Christmas pudding, my favourite.  I have been cooking this recipe for the last few years and it is now a staple of Christmas day.  This is a Good House Keeping recipe which I have altered a little bit to suit us.  This recipe uses Guinness to give a deep and fuller flavour, the dark rum compliments this and I love the stickiness that the dates give the pudding.



  • 250 g dried fruit mix (I like to choose one that has orange peel in it)
  • 75 g each of four other types of dried fruit (this year I am using, big yellow sultanas, cranberries and two lots of dates)imag2225
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 250 ml Guinness
  • Butter, to grease
  • 75 g vegetarian suet
  • 100 g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 60 g plain flour
  • 5 tsp each ground cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 50 g fresh white breadcrumbs



  1. Put the dried fruit, rum, Guinness, into a large non-metallic mixing bowl. Cover and leave to soak for at least 48 hours, I find that the extra time for soaking means the fruit takes up more of the alcohol.
  2. Lightly butter a 1 litre (1¾ pint) pudding basin and line the base
    with a disc of baking parchment. Put a 35.5cm (14in) square of foil on top of a square of baking parchment of the same size. Fold a 4cm (1⅛in) pleat across the centre of both together and set aside.imag2230
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the soaked fruit, stirring well. Really make sure that you get everything mixed together well and dispersed nicely. Spoon the mixture into the prepared basin, pushing down well. Level the surface. Put the pleated foil and parchment square (foil-side up) on top of the basin and smooth down to cover. Tie a long piece of string securely under the lip of the basin.
  4. To cook, put a heatproof saucer in the base of a large, deep pan. Lower in the prepared pudding and pour in enough water to come half-way up sides of basin, trying not to get any on top of pudding. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, then bring water to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 4½hr, topping up the water as necessary. Remove pudding from the pan and cool completely.imag2229
  5. When cool, wrap the entire basin, still with its foil lid, tightly in cling film and then another layer of foil. Store in a cool, dark place for up to two months


The Elf tip for this recipe is that you can use home brand dried fruit is just fine.  I also use a cheap dark rum because after all it is being cooked.  But, I always use branded Guinness and good quality golden syrup. 


Please do send me your recipes, I would love to try them!


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Birmingham Markets

Birmingham Christmas markets are the UK’s largest festive markets.  They fill up Victoria square and the surrounding streets.  The usual stalls a present and a huge variety of food stands and bars.

It’s easy to get to from Birmingham New Street station on foot.  Trains run regularly from London, they are quick and easy.  I would recommend booking in advance otherwise it can be a bit pricy.

We enjoyed the markets and sampled different types of mulled wine.  We had lots of options for food that are not always available at the traditional Christmas markets.  Between us we tried bratwurst, pies, fried potatoes, apple strudel and spiced cider as well as the mulled wine.  I took home some amazing donuts called Berliner which were delicious and come in so many amazing flavours.

The markets are child friendly but they are huge so I would anticipate some very tired legs!

We had a great time, I would recommend it as an adventure.  However, a lot of the stalls are similar to the ones you will find in your local Christmas market.

More information here


Christmas is coming!

We’ve come over all Christmassy!

So, we are at the Christmas Grand Sale at the Royal Horticultural society.  Close to St James’s Park it’s easy to get to, there are tickets available on the door or you can book in advance.  With over 60 stands with a huge variety amongst them.imag2217

There is everything from wreathes to Christmas lights.  Silk scarves to flashing woollen
hats for walking the dog in!

It’s a bit squished inside the hall but we make our way around and try olives and chutneys and pick up a few early Christmas gifts.  It’s a good place to pick up some designer shirts or jewellery at discounted prices.  We don’t actually spend all that much but just enjoy imag2220milling though the stands and only spend an hour or so.

A lovely morning to start the Christmas season we don’t feel like finishing there so we jump on the number 11 bus and ride down to Covent Garden.  The 11 bus is great if you want a nice trip past Westminster Abby, Houses of Parliament, Horse Guard’s Parade and Downing Street before passing Trafalgar Square and jump off at Southampton Street to make the short walk up to Covent Garden.  I very much recommend this route if you want to show of London to visitors or want a cheap way to see the highlights of London.

Covent Garden is very busy this time of year and the whole area is full of performers, but we wonder the stalls and enjoy the decorations before ducking down a side street for coffee and cake.

Elf’s 3 things to do Luang Prabang

Our favourite three things to do in Luang Prabang.  In no particular order.

One – Cooking school

This might not be for everyone, but we love taking cooking classes when we travel.  I think it is a great way to explore local ingredients and traditions.  Having read some of the reviews we decided to book in with Tamarind Cooking School.  The group is quite small which is nice, we head off to the main market which is Phousi Market.  It is a complete sensory overload, the smell, the colours, the noise, it is great.  We then drive up into the hills and to a lovely cooking school hidden up in the hills surrounded by streams and ponds, there is beautiful lush forest around us.  We cook five different dishes and lots of sauces to accompany them.  the setting its lovely, we are outside and I especially enjoy love cooking on the outside fires.  The food is delicious, the teaching easy to follow and we even leave with a book of the recipes we have tried out today.

Two – Waterfalls

There are lots of waterfalls to choose from, we visited two Tad Sae which is less touristy and easier if you want to take a dip.  It is so beautiful it’s hard to believe.  We also visited Kwang Si waterfalls, also beautiful, it takes a little bit more of a walk to get to the main falls, but its lovely.  At Kwang Si there is also the bear rescue centre which is wonderful, the bear rescue relies on donations to continue their work and actually receives no money from the entry fee to the waterfalls.  There is a strict modesty etiquette at all the waterfalls, there are changing rooms and bathrooms.


Three – Alms giving ceremony

Every day at dawn the monks from all the temples in Luang Prabang to collect alms.  I take up a quiet spot on a stair to watch.  The devotees start to appear as the sun is rising, they take up positions kneeling on the sides of the roads, they bring offerings, normally of rice although some will offer fruit or other items.  The monks pass in silent single file past the devotees, the monks take the offerings and place this into their metal bowls, this is the food that they will have for the day.  This is a lovely and beautiful spiritual experience.  I find it very moving and feel very privileged to have experienced this ritual.

Folk tale from Laos

One of my favourite things that I discovered when in Luang Prabang were monkey ear mushroom crisps.  The monkey ear mushrooms are a speciality of the area, the mushrooms are dehydrated and dried then flavoured with salt, kaffir lime leaves and chilli.  delicious!

When I was doing some research into folk tales, I came across this beautiful story about monkey ear mushrooms!  Here is a little excerpt, but if you would like to read more please head over to this lovely website Asian Folk Tales


Hanuman was puzzled. He did not know exactly what kind of mushrooms he should get for Queen Sida. Queen Sida herself could have told Hanuman what kind of mushrooms she would like if they were not monkey-ear mushrooms. Then Hanuman had an idea. “Don’t worry your majesty. I will bring you what you want.”

Hanuman flew off, and soon he was back again. With a great plop… he deposited the entire top of Oudomxay Mountain right in front of the palace.

“There you are, Your Majesty! What you want must be here somewhere. Just pick whatever you like!”

So, Queen Sida sent her servants to pick the mushrooms from the top of the mountain Hanuman had brought. That evening, the queen had the best monkey-ear mushrooms for dinner. She was grateful to Hanuman, for his wit and intelligence and for the most delicious meal in her life.