I am very pleased with myself that yesterday, for the first time ever, I made a genuine suet pudding. Two actually. A while ago, a couple of paydays back, I bought some nice lean beef, and some ox kidney. I planned to make a steak and kidney pie. But I have problems with making edible pastry, and could not find any pre-made frozen pastry anywhere. So I put the meat in the freezer.
Later, it occurred to me that a steak and kidney pudding might be fun. I have never made one, so I have no history of failure with suet dough, as I have with pastry. In fact I seem to vaguely recall making reasonably good suet dumplings long ago and far away. So I asked the butcher if he could supply me with suet. He could, and did. A huge block of it. I probably have enough in the freezer now to feed an army. It is messy stuff to prepare, but I have frozen a couple of ziplock bags filled with chopped and rubbed suet, with most of the connective tissue removed. I also rendered down the rubbishy bits and got a 500g margarine container full of dripping too. Is it dripping or tallow if it is made from suet?
Next I did little research on suet puddings via Google, and found a few recipes. I need no recipe for steak and kidney, I have my own in my head, but I had no idea what proportions of ingredients one uses for suet dough. It took a while to work out how I should measure the ingredients, because the recipes all seemed to talk about flour by weight or in cups, but suet by weight. I have no scales. At last I discovered a weight/volume database, which fortunately included suet. So by comparing recipes, I was able to calculate that the flour/suet ratio should be roughly 4:1 by volume. Close enough, anyway. Also, they all mention self raising flour. I don’t have that either. Make do, improvise. Cooking is an art and one need not paint by numbers.
Nor do I have a proper kitchen measuring cup , so I used my smaller rice measuring cup and mixed eight cups flour, two of suet, two teaspoons baking soda, two of baking powder, one of salt, and one of pepper,and rubbed them nicely to a silky and still slightly lumpy texture before adding water and stirring with a knife to make a stiff dough which I then kneaded gently by hand.
I have no rolling pin either, but I managed to find in the cupboard a cylindrical bottle that once held Bickfords (since 1874) lime juice cordial. This served adequately to roll the dough into a circle. With this I lined a Pyrex mixing bowl, now elevated to pudding bowl status.
I had a tonne of dough left over, probably just a little less than half, after setting aside what I needed for the lid of the pudding. I hate waste, so into the remainder I kneaded in some brown sugar, and sultanas. But I digress. I’ll come back to that. Returning to the S&K pudding:
In a frying pan I fried the steak in a little fat after dredging it in flour, added the chopped up kidney, garlic, and a chopped onion. Once the Maillard reaction had taken place and it was well browned, I removed the meat to the pudding. With a little more flour and a drop of extra dripping, in the same pan I made a smooth roux gravy using red wine and a beef stock cube, Worcester sauce, pepper and a fat anchovy. All the mess in the pan made a fine dark gravy with a hint of maroon from the wine.
I then added to the pudding a bay leaf or two, and some mixed English herbs (parsley, sage thyme), and poured in the gravy. On with the top and sealed the edges with an off-cut of dough diluted with a bit of water to make a sticky paste. It proved to be an excellent seal.
Next I covered the bowl with a couple of layers of foil, with an expansion fold. that proved to be just as well. The pudding expanded. Tightly tied around with string (with a handle for removal), and into the largest pot I have – which barely contains the bowl. Lid on. Boil on a simmer for three hours, frequently topping up with boiling water from the electric kettle. When the pudding expanded it lifted the lid slightly, so I had to keep a good eye on it, to be sure it did not boil dry. Nonetheless, it cooked perfectly. I turned it out whole onto a plate without any problem. Usually one serves from the bowl, I understand, but I really wanted to see how it turned out. When I cut into it the smell was amazing. The meat was tender, the flavour exquisite, the filling slumped only a little as the gravy had set rich and thick. All in all I was very pleased indeed with it. I could have rolled the dough a little thinner perhaps. In which case I could just about get away with half the amount I made this time. Next time, I might add some carrot.
There are four good meals in this wee pudding, but luckily I have a neighbour.
As for the rest of the dough, as you might guess, I made a spotted dick, except instead of a roll, I balled it in foil sprayed with oil, and steamed it in the rice cooker for the same period as the other pudding. My rice cooker is too small to hold a bowl for a pudding, but I think a larger one would be an excellent way to steam puddings, because if it boiled dry it would simply switch to warm mode.
Anyway, the spotted dick came out really well too, even though water got in and made the outside a bit glutinous. But it is a very heavy pudding and really a bit too much all at once. I might have to have it another day, sliced and fried in butter and served with custard and jam. Can’t get much more working class than that.
I think my old grandma might have been impressed.