Christmas Pudding by Derek Johnstone, Head Chef at Borthwick Castle

Today is Stir-Up Sunday – the last Sunday before advent and, traditionally, the day when families would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding. As a wee boy grow-ing up in Erskine, this was always the time of year when my Granny May would get started on preparing her Christmas puddings. I was so excited to help her in the kitch-en, even

before I was tall enough to reach the worktop! I remember being allowed to stand on one of my Granny’s little chairs to reach up to the kitchen counter, where I was given the

important job of making sure all the ingredients were mixed together properly. Once the Christmas pudding had been stirred and given the seal of approval, Gran would transfer the mixture into an old biscuit tin, cover it with a lid and leave it in the kitchen to marinade for a couple of weeks. The sweet, spicy smell of the dried fruit, cherries and brandy filled the whole room once the lid was taken off. There’s nothing else quite like it.

We would cook the puddings just before Christmas, and this was where I could help out again. My job this time was to place the 20p piece into the pudding mixture before it was steamed for several hours. As a child, I never properly understood why I was

putting money in the Christmas pudding, but it seemed like a fun thing to do at the time. It’s a long-standing Christmas tradition that the silver coin brings good luck to whoever finds it in their serving of Christmas pudding. I must say though, biting down on such a thing that might cause a trip to the dentist with a cracked tooth, sounds fairly unlucky to me! For that reason, I probably wouldn’t recommend it now.

My own Christmas pudding recipe which I’m sharing with you today has been tried and tested over the years, and I must say I’ve always received positive feedback on it. I may even have converted a couple of my friends who always said they didn’t like Christmas pudding – I’m not sure if it’s the addition of Guinness, or something else altogether, but it’s definitely a winner. My wife, Ellie, and I use this recipe in our kitchen at home now, and, when time allows, we make extra and give them to our friends and family as

pre-Christmas gifts. It’s perfect served with a generous helping of apple brandy custard, a bunch of fresh redcurrants and a wee glass of dry sherry on the side.

Christmas Pudding Recipe


500g raisins

300g sultanas

300g currants

190g whole blanched almonds

375g suet

1 lemon, juiced

1 orange, juiced

1 carrot, peeled and grated

200g breadcrumbs

375g soft light brown sugar

6 whole eggs

A pinch of salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsps. mixed spice

125g candied orange peel, chopped

125g glace cherries

330ml Guinness

50ml brandy

200g plain flour

Redcurrants and holly springs, to garnish


1. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well, then cover and leave for at least 24 hours. Don’t worry about refrigerating, just pop it in a cool place in the kitchen.

2. Fill a large basin with the pudding mixture, then place a sheet of greaseproof paper over the top to stop the pudding drying out while steaming. Cover the basin with a muslin cloth, then tie it in place with string, under the lip of the pudding basin.

3. Place the pudding basin in a bain-marie and cook at 150°C/Gas Mark 2 for three hours.

4. Once cooked, tip the pudding onto a plate and garnish with a holly spring and redcurrants.