating the tree and wrapping up presents for less fortunate children to icing gingerbread houses and indulging in the grand-sounding Feast of the Seven Fishes.
With no children in the family we are currently in that awkward limbo phase where we’re too old for the Christmas ‘magic’ ourselves, but too young (I say too young- I’m 27! Rather we’ve not in the position) to have our own children.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to celebrate to the extreme. I’ve got a few ideas but I’m definitely going to come up with some more.
I refuse to even talk about Christmas until after my birthday in November so it’s literally just starting to cross my mind. The starting point has to be Stir Up Sunday, which this year was Sunday 23rd November.
My mum and I are huge Christmas cake and Christmas pudding fans. In fact we eat Christmas pudding throughout the year, smothered in custard. We usually make a cake but had never really got involved in SUS, mostly because we’d never heard of it. We are both great believers in lovely family traditions so here we are. We got Nana involved too, reading out the ingredients as I got them out of the cupboard in a way that only a nan can!

Brandy, cherry brandy…
Brandy, cherry brandy, port…
Brandy, cherry brandy, port, bitters…

Nan! Stop repeating yourself!
Bless her.
I did have quite a hangover on Sunday so measuring out volumes of alcohol was a bit gagworthy! Once I’d got over that I mixed in the various dried fruits, heated for 15 minutes on a low flame then left to cool.
It’s now going to sit in the fridge sorting itself out for a week before we make a start on phase two.
I read on the internet earlier that it’s good luck for everyone in the family to have a stir of the cake mix so that’s what we’ll be doing!