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Wet your tea towel or cloth and baking parchment under the tap then squeeze out the excess moisture. Spread out the towel on the work surface then place two pieces of parchment (the length and width of the tea towel) in a cross on top and lightly oil or butter them. Put a very large pan of water on to boil with an upturned plate in the base.
Tip the breadcrumbs, flour, suet, sugar, salt, bicarbonate of soda, spices and dried fruit in a large bowl and stir to mix. Whisk the treacle or syrup into the milk and egg using a fork until well blended then stir the mixture into the dried ingredients with the blade of a cutlery knife to make a soft dough.
Dust the paper generously with sifted flour then place the dough in the centre of the cross and shape into a round with your hands. Bring the paper up round the pudding and tie at the top with string. Trim off the excess paper with scissors then wrap in the cloth and tie in the same way. Lower into the pan of simmering water, cover with a lid and boil for 3 hours until firm. Check the water level every now and then and top it up if necessary.
Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C /gas 4. Tip the pudding into a colander to drain and then carefully peel off the cloth and paper. Place the pudding on an ovenproof dish and bake for 15 mins to dry it off and produce the classic skin. Serve sliced with custard, cream or ice cream and a dram of whisky if you like.