Put the dry ingredients, dried fruit, candied peel and almonds into a large bowl and stir well to mix. Add the apple with the lemon rind and juice, egg and Guinness or milk stout and stir well. Add enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.
Turn into a greased 1.2 litre (2 pint) pudding basin. Cover the top of the pudding with a circle of greased greaseproof paper, then with foil, or tie up the basin in a pudding cloth. Fold a pleat in the centre and tie string around the rim. Leave to stand overnight.
Place the basin in the top of a steamer or double boiler, or in a large pan of gently bubbling water, and steam for 4–5 hours, topping up with more boiling water as necessary.
Remove the basin carefully from the pan and leave to cool completely. Discard the foil and greaseproof paper. Replace with fresh greaseproof paper and foil if you intend to store the pudding, but it doesn't need to mature and can be made just before Christmas.
Steam again for 2 hours before serving. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with a holly leaf, if liked. Warm the brandy, pour over the pudding and set alight. Serve with crème anglaise (see