Gluten- and dairy-free Armagnac Christmas pudding

Howard shares his delicious recipe for dairy- and gluten-free rhubarb and Armagnac plum pudding, a superb Christmas pudding recipe that everyone can enjoy.

First published in 2015
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The label on my bottle of Armagnac boasts flavoursome notes of prune and vanilla, making it the perfect Christmas spirit for this sumptuous gluten-free pudding of… well… prunes and vanilla.

Rosy rhubarb is forced into the shops just in time to bring something a little tarty to the party.

I’m a sucker for unusual fare, but you can easily replace the coconut sugar and quinoa flakes with more standard ingredients, and feel free to tweak the spices – although if you’ve never used Chinese five-spice in a plum pudding, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. If you need a nut-free pudding, omit the flaked offenders and replace the ground almonds with desiccated coconut or more quinoa flakes.

Gluten-free suet can be tricky to track down so I use a block of white vegetable fat, frozen then grated. It’s a finger-numbing process and you’ll never get the full amount in your bowl, but don’t worry unnecessarily – it’s Christmas. If your pud doesn’t need to be dairy-free, you could grate frozen unsalted butter if you prefer.





The day before you want to make your puddings, put the prunes, dried cherries, sultanas, currants and chopped ginger in a bowl, pour in the Armagnac, cover and leave overnight. If you haven’t yet put your vegetable fat in the freezer, do it now
Lightly grease 2 pudding basins – each about 1 litre in capacity or just under. You can use traditional pudding basins, but the plastic ones with lids are easiest and the puddings cook better
Put 2 large lidded pans of water on the hob to boil – make sure each is big enough to accommodate your pudding basin
Put the flour, ground almonds, quinoa flakes and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Grate the frozen vegetable fat into the bowl, tossing it into the flour mix as you go
Add all the other ingredients, including the soaked fruit and its Armagnac marinade. Mix well with a wooden spoon
Divide the mixture between the two basins. If it’s a plastic one, just pop the lid on. Cover with foil if you’re the belt-and-braces type, then lower gently into the boiling water, which needs to come about halfway up the side of the basin. If your basin doesn’t have a lid, cover with a sheet of baking parchment and a sheet of foil and tie with string before lowering into the pan
Put the pan lids on and turn the heat down to moderately high. Cook initially for about 3 1/2 hours. Keep checking every 30 minutes or so and top up with more boiling water as necessary
Once cooled, the part-cooked puddings should now keep in a cool dark place for about a month or can be frozen for up to a year, then defrosted
On the day you want to serve the pudding – probably Christmas Day, but it’s your call – boil again for another 3 hours, then remove the lid and upturn onto a plate
If you have time on your hands, decorate with ‘holly leaves’ of sliced stem ginger and ‘holly berries’ of any leftover marinated cherries
Douse with more warmed Armagnac and ignite if you like. Serve with vanilla-laced cream, a dairy-free ice cream or the accompaniment of your choice
First published in 2015
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Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

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