No point in making a clootie dumpling unless you have friends coming round. So today was the day, and I’d left the recipe book open at the right page so that I could rise sharpish this morning and get straight onto the job. It was a most enjoyable experience and well induged by all, with doggie bag provided, so here are the highlights… If you want to cut to the chase and just get the recipe as provided in the book, it’s at the end of this post. Otherwise, join me on the journey.
First on the left we have a close-up of the dry ingredients in the bowl – flour, suet (I chose veggie), breadcrumbs, fruit – then panning back to the table. I’m not just being self-absorbed here – it’s just that I don’t think many people make clootie dumplings nowadays, and the method is quite easy but if you’ve never seen it done, you might not want to try. I think you should!
So you’ll see on the left-hand side of the panned-back photo a white cloth. What you have to do is scald a tea-towel in boiling water, drain it, spread it out and sprinkle it all over with flour. This is what forms the skin around the dumpling. Then you get on with the mixture, which is easy. [I should add that in the past, any mother or granny making a clootie dumpling would have wrapped up silver sixpences and added them at this stage. Nowadays these little charms are known as Choking Hazards. This wouldn’t have put me off if I’d remembered on time, and little 5p pieces would have been authentic. If a little dangerous.]
Next photo is the mixture, dumped onto the cloth prior to tying up … remind you of anything at this stage? Not trying to be gross here, but my recent brush with norovirus suggests itself persuasively. Don’t let me put you off! Just proceed to tie up the corners of your cloth, and lower it into a large pan of boiling water with an upside down plate on the bottom (acting as a trivet, to keep your pudding from sticking to the pot). Here’s what it looked like at this stage (below):
[If you have an occasional kitchen helper who wanders in and gets proprietorial about the tea-towel you are using for the job, claiming certain attachments and prior rights, I suggest you remind him how honoured this flippin piece of kit is to be chosen to hold your special pudding.]
Now the recipe I was using is from Maw Broon’s cookbook – I’ll give the details below – and Delia Smith it ain’t. That is to say, the instructions are somewhat sparse. ‘Cook for 3-4 hours’ is in fact what we are told. You’d think that would be quite a wide margin of error, wouldn’t you? This gives pause for thought as there’s no way of checking to see whether or not it’s done. I suppose you could stick in a skewer and see if it comes out clean, but you’d be puncturing the skin and who knows how nasty that might turn out to be. So I just erred on the side of caution and gave mine about 3 hours and 45 mins.
Getting it out of the pot when you think it’s cooked serves double duty as a party game and I’m glad to say Jan was more than willing to get in there. It requires a bit of hoisting, catching in plate, and unwrapping; and then I decided it would look better if we turned it upside down to hide the knot-shaped indentations in the skin. Here it is, with demerara being shaken over prior to 30 mins or so in oven to dry out(again, my choice of time as opposed to Maw Broon’s recommendation). If I’d consulted the recipe at this point (note to self) I’d have appreciated the instruction to dip the pudding in cold water before unwrapping …
You may think all this sounds like a bit of a faff, but you have to remember that you have 3-4 hours in between with nothing to do but get your gladrags on, pour yourself a nice drink, and join the party. I recommend it. You get a huge big dumpling, which I may say is very tasty, entertainment for the troops, and massive kudos for reviving a tradition which is in danger of dying out. And should you fancy it, you can have a slice fried up with tomorrow’s ham and eggs for a substantial breakfast. Here’s the final shot, and underneath, the recipe. Fair fa’ yer honest sonsie face!
[As per the book, all quantities are given in imperial measure]
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and scald a large cloth. Drain it of excess water and lay it out on your work surface; sprinkle generously with flour. Then:
4 oz suet, 8 oz SR flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 oz breadcrumbs, 3 oz brown sugar, and a tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg – mix all of these together in a large bowl. Add a grated apple and 8 oz of mixed currants and sultanas.
In a small bowl, whisk together a tbsp of golden syrup with 2 eggs; and mix thoroughly into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. If you feel it’s a bit too stiff you can add some milk. Dump it all onto your floured cloth, tie up the corners as well as you can, and lower into the pan of simmering water. Make sure it doesn’t dry out, keeping the water level topped up if necessary to 3/4 of the way up the dumpling. Simmer for 3-4 hours.
Dip in cold water, unwrap, put it on a large ovenproof plate and dry out in a warm oven (I set it to 180C). Sprinkle the top with sugar and serve with cream or custard.
Source: Maw Broon’s Cookbook for every day and special days pp 106-107. This is an absolutely beautifully produced book which is a joy to flick through if you grew up with the Broons. Although I can’t find the credits buried in the content, I know it’s published by DC Thomson of Dundee – who else? The recipe is on p107; on p106 there’s a full-page story about Maw’s dumpling being switched by the bairn for grand-paw’s bundle of washing … eeek! health and safety! health and safety! oh for those unregulated days!