To find the best-tasting Christmas puddings, we bought a dozen from local supermarkets to put before our panel of chefs.
They were Sammy Mashile, executive chef at Kievits Kroon Country Estate, pastry chef Dilene Boyd who owns Schweet Emporium in Centurion, and Franco Lambaise, who is known for his exquisite wedding cakes.
All the puddings were heated in a microwave according to the instructions on the packages.
Without knowing the brands they were tasting, the chefs then judged them according to appearance, fruitiness, taste and value for money.
Perhaps to be expected, the best-tasting pudding (and also the biggest) turned out to be among the most expensive – Pick n Pay’s Hidden Orange Centre Christmas Pudding at R199 for 1.2kg. The judges deemed it special and delicious.
The Checkers Christmas Pudding came in second, while Pick n Pay’s golden pud grabbed the third spot.
Pick n Pay Hidden Orange Centre Christmas Pudding R199 for 1.2kg
Franco: Nice surprise to find the orange inside, the pudding tastes excellent.
Sammy: I love the orange inside and it is done beautifully and is very tasty.
Dilene: The orange inside is soft and delicious. Although it’s expensive, it is very special.
Checkers Christmas Pudding R89.99 for 900g
Franco: It has a good flavour and a wonderful smell of brandy.
Sammy: It tastes very good but I would prefer more cherries.
Dilene: It has a nice taste and there are not too many cherries.
Pick n Pay Golden Christmas Pudding with edible gold glitter. R179.99 for 907g
Franco: This pudding has a very nice fruity aftertaste.
Sammy: A very nice looking and tasting pudding.
Dilene: The glossy fruit on top looks yummy, but it is very expensive.
Spar Freshline Christmas pudding R69.99 for 700g
Franco: It has a good colour but not a pleasant taste.
Sammy: It smells better than it tastes.
Dilene: It seems very pasty in the middle although there is enough fruit.
Woolworths Brandy Christmas Pudding R69.95 for 450g
Franco: Nice quantity of nuts and there seems to be grated carrot in it.
Sammy: It is very fruity, there is almost nothing binding it.
Dilene: It has a nice citrus flavour.
Pick n Pay Rich Christmas Pudding R89.99 for 900g
Franco: It has quite a strong aftertaste.
Sammy: It tastes a bit of rancid nuts.
Dilene: Although it is good value for money, the taste is not great.
Woolworths Panettone Brandy Pudding R79.95 for 450g
Franco: It has quite a fatty taste. I could not find any chocolate chunks.
Sammy: The caramel outer coating tastes strange.
Dilene: There are hardly any cranberries and it doesn’t taste like Christmas.
Woolworths Golden brandy Christmas Pudding R149.95 for 900g
Franco: It has a generous amount of fruit and nuts.
Sammy: The gold glitter sprinkled on it makes it look good.
Dilene: The outside part of the pudding has a very strange, bitter taste.
Checkers Huntley & Palmers imported Christmas Pudding R49.99 for 750g
Franco: There is not enough fruit. This pudding is tasteless.
Sammy: It looks good but the taste is very disappointing. There isn’t enough fruit or spice.
Dilene: This one is cheap and nasty.
Pick n Pay Hidden Cherry Centre Christmas Pudding R179.99 for 900g
Franco: The pudding is very sweet because of the cherries but not at all unpleasant.
Sammy: It has a generous amount of fruit and nuts and tastes good, but it’s very pricey.
Dilene: It contains lots of fruit and nuts but if you don’t like cherries, you won’t like it.
Woolworths Summer Berry Christmas Pudding R169.95 for 450g
Franco: It looks like a red velvet Christmas pudding, and isn’t worth what it costs.
Sammy: Quite stodgy and not very nice to eat.
Dilene: It has a very floury or cornfloury aftertaste and the texture is stodgy. It’s not good value for money.
Woolworths non-alcoholic Christmas Pudding R49.95 for 450g
Franco: Not a nice pudding at all – bring back the brandy.
Sammy: No taste at all – it’s not worth leaving the brandy out.
Dilene: Pale and unappetising, and it tastes terrible.
AND A RECIPE
The late Isabel Jones’s favourite recipe
Makes 6-8 small or 2 large puddings
125g mixed peel
50g nibbed almonds
225g fresh white breadcrumbs
250g shredded Atora suet
60ml orange marmalade
2 large lemons
pinch of salt
10ml ground nutmeg
10ml ground cinnamon
330ml milk stout
3 jumbo eggs
Combine fruit, almonds, breadcrumbs and suet and mix well. Add the marmalade and grated rind and juice of the lemons. Sift the flour and spices and add to the mixture.
Beat the stout with the eggs and add to form a moist but not sloppy mixture.
PREPARE THE BOWLS: Grease 2 large or 8 small oven-proof bowls with butter or spray, and line the bases with grease-proof baking paper.
Divide the fruit mixture among the bowls. If using large bowls, put circles of buttered baking paper straight on top of the mixture.
Then take a double sheet of baking paper and fold a pleat in the middle. (This pleat will expand during steaming, allowing the pudding to rise slightly without bursting the paper.)
Cover the top of the bowl with this paper, securing it with string around the top of the bowl. (You can use an elastic band to hold the paper while you tie the string.)
Place the two puddings in a large saucepan on an upturned saucer and add water to come three-quarters up the side of the bowl. Steam for 5-6 hours, adding water as required.
To steam the 8 smaller puddings, place them in a large oven-roasting pan. Fill pan with water halfway up the bowls. Cover the whole pan with foil, securing tightly to form a seal.
Place in the oven at 160°C and cook for 3-4 hours, checking the level of the water after 3 hours and replenishing if necessary. Cool the puddings in the bowls before removing.
TO SERVE: Warm in microwave for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size, on a medium setting or steam for 1 hour in a saucepan. The longer you steam the puddings the darker they become.