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Of Cats and Xmas Pudding

6 November 2002

I really should've known not to be so stupid. I said Sophie was living pretty much symptom-free; suddenly, of course, she goes down with lots of symptoms. She was booked into the vet this afternoon; all this day I have been hoovering, tidying, and making a Xmas pudding. Displacement activities at their finest (last time she had to have an operation, I reorganised all my children's books into alphabetical order...).

This time the vet says she has cystitis, and associated infections. So she's been stuck full of needles, and now we've come home with Dr Percy's Pink Pills for Pale Pussycats. There's a twenty-point instruction sheet that circulates the internet, 'How to Give Your Cat a Pill', that describes blood & mayhem and of course ends up with the pill still not down the cat. Happily, Sophie is a perfect being; we sneer at mortal troubles. I tease her cheeks, she opens her mouth, I toss the pill in and she swallows. What's all the fuss about?

The Xmas pudding, though: it's a wondrous thing. One of those where you feed a spoonful to people who claim not to like Xmas pudding, and they all say "Oh, actually, that's really nice..." and ask for more. I don't know whose recipe it was to start with, I clipped it out of a newspaper long ago and neglected to clip the author's name. If anyone can recognise the original from what survives ten or a dozen years of my playing around with it, do let me know; I hate good work to go uncredited.

The Unknown Cook's Organic(-ish)* Xmas Pudding

*It's as organic as I can make it; does anybody know where to get organic amaretti?

Half a pound each of: wholemeal breadcrumbs, and chopped raisins, sultanas, dried apricots
A handful of amaretti, crunched up
Ditto almonds, blanched and chopped
A couple of ounces of ground almonds
An apple, grated
The zest of an orange
Cinnamon, mace, cardamom, cloves, allspice
A couple of tbsps of serious chunky marmalade
The juice of the same orange
Four eggs
A hefty slug of armagnac, and a gill of old brown sherry

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Put the wet ones (inc marmalade) into another, and beat like fury. Then pour the second over the first, and mix again. At this point, make your Xmas wishes (NB - do not omit this step!) Cover the bowl and leave it overnight.

Next day, almond-oil a pudding basin, pack in the mixture good and tight, and cover with greaseproof paper. Put it in a big pan, fill with boiling water to a point halfway up the basin, cover and boil steadily for six hours.

Let it cool in the liquid, then rewrap in fresh greaseproof and foil. Store somewhere cool & dark, and boil for a couple of hours more before serving.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2002
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.