Place dried fruits in a bowl and pour rum or brandy over. Cover with cling film and stand overnight. In a large bowl, beat butter, rind and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring into butter mixture. Sift flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into another bowl with ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir soaked fruit into butter mixture, then stir in flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, until well combined. Stir in almonds and breadcrumbs. Line the base of a 1.5 litre, greased pudding basin with a circle of baking paper. Spoon mixture into basin and flatten top with a spoon. Cover with another circle of baking paper and then a piece of foil, wrapping foil snugly around edge of the bowl; secure foil with kitchen string. Place an upturned saucer in a large saucepan and sit the pudding basin on top of the saucer. Fill pan with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the basin. Cover pan with a lid and place over a high heat. When water has come to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cook pudding for 6 hours, still covered. Remove cooked pudding from saucepan. Allow pudding to cool, then refrigerate for up to 4 weeks until ready to serve. To serve, steam the pudding as before for 2½ hours. Remove pudding from saucepan, turn out onto a serving plate, dust with icing sugar and serve with brandy sauce (recipe follows).
¼ cup brandyMelt butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stirring continuously with a wire whisk, gradually add flour, then brown sugar, then milk to form a smooth paste, then add cream. Continue to whisk over a gentle heat to ensure sauce is smooth. When sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in brandy. Serve immediately.
Brandy sauce is the classic accompaniment to traditional Christmas pudding, but if you're running short of time, a dollop of thick cream or scoop of good-quality vanilla bean ice-cream both make delicious - and non-alcoholic - partners for your pud.