Festive treats from McLaren’s Pure & Natural
PUBLISHED: 12:08 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:08 16 November 2015
Stephanie Mackentyre meets the mother and son team behind McLaren’s Pure & Natural in Chelmsford and their famous Christmas puddings
THE very first commercially viable McLaren Christmas pudding came in 1999, but as her son Duncan explains, Sarah McLaren has been making delicious puddings for many years.
‘Mum had a way of making scrumptuous puddings for us four children for many years. Christmas pudding for children usually isn’t that popular as it can be quite bitter and a bit stodgy, but we’ve grown up loving her recipe,’ says Duncan.
Sarah is formally an event caterer for 40 years and she used to work from her farmhouse in Maldon. Eventually it was her cakes which became most popular, with her recipe for carrot cake even winning awards.
‘I think it’s the attention to the quality of her ingredients,’ adds Duncan. ‘Our puddings, for example, aren’t bulked up with suet. Mum uses butter, which is more expensive but it does give it a much better flavour and makes them suitable for vegetarians. Other secrets are the quality of the fruit she uses and of course her special method. Her puddings still taste as if they were made in a farmhouse kitchen with love and care.’
Sarah launched her puddings when she managed to get a spot at London’s Borough Market, which is notoriously difficult to secure a pitch at, and her puddings took off from there. Year on year the business has grown and become more popular and now Sarah is also exhibiting at Christmas Markets around the country, including at Blenheim Palace.
‘It’s still a seasonal product, although we find people like to buy two and keep one for Easter as they do have a two-year shelf life,’ adds Duncan. Their longevity is not due to any artificial preservatives or additives either; it’s down to the heavy content of proper brandy used.
And this Christmas is set to be McLarens busiest yet after a recent Financial Times supplement recently featured McLarens Christmas Puddings. ‘It came completely out of the blue, which was a huge compliment for us. We also regularly have Michelin chefs coming to us to buy their puddings, but we are sworn to secrecy as to which ones!’
Duncan explains the process isn’t a quick one and therefore it’s understandable that chefs from top restaurants would rather let Sarah make them. ‘Each pudding has to have the right amount of time to properly mature to create a rich flavour, so it’s not something you can rush in a large industrial-sized kitchen.’
Sales are booming with between six and ten tonnes of Christmas puddings sold every year. ‘It’s still a small cottage industry and we intend to keep it that way. We supply to as far afield as Hong Kong, to a slightly upmarket supermarket there. We supplied them last year and they sold out.’