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Q: I’m planning a trip to London for the holidays and am told that the Christmas pudding is not to be missed. What’s up with that?

A: When the Cratchit family gathered ’round for the big feast of goose and taters at the end of “A Christmas Carol,” everything seemed pretty much legit … until dessert. Then there was the mention of a Christmas pudding, a confusing reference for many Americans who may have pictured a big, steaming bowl of goopy chocolate Jell-O.

In reality the traditional English Christmas pudding couldn’t be further from a dish of tapioca, said Di Blain, who works with English pudding specialists M Ray Limited.

“A Christmas pudding is nothing like that,” Blain said. Instead, it’s a blend of bread crumbs, fruit, sugar raisins and spices (and often brandy) mashed together and steamed for several hours.

The result, said aficionado Paul Denyer, who runs a pudding-focused Web site, is an almost fruitcake-like dessert dish that’s heavy, but not too dense, “with a rich heady aroma of fruit and sweet and just a hint of alcohol/brandy.”

To be served traditionally, the pudding is splashed with warm brandy and set alight, then brought into the dining room with a great flourish, often with the lights off, Denyer said.

Served with brandy butter, cream or custard, it’s a time-honored English dessert.

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