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Nick Nairn’s Christmas Recipe – Helston Pudding

FOODHelston Pudding

This makes an ideal lighter alternative to Christmas pud. And the definitive Cook School custard is the essential accompaniment – it’s one of our most popular recipes in classes. Make it from scratch with real vanilla and you’ll come away converted.

 Serves 4-6

For the pudding

50g self-raising flour
50g ground rice
50g fresh breadcrumbs
50g raisins or sultanas
50g currants
50g dried apricots, chopped

50g soft brown sugar
75g shredded suet
1 tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 tsp stem ginger, cut into thin strips

6 tsp golden syrup

30ml Grand Marnier

milk, to mix

soft butter, to grease the moulds


For the Cook School custard

150ml full fat milk

150ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out and reserved

3 egg yolks

30g caster sugar

To serve

clotted cream



First make the custard. Place the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a thick-bottomed pan and place over a high heat until boiling. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium sized bowl using a balloon whisk until thick, fluffy and pale.

Slowly pour half the hot milk and cream onto the egg and sugar mixture, whisking continually. Take the pan off the heat then use a heatproof spatula to scrape all the egg mixture from the bowl into the pan with the remaining milk and cream. Place the pan back on a medium heat and stir with a heatproof spatula until it starts to thicken. Make sure you cover the whole pan by stirring from side to side rather than round and round.

The mixture should begin to thicken within about 2 minutes. Undercook at this point and the custard will be thin. If, however, the milk becomes too hot then the egg will curdle. You’re looking for a temperature of 82C; the easiest way to gauge this is with a Thermapen digital thermometer (see If you don’t have one, watch for little puffs of steam escaping from the side of the pan. These are a warning that the custard is getting too hot, so take the pan off the heat and continue stirring.

When it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spatula, take off the heat and strain immediately through a fine sieve to remove any small lumps.

Serve immediately or store in a Thermos flask that’s been rinsed with boiling water, for up to 3 hours. Or to cool, pour into a clean bowl, cover with cling film that’s touching the surface to prevent a skin forming and chill in an ice bath. Keep in the fridge and use within 3 days.


For the puddings, take 4 individual quarter-pint pudding basins, preferably with lids, and grease them with the soft butter. Place a teaspoon of golden syrup and half a teaspoon of stem ginger into the bottom of each basin.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, then mix in all the rest of the dry ingredients, fruit, breadcrumbs and suet.

Add a little milk, golden syrup and Grand Marnier to the dry mix, to form a soft dropping consistency – but not too wet – then divide between the buttered pudding basins.

Cover securely and cling film the basins in case the lids pop off. Steam for an hour. If you’re making one large one, steam for at least 2 hours.

The puddings can be made in advance and warmed through still in their basins in hot water when needed then unmoulded onto serving plates. Serve with plenty of custard and a spoonful of clotted cream on top.