Head chef, Paternoster Chop House
Can you remember the last time you ate Spotted Dick? I’m betting that for many of you it was several decades ago at school, covered in lumpy custard. Aside from that eternal favourite sticky toffee pudding, we don’t tend to eat a lot of steamed puddings these days. This is a shame because, as far as I’m concerned, they are up there with the poshest delicacies.
The origin of steamed puddings is one of necessity – in the days before cookers, the pudding would be rolled in a cloth and suspended in the cooking pot over the fire along with the main meal as the most efficient way of cooking two things at once. It was a way of making the most out of what was available, using up beef fat suet mixed with flour and honey or spices if they were available to make a filling meal.
The modern steamed pudding falls into two camps. On the one hand you can have a butter sponge which can be made very similarly to a basic cake recipe, referred to as a pound cake, with the addition of whatever flavours you like – lemon, marmalade, treacle, golden syrup and ginger, for instance, all infuse the sponge perfectly. Or there is the more traditional suet sponge, made without butter or (usually) eggs, which tends to be denser and takes dried fruits really well – for instance spotted dick, jam roly-poly or clootie dumpling.
Personally, I’m hoping for a steamed pudding renaissance. At this time of year, these substantial puds, served with lashings of real custard, are just the thing to get you through the cold days. They’re a wonderful way to finish off a cosy Sunday roast or even a winter dinner party with friends. True, they’re not good for the diet, but they are great for warming the hear.