Get everything prepared. Coarsely chop the almonds. Peel, core and chop the apples. Sharpen your knife and chop the candied peel. (You can chop the almonds and apples in a food processor, but the peel must be done by hand.) Grate three-quarters of the nutmeg. Mix all the ingredients for the pudding, except the butter, in a large bowl.
Holding the butter in its wrapper, grate a quarter of it into bowl, then stir everything together. Repeat until all the butter is grated, then stir for 3-4 mins – the mixture is ready when it subsides slightly after each stir.
Generously butter 2 x 1.2l/2pt bowls and put a disc of greaseproof paper in the bottom of each. Pack in the pudding mixture. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, pleating it to allow for expansion, then tie with string. Trim off any excess paper.
Now stand each bowl on a large sheet of foil, bring the edges up over the top, then put another sheet of foil over the top and bring it down underneath to make a double package (this makes the puddings watertight). Tie with more string and make a handle for easy lifting in and out of the pan.
Boil the puddings for 6hrs, topping up with water as necessary. Remove from the pans, then leave to cool overnight. When cold, discard the messy wrappings and re-wrap in new greaseproof or baking parchment, foil and string. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas.
To Make Brandy and Ginger Butter
Cream the butter with the orange zest and sugar. Gradually beat in the brandy or Cognac and chopped ginger. Put in a small bowl, fork the top attractively and put in the fridge to set. The butter will keep for a week in the fridge, or it can be frozen for up to 6 weeks.
On Christmas Day, boil the pudding for 1 hr. Unwrap and turn out. To flame, warm 3-4 tbsp brandy in a small pan, pour it over pudding and set light to it.