When I was younger I never really wanted what my Mum cooked me for dinner. As a child of the 80s I wanted the kind of food that Iceland still seems to sell: crispy pancakes, mini kievs, chicken dippers, potato waffles, beefburgers with processed cheese ON THE INSIDE, and lots and lots of chips. MacDonalds and Burger King and KFC and Pizza Hut. I didn’t want stews and casseroles, pies, chicken breasts, spag bol, veg or salads. I hated dumplings, fried fish in batter, cream, prawns, jacket potatoes and butter – all things which I can happily eat in abundance today. I do still think mushrooms are the devil’s food though.
I think the food Mum made from scratch tasted bland compared to the salt-drenched processed foods my brother and I adored (seeing how much salt she puts on food today I find that quite frightening), as the gravies were thin and uninspiring, and of course everything was jam-packed full of vegetables. Unless it was a potato roasted in fat – basically a big chip – I wasn’t interested.
But of course that food is now what I cook for myself – and I do it because it’s what I most enjoy eating (my brother, who’s primary diet is fast food, complains now that my food is bland). Most of what I cook is inspired from cookbooks, food magazines, cookery shows and my own experiences in the kitchen, but there are several dishes which I remember my mum cooking which are perhaps not fashionable enough for a TV show, and so I need her guidance to recreate them.
So I invited Mum over for dinner recently, with the proviso that she had to show me how to make steamed suet pudding. She readily agreed, and said she also had a fantastic recipe for a 3 minute steamed sponge pudding, so I decided to make us a nice light chicken stirfry for dinner so we’d be able to pig out on 3 minute sponge. Like mother, like daughter – both of us greedy piggies.
I am afraid to say that I spent the entire evening disbelieving everything she told me about making the suet pudding – it all went against everything my favourite celeb chefs have dictated over the years. I was completely convinced that the pudding would stick, be disgusting, be bland, explode and destroy us all. Sorry Mum for doubting, you were right all along.
First confusion of the night – she still works in ounces and pounds, which I only understand when I am weighing myself … not when I am weighing food. Then she insisted it would be unnecessary to pre-cook the meat, which also sounded odd to me, as every recipe I have ever read says you need to cook the filling first. Hmmmmm. Then no herbs or spices or seasonings – just meat, onion and an oxo cube. No wrapping the pudding in greaseproof paper and string with a double pleat in the paper. No standing the pudding basin on a saucer in the saucepan (she eventually gave in to that one when I told her that a pyrex dish on the bottom of a saucepan for 3 hours was a recipe for disaster).
But it all worked perfectly! The pudding takes 3 hours to steam so we couldn’t eat it that night – it would be perfect for a weekend dinner so you could eat it fresh. I reheated it in the same saucepan the next day, steaming it for another hour, and apart from the pastry perhaps being slightly more delicate due to the second cooking, it was delicious. Andrew even stated that it was “better than a Fray Bentos pudding” which from him is high praise indeed, as those hideous tinned pies are his dream dinner. Yuck.
So while the pudding was steaming we cooked and ate our stirfry (payback from mum as she turned her nose up at my Chinese ingredients, including rice wine, oyster sauce, soy, five spice, garlic and ginger), and then moved onto the steamed syrup pudding.
Okay, a word of warning here – this is DANGEROUS. You can have a steamed pudding (syrup, chocolate, jam – whatever you fancy) in less than 10 minutes from start to finish. Are you sure you want to continue? I am a bit concerned that I might put on more than just a few ounces and pounds now that I have this quick fix pudding in my repertoire. Anyway, you have been warned.
Basically, you cream butter and sugar together, add an egg and flour, a touch of milk to loosen the mixture, and put it in a greased half-pint sized microwaveable pudding dish with your flavouring of choice on the bottom (golden syrup for me, but jam would be very good), microwave it for 3 minutes and voila – you are done, and can eat this dome of goodness as quickly as you can move the spoonfuls of light sponge into your greedy little mouth. We watched, salivating, as the pudding rose in the microwave … just rising to the top of the bowl like a vanilla volcano, but not quite tipping over the edges. Once the three minutes were up, we turned it out onto a dish, added more golden syrup for good luck, cut it in half (I know, serious piggery) and topped it with vanilla ice cream and scoffed it down. Light and buttery and sweet – the perfect comfort food.
So there you have the perfect dinner and dessert, but it’s probably best not to eat them too often, otherwise you’ll turn into a little pudding yourself. Thanks Mum!!!
200g (8oz) self raising flour, 100g (8oz) beef suet, pinch of salt, 500g packet of lean diced beef, 1 onion, beef oxo cube, oil for greasing, a pint sized pudding basin
First make the suet pastry by mixing the flour, suet and salt with a few splashes of cold water until you have a dry, springy dough. Roll it out into a circle and cut out one quarter so you end up with a PacMan sized piece of dough (the odd quarter will make your pudding lid). Lightly grease the pudding bowl with oil and line it with the PacMan dough – press it in, filling any gaps, as you don’t want the filling to leak out. Then layer the filling as follows: put in a third of the beef, half the chopped onion, another third of beef, the other half of the onion, and the final third of beef. Make around 1/4 pint of gravy by mixing the oxo cube with some hot water and pour it over the meat mixture. Then brush the edges of the pudding with water, put the pastry lid on top and seal it closed.
To steam the pudding put a large pan of water on to boil, with an upturned saucer in the bottom. Take some long pieces of kitchen foil and fold them lengthways until you have two long strips. You can lay these under the pudding basin and use them as handles to lift the pudding in and out of the water. Cover the pudding loosely with some greaseproof paper and balance it on the saucer. The water should bubble gently and come halfway up the pudding bowl – top it up if the water starts to boil away. Leave it to steam with the lid on the saucepan for 3 hours, but longer will not do it any harm.
This pudding does not have a lot of gravy, so you may want to make some of your own. I served my pudding with gravy (Bisto!) and vegetables and it was seriously delicious, and also a real pleasure to make.
3oz butter, 3oz sugar, 3oz self raising flour, 1 egg, a splash of milk, golden syrup, a half-pint pudding basin
Cream the butter and sugar together, before beating in the egg and flour. Loosen with a splash of milk to make a spoonable consistency. Grease the pudding basin with butter and squeeze a good amount of golden syrup into the bottom of the dish. Put the cake batter on top, smooth it out, and microwave on full heat for 3 minutes. Once pinged, take out the pudding and tip it onto a saucer. Cut it in half, tip it into a bowl with more golden syrup and ice cream, and eat. Oink.
This post is dedicated to my mum, and to Nigella, as I am convinced she and her daughter shared experiences like this in the kitchen, as opposed to supposedly snorting coke together. #TeamNigella.