It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m both starving and bereft of inspiration. Later we’re collecting an old, in every sense of the word, friend, to take her out for lunch. I made some soda bread, which both exacerbates the hunger and makes me realise that neither of this week’s blogs even has a subject, never mind any content. No fewer than three lunches have been postponed in the last couple of weeks, all to unreviewed destinations. Still, I can do soda bread for Tom Cooks!? Nope, I see I did that three years ago. The hunger was intensified by watching the Hairy Bikers making pudding, a savoury specimen of the suet variety. King of British puds is, of course the good old Kate and Sidney, subject of many a bad joke. There are umpteen recipes available; however, for ease, and for a recipe which you can guarantee will work, I turned to Christopher Trotter and Maggie Ramsay’s wonderful The Whole Cow, as fine a beef cookery book as you could hope to find. I commend it to you. Thanks once again to Christopher for permission to use his recipes.
A few thoughts. There are many people, myself included, who won’t thank you for offal. Now you can omit the kidney; however, it does make for a most fabulous gravy. You can reduce the quantities or dice it more finely (it’s the texture I dislike, as opposed to the flavour). A good butcher will provide you with a bit of suet, which is the hard fat surrounding the kidneys. You have to grate it, but you can also buy blocks in the supermarkets, Atora being the best known brand name. I have in the past expressed a dislike of using flour for thickening sauces. Forget such prejudice here. Everything goes into the pudding shell raw. You need the flour to create a thick rich gravy, and as it has such a long cooking time there will be no nasty texture. Season your flour with salt and pepper – make sure you use liberal doses. The only really tricky part of this recipe is tying the string around the pudding bowl. Do make sure you use a proper one with a lip.
Ingredients (Christopher says serves 6. I’m not so sure. Even with lots of mashed tatties and peas, people tend to gorge on this – and have a long sleep afterwards.)
For the suet pastry – 280g self raising flour; 140g grated suet; 150 – 200 ml cold water; ½ tsp salt; 1 tsp dried mixed herbs (optional, but good for a little extra flavour).
For the filling – 450g round steak (if you’re not in Scotland, ask for stewing steak); 125g ox kidney, trimmed and diced; 1 – 2 tbsp seasoned flour; 1 onion chopped; 100g button mushrooms, quartered; 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley; 100 ml red wine; beef stock; 150-200 ml cold water; butter for greasing
For the crust, sift the flour and salt together in a baking bowl, stir in the suet and the herbs, then gradually add the water to form a pliable dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl. Take a 1.2 litre pudding basin, measure its diameter then grease it. Roll out the pastry to the diameter of the bowl, then cut out a one quarter segment and set aside. Lift the pastry into the bowl, joining the two cut edges and sealing. Roll out the remaining quarter to form the lid.
Toss the steak and kidney in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Mix with the mushrooms, onion and parsley. Place in the pudding bowl, add the red wine then top up to two thirds full with (cold) beef stock. Dampen the edge of the pastry, add the lid and pinch the edges together to seal.
Now for the most difficult part – covering the top. (I jest not – it’s a good idea to get someone to help you with the string.) Take a sheet of grease proof paper and form a pleat to allow for expansion. Place this on top and add a layer of foil. These need to be tied on with string below the lip of the bowl. Start with a loop and a slip knot. When that is in place take the string round two or three times, then two or three times across the top to form a handle.
The pudding needs to be steamed for four hours. Put a saucer or plate at the bottom of the steaming pan so your bowl doesn’t touch the bottom. The water must be below the top of the bowl to avoid flooding your pudding. Check that it’s not boiling so hard that it spurts up, and check the water levels from time to time. If you want to make sure you can’t walk for a week serve with mash and peas. Or you could emulate Mr Tom’s Chop House in Manchester, a lovely Victorian pub which serves steak and kidney puddings the size of your head with about a pound of chips and half a gallon of gravy.
Christopher Trotter is Fife’s Food Ambassador. In addition to his writing and media work he runs cooking classes and workshops of all sizes and to all specifications.
For more information see his website at www.fifefoodambassador.co.uk
The Whole Cow is available from Amazon or from good book shops.