Australia is a very multi-cultural nation, and as such I think it is sometimes difficult for us to describe a national Christmas tradition. The other side of that though is that we have a LOT of different traditions. We all have various traditions around national heritage, religion, community, family, and around food.
I’m sure that as you think about Christmas you are able to think about particular foods that just make it `Christmas’ for you. (I can see you drifting off as you think about them right now…….). There are usually some family favourites that come out on special occasions…..that leg of ham, Aunt Mary’s apple pie, your Grandma’s special stuffing in the chicken, Uncle Pete’s home brew. Our son Paul has always had a special favourite treat, apricot balls, which Grandma used to buy just for him at Christmas.
As we reflect on Christmas food traditions it’s not just the food, but the memories and the emotions that we have associated with it. Christmas cake is one of those special things for me. A huge, heavy, rich, dark, moist, aromatic fruit cake. Mmmmm. Making that cake, weeks or even months prior to Christmas, was an all day event in my childhood. Weighing and measuring all the ingredients…..creaming that full 500 grams (1 pound) of butter and the sugar (by hand until I was in my teens), then mixing it all together in a huge dish. Even preparing the baking tin with layers of greased brown paper took ages. Then after five or six hours in the oven, it took hours for the cake to cool before it could be packed away to wait till Christmas. It was a day of hard work and heavenly smells!! One I looked forward to every year.
As I set about getting out the Christmas recipes this year I wanted to find a healthy fruit cake recipe……one without grains!! What recipe to use? What could I substitute for wheat flour? Would it work? How can I make a primal Christmas cake?
On a hunch, I went to an old family recipe collection and pulled out a recipe we always called `Nana’s Boiled Fruit Cake’. It was always the fruit cake you made during the year, but never for Christmas. It’s smaller, but just as nice as the one I described earlier. And MUCH easier to make. (Maybe that’s why we made it during the year.)
So, here’s one of our family recipes, just for you.
Boiled Fruit Cake (or pudding)
- 460g (3 cups) dried mixed fruit
- 75g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
- 125g (1/2 cup) butter – or coconut oil if you prefer a dairy free cake)
- 250ml (1 cup) water
- 1 teasp. bi-carb soda
- 1 heaped teaspoon Allspice
- 1 egg
- 200g (2 cups) almond meal (put whole almonds into Thermomix bowl. Mill SPEED 8 / 7 SECONDS)
- 2 flat teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
Instructions: I prefer NOT to do any of these processes in the Thermomix. (I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true)
- Put the ingredients (from top half of list, mixed fruit through to allspice) into a saucepan and boil gently for about five minutes.
- Let cool.
- Then add all the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. It will be a thick goo-ey mixture.
- Bake two hours in a slow oven – approx. 150 degrees C (300 degrees F)
- Allow to cool thoroughly before storage.
I use an 20 cm (8 inch) diameter, round silicone cake dish for this. You could use any similar size pan. If not using silicone, make sure the pan is well greased and lined with baking paper.
Really, the only thing I changed from the original recipe is the flour and sugar. Where it had regular wheat plain and self-raising flour I have used almond meal and baking powder.
- When shopping for mixed dried fruit – be careful. I found that most brands have a variety of additives – vegetable oils, sugar, preservatives, colours, flavours. I did find one brand at a local health food shop that had only one of the nasties. The `cherries’ (artificial, coloured balls of sugar) were the offending item so I just removed them.
- I make my own almond meal in the Thermomix so I made half of it very fine (more like wholemeal flour) and left the other half more mealy, with larger particles.
- This cake will keep for a long time (weeks) in an airtight container, and longer in the fridge.
- For a richer flavour you could use Sherry or Port instead of water.
- The original recipe had 1 cup of sugar, which I changed to 1/2 cup of coconut sugar (rich in minerals). However, it is still very sweet so you could even leave out all of the sugar.
I made this cake early last week….and it’s gone!!!! One of my good friends was full of great comments about the cake, declaring it his all time favourite Christmas cake ever. Can’t get much better than that.
It’s time to get your Christmas cake made. And look out for more yummy Christmas goodies tomorrow.
UPDATE – Christmas 2014
- I’ve added weights for use with the Thermomix
- This recipe works well as mini Christmas puddings. It makes 12-15 reasonably large puddings in the silicone muffin pans I use. Reduce cooking time to 1 hour for puddings. (Note, these DO NOT cook well in the Thermomix Varoma.)
- Honest to Goodness make a dried fruit mix that has no nasty additives. It’s just dried apricots, raisins, sultanas, currants, cranberries, apple juice, and some rice flour to stop caking. It’s not cheap though. I have found it anywhere from $12.50 to $17.95 for a 1kg pack.
Happy healthy cooking,