Mix together all the base ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Grease 8 individual pudding basins or darioles with a little butter, then line the bases with circles of baking parchment.
Stir your choice of dried fruits, spices and liquid, plus nuts if you are using, into the base mixture. If you’re tailoring your puddings for each guest, then weigh out 225g/8oz base mixture per pud, before adding the extras (see brackets after ingredients for individual pud quantities).
Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 4 and boil the kettle. Fill each basin or dariole with pud mixture. Grease a large sheet of foil, then stick a large sheet of baking parchment on top. Cut it into 8 squares, large enough to cover the puds with overhang, and make a small pleat in each. Cover the puddings by scrunching foil round the edges to completely seal. stick a name label, written in biro, on top of each pud to help identify them when serving. sit the puds in a big roasting tin, pour hot water from the kettle into the tin until nearly halfway up the puds, then cook for 1 hr. Cool, then store in an airtight container somewhere cool and dark, for up to 2 weeks.
To serve, turn oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 5 after the Christmas dinner has come out, and put the puds back into a roasting tin with hot water, as above. Cook for 40 mins, then turn off oven and leave them there if you’re still eating. Carefully turn out onto serving plates, running a knife round the edge
to help release, then dust with a little icing sugar and top with holly, if you like.