Cooking with Pat: Part 1.
The Hogan Family Christmas Pudding.

My mother-in-law Pat is a legendary cook.

Particularly when it comes to sweets.

You ask her grandchildren about her sponge cakes and her lamingtons and her Charlotte au Chocolat and her Chocolate Rum Pie and her 13 Layer Mocha Cake.

destinationhereandnow_oldhandwrittenrecipe and nutmeg

She is also a formidable individual.

All 5 foot nothing of her.

Terrifying I’m telling you 😉

Especially if you’re caught doing the wrong thing in her kitchen.

One of my favourite Hogan family stories from many years ago is of Steve’s brother picking Pat up, sitting her on top of the fridge and leaving her up there till she calmed down. Gorgeous.

destinationhereandnow_fruit soaked in brandy

So when I was given the job of cooking this year’s Christmas puddings, having never done them before, I thought I’d call on Pat to show me the ropes. Especially as I was using her grandmother’s handwritten recipe.

Pat's grandmother's recipe for christmas pudding

Deep breath.

Pass the brandy.


I wish life allowed more time for this, cooking side by side with someone who bosses you around someone you love.

destinationhereandnow_pudding basins

Neglecting to buy slivered almonds. Not having to rush.

Pat chopping almonds

Learning things that only a lifetime can teach you.

Mixing the pudding with Pat

It really was a lovely afternoon.

Pat greasing the pudding tins by hand

Learning that you must grease the pudding bowl by hand and use plenty of butter.

Greasing the tin by hand

Standing together with spoons in hand, tasting, tasting, agreeing that while the recipe calls for 1 gill of brandy, 8 tastes sooooo much better.

All done!

I have been really struggling with the whole Christmas thing this year. Not wanting to get sucked into the consumer vortex but also not wanting to be a bah humbug downer for the kids. Business confidence is at its lowest in Australia in three and half years. Steve’s been out of action for five weeks with more to come after a 70 kilo sheep charged him fair and square in the sternum. But you know what? As a new friend online said to me recently “Let those be my problems.”

We are not living in Syria.

Or – heartbreakingly – Newtown, Conneticut.

Today was a humble little taste of Christmas for me. What Christmas should be about. Being bossed around by an 86 year old 5 foot nothing dynamo who was so chuffed to share her pudding secrets. Not just with me. But with you.

This is a gift from Pat my friends.

Season to taste, with brandy, rum, sherry .. whatever you have on hand.

I love you Pat – and I’m sooooo glad you have a sense of humour 🙂




The Hogan Family Christmas Pudding

450g currants
450g sultanas
225g raisins
225g citron peel
120ml brandy
450g butter
450g brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
9 eggs
brandy, dry sherry, cointreau (because Pat forgot the Bundaberg Rum – honestly!)
112g SLIVERED! almonds lol
225g plain flour
1/2 a grated nutmeg (1 tsp)
1 big tsp mixed spice (you might want to add a bit more to taste at the end)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
225g breadcrumbs (processed from fresh white bread)

Soak the currants, sultanas, raisins and citron peel overnight in 120 ml (1 gill) of brandy.

Have 2 large boilers of boiling water in readiness ( the water needs to come no more than half way up the pudding tin).

Cream butter and sugar.
Add well beaten eggs.

Add grog. mmm… We started with about 3 lids of brandy and 3 lids of sherry.  to be continued…

Stir in fruit.
Add breadcrumbs and sifted dry ingredients.


(We added a bit more mixed spice, significantly more brandy and sherry (you’ve got to be able to taste the grog in it) and then a little more flour too help soak up said grog).

Da dah!

Put into 2 x 2 litre pudding tins, greased generously by hand with butter. Lids too.
Divide the mixture into both.
Cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.
Put the lids on. Fold the foil to the top. Clip lids into place then secure the lids with string – it also helps to pull the hot puddings out of the water.
Place in the boiling water – no higher than half. Boil for 4 hours. Set your timer regularly to check water levels. Every 20 min? Pat said the first hour is the most critical … try not to lose the heat when you check the water levels. Carefully top up with boiling water from the kettle as you need – just keep it near the edge of the boiler and not the pudding.

Don’t let it boil dry (like I did). Did I say that out loud?

Boil on Christmas Day for 2 hours.
Serve with brandy sauce and hard sauce.

Order a taxi.


P.S. I think we could have a sequel in us …  “The best sponge in the world” perhaps…

P.P.S. To those, whose hearts today, are breaking … for what it’s worth, our hearts are with you. Our love from far away. xx

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    1. Posted 16 December 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Sorry to hear about Steve, Marg. I hope he is steadily heading toward better health. I’ve never heard of a sheep attacking before, I take it such things are unusual?

      Anyway, a beautiful blog and thank you for the recipe.

      There is great beauty in Pat’s face. I particularly loved the image of her hands with all the rings and both your heads bowed over the bowl.

      Wishing you and the family peace and contentment at Christmas and for the new year.


      • Marg
        Posted 16 December 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Not entirely unusual Helen. He had his nose broken once before from another one – again in the yards. I could write a whole post on Steve’s injuries over the years poor thing. A farmer boy’s lot!
        Glad you enjoyed it and try the pudding recipe. It is delicious.
        For all my teasing, Pat is a darling – one of the kindest, most generous women I know. One of life’s great characters.
        Christmas wishes to you too. Here’s to a bright 2013.

    2. Janeen Hosemans
      Posted 16 December 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I tried to read the papers today but couldn’t see through my own tears. Your post was timely Margie. Beautiful women, beautiful sentiments, a beautiful pudding recipe to treasure and yes, I agree, the real meaning of Christmas. xx

      • Marg
        Posted 16 December 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        xox Thanks J. I couldn’t go near the papers 🙁

    3. Maja
      Posted 17 December 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Thank you Margaret for posting this! It is so beautiful to see you together with your mother-in-law. It made me miss mine, we used to cook like this as well, her way 🙂 Soon it will be 8 years that she is gone, she was only 54… But the love remains and I happily remember such moments.
      Have a wonderful Christmas!

      • Marg
        Posted 17 December 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Ah I’m glad you liked it Maja. Special indeed. It’s the little things hey.

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