Christmas puddings put to the test

Caroline Stacey (and family) get all steamed up over the finest puddings on offer this festive season. Pass the brandy butter ...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Carved Angel

A cult pud, originally from the Dartmouth restaurant of the same name. Perfectly fruity, light and well balanced. If you had to fault it, it could have greater depth and an interesting dark side. £9.95 (340g), £15.95 (680g), £24.95 (1.6kg), plus £5.95 delivery, www.thecarvedangel.com, 01822 835020, delis and food halls.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference

Packed with fruit and nuts. A decent all-round crowd pleaser. Other Sainsbury's puddings include an organic one and one made with champagne. £6.49 (454g), £9.89 (907g), £11.99 (1.36kg)

Wilkin & Sons Organic

From the Tiptree family jam firm, a pudding that makes no extravagant claims but is simply outstanding. Refreshing, zesty, well rounded and light. No nuts or glacé cherries. £7.25 (454g) - non organic versions £6.55 (454g) and £9.25 (908g). Stockists 01621 817313, www.tiptree.com

The Village Bakery Organic Fairtrade

Nicely spicy, and especially gingery, not terrifically fruity, and with Brazil and cashew nuts. The same firm makes several other organic puds. £6.99 (450g) from Oxfam shops and www.village-bakery.com

Harrods Supreme

A fine vintage pudding with plenty of depth of flavour and a good impression of booze. A bit heavy on the almonds and pecan nuts. £8.95 (454g), £14.50 (1kg), £19.95 (1.36kg), from Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1, 020-7225 5894, www.harrods.com

Marks & Spencer Vintage

A pudding with gravitas. Graceful ageing has made it squidgy, with masses of plump, bouncy fruit, enough but not too many nuts and a lovely lingering aftertaste. One of several M&S puddings. £9.99 (907g)

Matthew Walker Festive Fruits

Crammed blowsily with cranberries, raisins and brandy-soaked cherries, and with a syrupy dollop on top, this pudding is distinctly boozy and too sweet. From the same people come classic, luxury and organic versions. £3.49 (270g), from supermarkets and food shops

Duchy Originals

Pleasingly soft and cakey, boozy but not aggressively so, gingery, not noticeably nutty, and not quite complex enough to be a champion. Also available in a ceramic bowl. £5.99 (454g) from Waitrose, John Lewis and independent food stores

Waitrose

Boozy and fresh tasting, rich but not heavy, slightly more fruity than nutty. Only just short of spectacular, and the best of the supermarket puddings. £6.99 (454g), £9.99 (907g), £12.99 (1.3kg)

Fortnum & Mason

Despite the rum and cognac, spices have the upper hand in this posh grocer's pudding. Overwhelmingly gingery, it's light, neither heavily fruity nor too sweet. £6.50 (227g), £22.50 (£1.36kg) from Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, London W1, 0845 300 1707, www.fortnumandmason.co.uk

Tesco Finest Ultimate

Like a repro four-poster bed, this feels like a fake. Smothered with glacé cherries and almonds, for all its showy appearance it's characterless, dully spiced and bland. You'd have to really, really like glacé cherries to enjoy this. Several other puddings available. £9.99 (907g)

Co-op Premium

Covers all booze bases with cider, brandy, sherry and rum, and the brandy particularly makes its mark. It's moderately rich, and certainly sweet, with good fruit and nuts (walnuts and almonds). The spice is right, but it's not one of the lightest on test. £4.29 (454g)

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