Ingredients :

2 cups raisins
3/4 cup sultanas
1/3 cup glace cherries, chopped
3/4 dried dates, chopped
1 small green apple, peeled and grated
2 1/2 tablespoons rum, brandy or sherry
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon golden syrup
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour

Serves about 14.

1. Stir raisins, sultanas, dates, cherries, apple and rum together in a large bowl until combined, and then set aside until required.

2. Cut a piece of aluminium foil and a piece of non-stick baking paper both about 20 inches long and 12 inches wide. On a flat surface, place the paper on top of the foil and align the edges. Fold a 2 inches wide pleat in the centre of the paper/foil running parallel to the shorter side. The paper/foil is used to cover the pudding while it cooks and the pleat allows for expansion.

3. Very generously grease a 6 cup capacity pudding basin with butter. Cut two strips of baking paper about 1 inche wide and 20 inches long. Press one strip across the base and up the sides of the basin so that the ends overhang on opposite sides of the basin. Repeat with the second strip, placing it at right angles to the first strip. These paper strips are used to help remove the cooked pudding from the basin. Line the base of the basin with a circle of non-stick baking paper (the circle should be placed over the strips).

4. Using an electric mixer or electric hand-held beaters, beat the butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Stop the machine occasionally and use a spatula to scrape down the side and base of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about one minute after each addition. Add the golden syrup with the last egg. The mixture may look curdled at this stage.

5. Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice together into the bowl with the butter mixture. Stir until combined. Add the flour and butter mixture to the bowl with the fruit and stir until well combined.

6. Spoon the pudding mixture into the prepared pudding basin, firmly pushing the mixture down with the back of the spoon to ensure that there are no air pockets. Smooth the surface of the pudding with the back of the spoon.

7. Place the prepared baking paper and foil over the basin with the baking paper side down. Mould the foil/paper down against the sides of the basin to form a lid.

8. Secure the lid by firmly tying a double-thickness of kitchen string just under the rim of the basin.

Trim off excess paper/foil so that only 1 inche extends below the around-basin string. Enclosing the baking paper, scrunch the 1 inche of foil up to form a good seal to prevent any water from coming in contact with the pudding.

9. Cut a 5 inches long piece of string and fold in half. Tie one end of the double-thickness piece of string to the string tied around the basin. Tie the loose end of the double-thickness string to the opposite side of the around-basin string. This forms a handle that you can use to lift the pudding. Repeat the procedure to make another handle at right angles to the first one.

10. Place an upturned saucer (don't use your best saucer as it may discolour) or trivet on the base of a large boiler or very large saucepan. Stand pudding basin on saucer or trivet and pour enough boiling water into the boiler or saucepan to come halfway up the side of the basin. Do not allow any string, baking paper or foil to come in contact with the water.

11. Cover the boiler or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (steam vent shut) and boil for 3.5 hours. Top up with boiling water, as necessary, to maintain the water level during cooking.

Using the handles, carefully remove the pudding basin from the boiler. Leave pudding to stand for 15 minutes.

Remove the string, foil and baking paper from the pudding. The pudding can be removed from the basin and served immediately or stored until required.

12. Removing from the basin
Run the blade of a knife around the inside of the basin, between the basin and the paper strips. Use the paper strips to pull the pudding away from the basin, helping to loosen the pudding. Wearing rubber gloves, hold a plate on the top of the pudding basin and invert. Lift the basin away from the pudding. If the pudding doesn't release from the basin, repeat the removal procedure. When the pudding releases, remove the circle of baking paper from the top of the pudding.

13. Storing
The pudding can be left in the basin and stored in the refrigerator, or removed from the basin and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

To store in the basin, use fresh paper/foil to cover the pudding as before, but without pleating the baking paper/foil. Refrigerate until required.

To store out of the basin, remove from the basin, following the removal instructions above. Allow the pudding to cool completely then tightly wrap in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator or freezer until required.

14. Reheating
Thaw frozen pudding for two days in the refrigerator. Remove pudding from refrigerator on the day of serving and set aside in a cool place until required. Pudding can be reheated in the microwave or reboiled.

15. Reboiling: If the pudding has been removed from the basin and wrapped in plastic wrap, you will need to remove the plastic wrap and return the pudding to the basin. Cover pudding and make handles using the same method as above (it is not necessary to pleat the paper/foil). Boil pudding, using above method, for 1 hour.

Remove the string, foil and baking paper and follow above directions for removing from basin (if applicable).

16. Serving
Cut hot pudding into wedges and serve with custard, cream, ice cream, brandy butter etc.