Original Post: Dec 25, 2020
Like most bibliophiles, the Victorian times holds a special place in my heart. I’m not a fan of the Victorian values, but I’ve accepted it as a part of our cultural evolution. Someday, when I’ve retired (if I get to retire – dropping a millennial truth bomb here), I would love to sit on a beach and re-read Dickens, Wilde, Dickens, and of course, my personal favorite – Hardy. While Jane Austen wasn’t technically of Victorian era, her books will feature in my post-retirement reading list.
I digress. Having read Victorian books, I’ve cherished the idea of someday eating an English, brandy-ed and set-on-fire pudding. And this year, the awful 2020, is the year that I’ve chosen to try the pudding. Now, I’ve had fruit cakes in the past (chuckle). But I’ve understood this particular dessert as being more dense and jammy.
I discovered Fortnum & Mason on the Williams Sonoma site and then found their puddings on Holt Renfrew. I was about to purchase the St.James pudding off of Holt Renfrew, when I decided to check out the retailer’s site. And, they have a bunch of puddings. The one I really wanted – Figgy Pudding – was out of stock. So I purchased their Magnificent Plum Pudding because it was one of the pudding options without Suet.
It arrived in around a week and it was very well packaged and wrapped. I chose the Plum Pudding because it comes with its own pudding bowl and a cloth cap to steam the pudding in. I decided to microwave mine and it took me about 5 mins on high speed to get it done. Then, on a whim, I decided to set it on fire and I settled for a controlled burn. I rent this place and I have no intention of setting it on fire.
I heated some brandy and poured it over the pudding and lit it. Unfortunately, my fear of starting a fire ensured that I used very less brandy and there wasn’t a bright blue flame as I expected. Nonetheless, sliced a piece for myself.
The pudding was very boozy. I could smell the Gin when I unboxed the pudding. The Brandy enhanced the flavors of the pudding but also added to the alcohol content. The pudding itself was very sweet. The sweetness overshadowed the rest of the flavors. Keep in mind that sweetness, like other tastes, are subjective; what I find very sweet, may be perfect for you. The dry fruits and nuts brought a welcome crunch. The highlight for me, funnily enough, was the caramelized orange slices! I whipped up some cream and added it, but I think it detracted from the taste. I would use actual whipped cream, the kind that has been beaten to stiff peaks.
What I loved:
- The packaging and presentation was, as the English say, Brilliant. It looked and felt luxurious. It was an experience that I enjoyed
- I did enjoy the pudding when it wasn’t very sweet; I enjoyed the bits with the nuts and the orange slices. I suspect I’ll enjoy their St.James pudding more.
What I can live without:
- My tolerance for alcohol is low so I could do without the Gin. I’ll probably be looking out for a rum-based pudding the next time
- The shipping costs
In conclusion, this is a luxury purchase. The pudding itself isn’t very expensive but the shipping puts it over the top. The pudding was priced at around CAD 69 and the shipping at CAD 45, plus duty of CAD 2.28, brings the Grand grand total to CAD 117 (rounded up). This would amount to around CAD 15 per person (the pudding serves 8). Which is around the price of dessert from Momofuku Milk Bar or Aburi at Miku.
That being said, I wouldn’t purchase it again next year. Instead I would purchase their St. James pudding from Holt Renfrew instead, reducing the shipping costs. Unfortunately, other British retailers like M&S do not sell pudding in Canada and it looks like Fortnum & Mason is the only option for the foreseeable future.
All in all, this was a fun experience and I enjoyed it.
Edit: When I was searching for instructions on how to light the pudding, I came across this review by Ben from Sorted. Here’s the video.
Also, here’s Daphne mentioning Grammy Moon’s pudding in Frasier – another reason why I wanted to try X’mas puddings.