Stirring up Trouble over the Holidays!

13931136439_00b19dac8a_bHappy New Year!


I hope you all had marvellous holidays. Mine were simply fantastic, and that’s all down to my readers. Because of fans like you reading, liking and sharing the short stories “Stirs Up Trouble,” “Cooks His Goose” and “Key of D,” Mister Mottley hit the top 5 of the Amazon Short Mysteries chart, not once or twice, but three times in the month of December, and Gets His Man had its best month ever in sales and page-reads.


Outstanding! Thank you so much!


By a fortuitous circumstance, I got to taste my first plum pudding this Christmas, just like the traditional dish featured in “Mister Mottley Stirs Up Trouble” – though without any silver charms or other “special” ingredients, thank goodness. In honor of my hostess, I share with you the original recipe for Mrs. Isabella Beeton’s Christmas pudding, with brandy butter sauce.

beeton cover
(This volume has not been assaulted as poor Mrs. Beeton was in the story)


INGREDIENTS.—1 wineglassful of brandy, 2 oz. of very fresh butter, 1 glass of Madeira, pounded sugar to taste.
Mode.—Put the pounded sugar in a basin, with part of the brandy and the butter; let it stand by the side of the fire until it is warm and the sugar and butter are dissolved; then add the rest of the brandy, with the Madeira. Either pour it over the pudding, or
serve in a tureen. This is a very rich and excellent sauce.
Sufficient for a pudding made for 6 persons.

[I assume “pounded sugar” is powdered sugar. Talk about flambe – this thing is set to go up like a rocket.]



(Notice anything conspicuously missing? This one kills you slowly, with saturated fat, rather than smack dab at the table.)

INGREDIENTS.—1-½ lb. of raisins, ½ lb. of currants, ½ lb. of mixed peel, ¾ lb. of bread crumbs, ¾ lb. of suet, 8 eggs, 1 wineglassful of brandy.
Mode.—Stone and cut the raisins in halves, but do not chop them; wash, pick, and dry the currants, and mince the suet finely; cut the candied peel into thin slices, and grate down the bread into fine crumbs. When all these dry ingredients are prepared, mix them well together; then moisten the mixture with the eggs, which should be well beaten, and the brandy; stir well, that everything may be very thoroughly blended, and press the pudding into a buttered mould; tie it down tightly with a floured cloth, and boil for 5 or 6 hours.

It may be boiled in a cloth without a mould, and will require the same time allowed for cooking. As Christmas puddings are usually made a few days before they are required for table, when the pudding is taken out of the pot, hang it up immediately, and put a plate or saucer underneath to catch the water that may drain from it. The day it is to be eaten, plunge it into boiling water, and keep it boiling for at least 2 hours; then turn it out of the mould, and serve with brandy-sauce.

On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wineglassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.

Time.—5 or 6 hours the first time of boiling; 2 hours the day it is to be served.
Average cost, 4s.
Sufficient for a quart mould for 7 or 8 persons.
Seasonable on the 25th of December, and on various festive occasions till March.

Note.—Five or six of these puddings should be made at one time, as they will keep
good for many weeks, and in cases where unexpected guests arrive, will be found an
acceptable, and, as it only requires warming through, a quickly-prepared dish. Moulds
of every shape and size are manufactured for these puddings, and may be purchased
of Messrs. R. & J. Slack, 336, Strand.

I was a bit nervous about the suet, I must confess. Beef fat in the dessert? But of course, some of the best pie crust is made with lard, and bacon is the trendy ice-cream flavor nowadays. In fact, the pudding was perfectly delicious — especially with the sauce!

And while we’re on the topic of bacon, some of my non-US and non-Southern Twitter followers were intrigued with the tradition of eating Hoppin’ John for good luck on New Year’s Day. I promised them a recipe, so here goes:


Ingredients: 3-4 slices of bacon; 1 onion; 1 bell pepper; 3 stalks of celery; 3 1/2 – 4 cups cooked black eyed peas; 2 cups chicken broth; 1 cup rice.


Theoretically, the bacon is a condiment and adds fat for sauteeing, but really you can go as bacony as you like. I prefer to use brown rice, as it holds up better and gives me the plausible deniability of extra fiber, but white rice is more traditional. You can soak and cook the peas in advance, or you can cheat like me and just use 2 cans’ worth.


Dice the bacon and fry it up. Dice the veggies and add them when the fat is released. Saute them till tender. Add the beans, then the broth. Bring to a boil and add the rice.

Simmer 45 minutes for brown rice, 20 minutes for white.


The more peas you eat, the more good luck you will have! Serve with collard greens, (representing money) and eat yourself rich!

[If only.]

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.
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