|Christmas comes early with a mini hamper containing Itha's traditional pudding + a brandy butterscotch dessert sauce.|
Last week I received a complimentary treat in the mail, a little gift box containing a traditional Christmas plum pudding, and a bottle of brandy butterscotch sauce by Itha's Puddings & Gourmet Foods.
Truth be told, Itha Sanders, founder of Itha's Puddings, is a marketer's dream. An 80-year-old grandmother who has been hand-making her gourmet Christmas puddings for over 50 years (but only started selling them in 2010), using a traditional "cooked in the cloth" recipe inherited from her grandmother. How wonderfully old-school can you get?
This is what the pudding exterior looks like, with a dark, glistening pudding skin.
|Itha's pudding, after unwrapping.|
And this is how the pudding interior looks like - rich, moist, and heavy with fruit.
|Cross-section of Itha's pudding.|
In short, this is a quality pudding I could happily eat at home, or bring to a Christmas party. The only main downside has to do with dietary needs or preferences. The pudding and the dessert sauce I received are not preservative-free, and the sauce is also not vegetarian or vegan-friendly due to the presence of gelatine. If you can get past that, though, Itha's products are worth trying. I've tried the pudding both hot and cold, and enjoyed it both ways - it just really depends on the weather, and what I feel like at the time. The brandy butterscotch was beautifully smooth and luxurious, too. Together, they make a decadent combination. It's also a very sweet treat, as expected, so personally I enjoy my slice with a herbal tea to balance things out a bit. Yes, I know the usual pairing is to have Christmas pudding with ports and liqueurs, but I guess I'm a tame one.
|A slice of traditional pudding with brandy butterscotch sauce.|
But, wait, there's more! Here's a wine spritzer recipe which does happen to work nicely with port wines, and also, potentially, other reds, especially in the form of dessert wines or fortified wines. Going the spritzer route means that it's lighter, being diluted with soda; and cooler, with the addition of ice cubes. It's a hot Christmas and New Year's in Australia, so a cold, sparkling drink can be very welcome, indeed.
I created this recipe because a while ago, Simon bought a bottle of tawny port which was, quite frankly, rather unimpressive. I even remember asking him to re-consider the purchase at the time, because I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good, but did he listen? NO. So now we have this wine that neither of us really want to drink, with the choice to either bin it... or re-purpose it.
I chose to take on the challenge of giving it a new lease of life, and this cranberry port spritzer was born. If you, too, have a similarly regrettable purchase, this recipe may just rescue it. No guarantees, but it did make our wine more drinkable, and even enjoyable.
cranberry port wine spritzer
(makes 1 serve)
1/3 cup port wine (or other red wine, especially one that is a fortified wine or dessert wine)
1/3 cup cranberry juice drink
1/3 cup soda water / sparkling mineral water / carbonated water
3 ice cubes
Pour port wine, cranberry juice and then soda water into a glass. Top with ice cubes. You may adjust the ratio of the different liquids according to your taste. If you're feeling fancy, quickly bruise some fresh mint or basil leaves by pressing, rubbing and pinching them between your fingers, then add them to the mix as well.
Note: This can be a vegetarian/vegan recipe, but you'll have to use a vegetarian/vegan wine - many wines are clarified using animal products.