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December 2019 – John McRae Photography & Studio


The year is almost over, Xmas looms in a couple of days and I have a bit of time on my hands.

Yesterday I made the annual Xmas pudding. I enlisted the help of my Tasmanian friend, Rob, who dropped in to pay his respects. We both set about creating the 2019 version of my mother’s Xmas pudding.

I thought it may be a nice idea to share the recipe on my blog page, together with a pictorial explanation of the necessary steps. Rob agreed to be photographed for the exercise.

Let me introduce you to Rob. He’s a young doctor working in a remote area of Tasmania and is very happy to help out on the Xmas pudding front on his time off from the hospital emergency department. I thought the Maltese apron very appropriate since we both met for the first time on the island of Malta back in 2008. ©johnmcrae


  • 6 Table spoons of Butter
  • 2 Small Cups of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Cups of flour
  • 1 Cup of Sultanas
  • 1 Cup of Raisins
  • 1 Cup of Mixed Peel
  • 1/2 Cup of Currants
  • 2 Oz Blanched Almonds
  • 2 Tsp Bi-Carbonate of Soda
  • 6 Tsp Mixed Spice
  • 2 Tsp of Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp of Nutmeg
  • 1 Tsp Ginger
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of Treacle
  • Vanilla Essence
  • Essence of Brandy or in fact Brandy. You choose
  • 4 Tablespoons of Apricot Jam
  • 1/2 Cup of Orange Juice

Additional notes on ingredients: I don’t add the orange juice in my version of mums recipe….doesn’t make sense to me. I also add prunes to the mix. Cut up quite finely of course. I also put in 3 eggs, rather than 2….creative license. You can add and substitute different fruits, such as glazed cherries (I don’t like them), apricots, pears….etc.

Actually you can take quite a bit of creative license with a plum pudding…..it’s not like the delicate sponge, souffle or cream puff, where too much variation may result in tears. So feel free to add your own personal touch whatever that may be…..


Gather all the ingredients….

Make sure you have all the ingredients ready at your finger tips ©johnmcrae

Prepare the fruit: Measure it out, chop where necessary and put it all into a large bowl

  • Almonds need to be cut up into smaller pieces
Rob cutting the almonds into smaller pieces. Note the body position for better leverage. You will find your own style and best practice for this activity. ©johnmcrae
Close up of Rob’s almond cutting style with his “healing hands”. ©johnmcrae
In this frame Rob has decided to sit down as he further completes the task of cutting the almonds into smaller pieces. He looks very happy with the way things are going so far. ©johnmcrae
  • Sultanas don’t need to be cut…put them in the bowl directly
  • Currants are already very small so no cutting required
  • Raisins should be cut into thirds (in my opinion)
Rob showing how he has measured out 1 cup of sultanas, as the recipe suggests. ©johnmcrae
Rob making very sure he has delivered the required 1 cup of sultanas. His scientific training has given him an appreciation of sticking to the recipe and the suggested amounts. ©johnmcrae
I suggest using home grown Australian fruit for your plum pudding. Why go for that more expensive imported produce when it is simply not necessary. ©johnmcrae
As mentioned raisins need to be cut into smaller pieces. I would say thirds is what you should aim for. Here Rob is happily cutting the raisins into thirds. ©johnmcrae
Prunes are large. They certainly need to be cut into smaller pieces and be careful to remove the stone….Rob, completely focused, is showing his brilliant technique of “prune stone removal” in the above pic. ©johnmcrae
  • put all the fruit together in a bowl and mix
  • essence and or alcohol can be added at this stage to the fruit
  • Some recipes advise soaking the fruit for a day or two in the alcohol/essence before preparing the rest of the pudding. But who has 2 days to spend on making a plum pudding?
The bowl containing the mixture of fruit and essence/alcohol ©johnmcrae

Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl, either with your hand, wooden spoon or in a mix-master type beater. See pic below: The butter and sugar is beaten until the consistency becomes homogenous and creamy….in fact one says, “cream the butter and sugar”.

This is the mix-master we used to beat and mix our pudding. It’s an old kenwood that I purchased in my first year of university many, many, many years ago….it’s still going. ©johnmcrae
View of the butter and sugar ready for mixing ©johnmcrae
Here the butter and sugar is creamy, well mixed and ready for the next step ©johnmcrae

Next: Add the eggs Note…..the eggs should be added at room temperature. Take them out of the fridge well before (if you keep your eggs in the fridge). I put the eggs in a bowl and beat them a little first before I put them in the pudding mixture. I add half the quantity of eggs and stir them until they are blended into the mixture….I then add the rest of the eggs and beat them similarly.

Rob is adding the last of the eggs to the mixture. ©johnmcrae

At this point you can add the vanilla essence….a couple of tea spoons.

Rob displays the vanilla essence©johnmcrae

We’re up to the mid point of the process….the adding of the dry ingredients and the fruit.

Make sure you sift all the dry ingredients together before you add them to the mixture….see pic below.

Rob is sifting together all the dry ingredients: the flour, soda and all the spices. ©johnmcrae

Add the flour…..about half the quantity. Once that is well combined into the mixture you then add around half the quantity of fruit. When the fruit is mixed in you may add any alcohol or essence that you decide to put in for extra flavour. You repeat the process until all the dry ingredients and fruit are combined.

For this process you can shed the electric mixer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to hand mix the flour and the fruit. Some die-hards would never use the electric beater….they feel you get a better result if hands or a wooden spoon are enlisted. I’ll leave it up to you.

Rob is adding the sifted flour etc. ©johnmcrae
Rob is adding the last of the fruit. ©johnmcrae
At any point you may take a break and have a short rest. Here Rob is reclining in the chair and having a chat to our friend Mimi who dropped in to say hello. ©johnmcrae
Rob and Mimi are being silly….sometimes a bit of playfulness breaks the tension….making a plum pudding requires a great deal of concentration and commitment. ©johnmcrae

Lastly, once all the ingredients so far have been successfully stirred together, you add the final ingredients, being, the treacle and the apricot jam. A note: these two things are optional, in my opinion. I do add them but if you chose not to….it’s not like you going to ruin your pudding. It will still be a good pudding.

Rob hand mixing the final ingredients, treacle and jam, into the mixture, flanked by Mimi who is holding the jar of treacle. ©johnmcrae

Finally, it’s time to pour your pudding mixture into the centre of a square piece of calico. The calico is pre-cut and also soaked in cold water. Wring out any excess water from the calico….pour out the mixture….then gather the rag and form a closure, a bit like a “money bag”. Make sure all the sides of the rag are gathered together and you haven’t missed a bit.

Then tie off the top of the rag with string . Make sure you tie it well….go around several times and tie it off several times. Don’t be stingy on the length of the string….hopefully there will be a good bit of it left after tying which can be used to hang the pudding.

Important….leave a bit of space at the top between the mixture and the level of the rag you tie off…..that is, allow a bit of space for the pudding to expand in the rag…it will.

Rob pouring out the pudding onto the square of calico. ©johnmcrae
Here’s Rob with the final product, after tying off the top of the pudding. ©johnmcrae
Rob reminds us that leaving a long piece of string is a good idea because it can be used to suspend the pudding if you need to store it. ©johnmcrae

Now you need to boil your pudding. Gently lower your pudding into a pot of boiling water. Make sure your water is boiling on the stove and that your pot is big enough to comfortably accommodate the size of your pudding.

Boil your pudding for approximately 3 – 4 hours. It’s a bit of a process because you can’t really leave it during that time. You will need to keep an eye on the water level….continually topping up so your pudding doesn’t boil dry.

Note also….put a small saucer at the bottom of pot so that your pudding is not sitting directly on the bottom, but cushioned from direct contact with the heat.

At the end of 4 hrs take your pudding out of the hot water. It is now ready to eat…..un-peel the calico and serve with fresh cream or brandy sauce.

Or…..as it usual, you eat your pudding at a later date. Hanging the pudding for a period of time is suggested as it allows all the flavours and spices to penetrate the whole pudding. Some people hang theirs for months.

A “hung pudding” will require re-heating. Although the pudding is cooked when you go to re-heat it you will need to re-place it into a pot of boiling water, as before. In order to re-heat the pudding thoroughly you will need to leave it for at least 2 hours….for the heat to really penetrate the mass of the object. The water should already be boiling when you add the pudding.

You can cheat and take it out of the rag, cold and put cut pieces in the micro wave….this is not as dramatic and nowhere near a nice. But go ahead…..

If you are not going to eat the pudding straight away you can store it. Find a place you can suspend your pudding. My safe place is the bathroom.

So that’s it! That’s one version of a plum pudding recipe. Let me know how you go.

Finally I’d like thank Rob for his good nature and sense of fun in allowing me to photograph him preparing the pudding….much better to have a few visuals. Thanks to Mimi for dropping in and offering her brand of assistance. ©johnmcrae



I first visited Lebanon in 2005. In spite of the fact that I had a brilliant time it took me 14 years to get back to Beirut for another Lebanese experience. It did not disappoint.

Whether it’s the delicious Middle Eastern food, the beautiful and changing landscapes, the ancient monuments or the most hospitable and warm inhabitants, a good time is assured. Here a few frames from my latest trip to the Jewel of the Levant.

Tia, shot at the Abroyan Factory, a disused clothing manufacturing warehouse in Burj Hammoud, Beirut. Interesting…since I shot it just prior to the popular uprising where millions of Lebanese took to the streets to signal their dissfatisaction with the present government’s management of the country. ©johnmcrae
Samer at the Abroyan Factory ©johnmcrae
Window view at the Abroyan Factory ©johnmcrae
Window view at the Abroyan Factory©johnmcrae
Abroyan Factory, Burj Hammoud, Beirut ©johnmcrae

South Border Gallery – Exhibition at the Abroyan Factoy, Beirut

The Abroyan Factory was transformed into a huge art installation to coincide with the opening of the Beirut Art Fair. It was a great event and an amazing experience to wander through the rooms and corridors of the old factory, lined with art from different corners of the world.

Study for Soap, by Emmanuel Tussore. Aleppo, Syria, is renowned for making some of the best soap in the world. This impressive work is made entirely out of soap. Each piece has been sculptured to resemble the destroyed buildings of the city, post civil war and stands as a potent comment on the Syrian destruction on all levels. ©johnmcrae

Beirut Art Fair

I had the good fortune to be in Beirut during the Beirut Art Fair. I checked it out.

Michel and Jean Claude at the South Border Gallery stand©johnmcrae
A selfie with the artwork? ©johnmcrae
Relax and discuss ©johnmcrae
Get your best girlfriend to get a selfie of you with the artwork ©johnmcrae

Baalbek, Beka Valley

Model of the original construction, portrayed as it would have looked before the centuries of invading destruction. ©johnmcrae

Baalbek is an ancient Phoenician city located in what is now modern day Lebanon, north of Beirut, in the Beqaa Valley.  Inhabited as early as 9000 BCE, Baalbek grew into an important pilgrimage site in the ancient world for the worship of the Phoenician sky-god Baal and his consort Astarte, the Queen of Heaven (the name `Baalbek’ means Lord Baal of the Beqaa Valley). The center of the city was a grand temple dedicated to Astarte and Baal and the ruins of this early temple remain today beneath the later  Temple of Jupiter Baal. Baalbek is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

These structures are magnificent and mysterious. They are still the subject of much debate in the academic community, particularly questions concerning the origins and nature of many of the enormous foundation stones in the structures, some of which are the largest in the known world.

Baalbek, Beka Valley, Lebanon ©johnmcrae
Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek. The columns, built by the Romans, are among the largest ever constructed by man. Of note is that these columns and in fact the whole temple constructions are much larger in scale than what we find even in the capital, Rome, which begs the question of why the Romans would work on a scale much larger than usual, in an outer Eastern extremity of their empire. ©johnmcrae


megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word megalithic describes structures made of such large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods, the word monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.

A particular curiosity of Baalbek is this stone in a nearby quarry (nearby…it’s 800m uphill from the ruins). The stone has been carved from the limestone of the quarry and weighs close to 1,200 tons (a larger stone has recently been uncovered next to this one, even larger, 1650 tons) suggesting that similar stones found in the foundations of the temple of Jupiter all came from this quarry. The stone is the largest quarried stone in the world and, although in some dispute, they appear to pre-date the Greeks and the Romans. It is megalithic. The question remains how did they transport the megaliths and why was this one left, unfinished in the bedrock? ©johnmcrae
With the subjects in the foreground one gets an idea of the scale of this huge sculptural stone. Another interesting point is that these stoney carvings are so precisely cut as to baffle modern concepts of construction. These stones are laid end to end, in the Temple of Jupiter with an error of 1mm. It would appear that there was a civilisation, that pre-dates the Romans, with a more sophisticated technology. The Roman stonework is comprised of smaller blocks which are not quite as precisely hewn or placed. ©johnmcrae
Here one sees the obvious difference in scale between the Roman work and the older, larger megalithic stones at the base. ©johnmcrae

The Beach in Beirut

There’s nothing like a quiet chat with a mate, overlooking the Mediterranean, along the Corniche. ©johnmcrae
Walking, running, skipping….along the Corniche is a favourite pastime of the Lebanese.©johnmcrae
Some of the locals, pictured here, are dowsing themselves from a small well, washing off the salt water of the ocean. ©johnmcrae

The Streets…..

Young Syrian Refugee sells produce from car to car in the streets ©johnmcrae

Bullet holes ect, remnants of and eery reminders of the civil war

Tia pictured in Burj Hammoud. ©johnmcrae
I’m loving the aerial spaghetti, Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
There’s always time for a chat at the hairdressers ©johnmcrae
Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Row of apartments in Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Leaving Burj Hammoud for Ashrafieh ©johnmcrae
Housing estate on the fringes of Ashrafieh ©johnmcrae
The Shia festival, Ashoura, celebrates the matyrdom of Hussein (son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad).  He died in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD.  Many flags and banners are displayed around the city.  Above is "Ya Hussein", written in Arabic.  ©johnmcrae
The Shia festival, Ashoura, celebrates the matyrdom of Hussein (son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad). He died in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Many flags and banners are displayed around the city. Above is “Ya Hussein”, written in Arabic. ©johnmcrae
An example of the electrical spaghetti often found throughout the city of Beirut. ©johnmcrae

Beit El Baraka

Maya (founder) and Rita (Manager) pictured at the doorstep of Beit El Baraka in Beirut’s Ashrafieh district. ©johnmcrae

Beit El Baraka – Our Mission is to ensure a sense of dignity to hard-working citizens once they retire, by assisting them in their struggle with the increasing cost of living. In a spirit of respect and support, we aim to provide a tailor-made accurate and beneficial response to Lebanon’s economic and multi-dimensional challenges that are depriving many retired citizens of their most basic needs and rights. 

Coffee Culture in Beirut

Coffee culture is alive and well in Beirut. Bashar is pictured realaxing after a big day at work. ©johnmcrae
Friends on the terrasse, Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Tia at the local coffee shop in Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
A soldier kicks back and relaxes after the days work of protecting Lebanon. ©johnmcrae
The family who manages the bar in Burj Hammoud. ©johnmcrae

Treasures of the Beirut Museum

Entrance of the museum, a monument to antiquity. ©johnmcrae
Amazingly beautiful Phoenician sarcophagi at the Natural Museum in Beirut. They are breathtaking in their mysterious beauty. ©johnmcrae
The famous rock formation, “Raouche”, off the coast of Beirut, seen clearly as you walk along the Corniche. ©johnmcrae


I would have to say that portraiture is my favourite genre. Here are a few examples of recent portraits….some are commissions, some are for personal projects or simply people I wanted to shoot.

The gorgeous Alex, commissioned portrait shoot ©johnmcrae
Alex ©johnmcrae
Alex ©johnmcrae

Spot the Arab Series

I have been working on an on-going series for exhibition called, Spot the Arab. For more information click here:

Kash for Spot the Arab – exhibition work. Do you think Kash identifies as Arab….or not? ©johnmcrae
Kash for Spot the Arab – exhibition work. ©johnmcrae
Kash for Spot the Arab – exhibition work. ©johnmcrae
Lois – study of a woman combing her hair. ©johnmcrae
Katelin ©johnmcrae
Katelin ©johnmcrae
Hugh Sheridan – promotional shot, recently cast in the musical, Hair. ©johnmcrae
Dominic Desousa (DJ) ©johnmcrae
Paulini for the musical, Hair ©johnmcrae
Anne – commissioned portrait ©johnmcrae
Adrian Dickens, personal jeweller ©johnmcrae
“Coffee en terrasse” – Sydney under bushfire siege. Personal comment on the quality of the air and climate change ©johnmcrae
Fashion Shoot – Sydney under bushfire siege. Personal comment on the quality of the air and climate change ©johnmcrae
Mother and Daughter – Lena and Laura Kasparian
Katelin and Ella ©johnmcrae
John Rowe enjoys the party.....
John Rowe enjoys the party….. ©johnmcrae
Mathieu for Reform Construction ©johnmcrae
Reform Construction ©johnmcrae
Reform Construction ©johnmcrae
Kirk & Rhy’s Family ©johnmcrae
Kirk & Rhy’s Family ©johnmcrae
Kirk & Rhy’s Family – talk about taking centre stage ©johnmcrae
David Whittaker (DJ) ©johnmcrae


It’s always fun and colourful to shoot in the entertainment space. Here are a few examples of some shows that I worked on recently.

The Lyin’ Queen

The lyin’ Queen – by Phil Scott and Trevor Ashley, an ecological disatser movie remake hits the stage.

Cast on stage at the Wyong performance of The Lyin’ Queen ©johnmcrae
Promotional image for The Lyin’ Queen, performed at the Sydney Opera House in November
Production shot of The Lyin’ Queen, featuring Trevor Ashley ©johnmcrae
Promotional shot for The Lyin’ Queen ©johnmcrae

Shauna Jensen performs at the Sydney Opera House

Club Posters of Sydney Drag Shows

Hair The Musical

A new production of Hair the Musical was produced by David Hawkins. It toured the country, including performances at the Sydney Opera House.

Paulini, Hugh Sheridan, Matthew Manahan and Prinnie Stevens, the cast of Hair the Musical
Rehearsals for Hair The Musical ©johnmcrae
The above shot on stage during the dress rehearsal in Perth ©johnmcrae

Just for Laughs at the Sydney Opera House

Each year I shoot stills for the live recording of “Just For Laughs”, recorded in the studio at the Sydney Opera House. It is always a pleasure to shoot this totally entertaining event….at times the camera is shaking as I hold back laughter.

Tommi Little has the audience in the palm of his hand©johnmcrae

Latest Construction

The construction sector is still buoyant and active. Here are a few examples of the latest projects I was commissioned to work on…..

Before and After


Prime Constructions is about to work on this “artistic” office space. Left vacant and unfinished for many years, this graffiti canvas will now become a re-furbished and modern office complex. This is the “before” shot. Stay tuned for the “after” shot….sorry that one will take another 6 months to complete.

St Narsai

St Narsai Assyrian Christian College for The Prime Group, new multi-purpose auditorium ©johnmcrae
St Narsai Assyrian Christian College for The Prime Group, new multi-purpose auditorium ©johnmcrae

The Warehouse

DHL warehouse, Kemps Creek, for The Prime Group ©johnmcrae

Men at Work

Men at work, Hansen Yuncken ©johnmcrae
Inner Sydney High School, Phase 1 completion, for Hansen Yuncken ©johnmcrae
New re-branding for APG ©johnmcrae

Office Refurbishment – MSCI

Stylish office refurbishment at MSCI, for Xenia Constructions and Studio Forny NYC ©johncrae


Short term rentals is a vibrant market as more and more people make their homes and properties available. I’ve been working with a company that manages these properties for owners, Maisonnets. Here are a few examples:

A room with a view ©johnmcrae


Ryan O’Connell and Ana Dokoza ©johnmcrae

I have been on assignment at Screen Australia recently, shooting some vibrant, young creatives for various promotional initiatives.

Ryan O’Connell, writer and story editor (Will & Grace) has teamed up with Anna Dokoza, Australian director, the star of The Big Bang Theory and Netflix to create a new comedy, Special. Click here for more info

Ryan O’Connell and Anna Dokoza, with other young creatives ©johnmcrae
Young creatives, writers, at a workshop at Screen Australia ©johnmcrae

Pitcher Perfect – Screen Australia announced the finalists of the first ever “Pitcher Perfect” competition which was held at VidCon in Melbourne.

I shot some of the creatives who’s job it was to pitch their concepts to a panel of judges, for a duration of 5mins. It was their job to convince the panel to choose their concept as the recipient of the $30,000 on offer to the winners.

The winning pitch was “Return to Sender”, pitched by Amy and Pearl, two of the finalists that I photographed.

The team from the pitch for “Sweet Pea”, Hannah, Emma and Monique ©johnmcrae
Drew and Josh who pitched for “Part Time Heros” ©johnmcrae
Amy and Pearl, who pitched the winning entry, “Return to Sender” Congratulations to the team ©johnmcrae
I also managed to capture the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, The Honourable Paul Fletcher MP, pictured here with Screen Australia CEO, Graeme Mason, at the industry briefing for the Screen Australia Drama Report. ©johnmcrae