As the days shorten, the culinary wizards at RHS Garden Wisley get ever more creative
People talk about how busy the festive season is but after all the bustle around the Wisley Christmas craft fair in late November, and knowing how busy we’ll be once Butterflies in the Glasshouse opens in January, December comes as something of a relief in our kitchens.
We’ve started serving traditional turkey dinners to guests in the Restaurant, and turkey baps are going down a storm in the Food Hall. For these we use Gatcombe Park or Devon Rose turkey, making sure everyone has a bit of dark and white meat, and layer them with sage and onion stuffing and cranberry and gin relish that we make ourselves.
Naturally, the baps come from Wisley bakery too! The onsite bakery also makes our mince pies and we expect to sell around 3,000 over the Christmas period.
Classic favourites with a seasonal twist
To be honest, we’re struggling a little to keep up with demand for our Christmas twist on the famous Wisley sausage rolls. The basic pork and apple version is one of the most popular things we sell and because the recipe is so good, I didn’t want to play around with it too much. So for the festive season I’ve replaced just some of the apple with dried cranberries and added nutmeg, allspice, marjoram and sage. Wrapped in all butter puff pastry, they are a great way to warm up a chilly afternoon in the garden.
Our Christmas puddings have been maturing for some weeks now. We made about 100 kilos of them and they will be the finale of the Christmas meals we serve to RHS staff in the Restaurant this month. I’ve personally relied on this recipe for years but this is the first year we’ve served it at RHS Garden Wisley. It’s a very boozy concoction that features rum, whisky and cider, and of course we’ve used Wisley’s own cider for to make them. I hope you enjoy and, from everyone at Taste of Wisley, best wishes for the season.
Taste of Wisley Christmas Pudding
At Wisley we make these with gluten-free flour and gluten-free breadcrumbs, plus vegetarian suet, so that everyone can enjoy some Christmas pudding. Feel free to play around with the ingredients. If liked, you can replace the whisky and rum with port and dry sherry, and swap the black treacle for golden syrup to make a lighter style of pudding more reminiscent of panettone. In my house we always add more cherries!
Makes 2 x 500g puddings
150g vegetable suet
90g soft brown sugar
60g plain flour
60g fresh breadcrumbs
25g ground almonds
30g black treacle
60g glacé cherries
120g currants, soaked in cold tea
50g dried figs, chopped
40g dried cranberries
40g glacé ginger, chopped
25g mixed dried peel
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 small eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
30ml dark rum
butter or margarine, for greasing
If you prefer to use Imperial measurements, use the an online measurement converter.
Combine all the ingredients, except the cider and butter, in a very large bowl and mix well. Stir in just enough of the cider to make the consistency wet but not liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least a week.
Cover the surface of each pudding with a disk of greaseproof or silicone paper, then wrap completely in three layers of cling film. Steam in the traditional manner for 2-3 hours, or cook in a pressure cooker on a low setting for about 90 minutes. The longer you cook the pudding the darker it gets; some people prefer a lighter pudding.
Serve hot with brandy butter or whipped cream sweetened and flavoured with a splash of your favourite spirit.