If you’re like me, your idea of pudding is something that comes in a box, to which you add hot milk, stir and chill (or, in the case of chocolate pudding, eat while it’s still hot). There’s a lot more to puddings, and no one knows them better than the Brits. And no one gives them more colorful names, either: Boiled Baby (flour, suet, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and milk) and Spotted Dick, for which I’m about to give you a recipe.
Suet is a key pudding ingredient (no, it’s not just bird food). Basically it is beef fat, but good suet is taken from the area around the kidney. It’s frequently found at the meat counter around Christmas, the season when Anglophiles’ thoughts heavily turn to Plum Pudding. But with a little advance preparation you can get some suet. Just ask your butcher for it ahead of time. If he can’t produce the kidney kind he can surely give you some good, clean ‘trimmings’ which will serve quite well. When I got mine from Basha’s there was no charge, as it’s stuff they usually throw away. You’ll need to grate it roughly, or shave it. I put mine in the food processor; I still had to chop up some big lumps, but it did a pretty good job.
If you have a pudding mold you’re better equipped than I. Dig it out from the back of the cupboard and butter it well. If you haven’t a special pudding mold, butter a heat-proof glass or ceramic bowl large enough to hold your pudding mix and then some as it will expand in cooking. Whichever you use cut a circle of waxed paper which will fit snugly over the pudding when it’s put in the mold.
Put a couple of inches of water in a pot (with a well-fitting lid) large enough to hold your pudding mold and put something in the bottom to support the mold – cookie cutters work well, and so does a folded up dish towel.
4 oz. raisins
2 oz. currants
Grated zest of 1 lemon
8 oz flour
3 oz. sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
.5 teaspoon salt
4 oz. shredded suet
2 oz. milk (or more)
Mix the raisins, currants and grated zest in a small bowl.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a larger bowl. Either cut in the prepared suet with a pastry tool or, more fun, rub it in with your fingers until it is well combined. Add the milk and mix with your hands, adding as much milk as necessary to make an elastic dough.
Knead in the raisin mixture well.
Put the pudding mix in the prepared mold and flatten the top of it. Butter one side of the waxed paper and cover the pudding mix with it, butter side down. Then put tin foil over the top, fitting it tightly to the edges of the mold.
Bring the pot of water to a boil. Put the pudding mold in the pot of boiling water on the supports and simmer well covered for 1.5 to 2 hours. (Keep an eye on the water to make sure it doesn’t boil away.)
When the pudding is done (it will be golden colored and will have swelled in size), remove it from the pot and let it sit on a rack for 5 minutes. Then invert it on a plate. Serve warm with lovely custard sauce. Almost everything is better lashed with custard sauce.
It is not nearly as complicated as I’ve made it sound. It’s loads of fun to make, quite yummy, and makes for some pretty amusing conversation.
Note on the photo: I made the Dick using the jelly-roll method, which calls for binding the roll in a tea cloth and steaming that. I think it restricted the expansion of the pudding too much, so I’ve altered the directions to give a better result.