By: Sue LawrenceServes: 8
Recipe from Scots Cooking (Headline, £18.99)
MY Auntie Muriel has made a cloutie dumpling for members of the family on their birthdays for as long as I can remember. She will tie on her pinnie and stir together the ingredients which she always says she couldn't possibly write down, for she tells me there's a "ticky of this and a ticky of that...": no-one ever wrote cloutie dumpling recipes down, they just made them. But I have managed to pin her - and her pinnie - down and the following recipe is one made for the family by her or often by her housekeeper Mrs Patullo, who was Austrian and whose apple strudel was better than any shop-bought.
The word cloth is the origin of this dumpling recipe, as cloot or clout is Scots for cloth and it refers to the cloth in which the dumpling is boiled. Unlike any other dumplings or steamed puddings, it forms a characteristic "skin", made by sprinkling flour and sugar into the cloth before filling with the mixture. Beware clouties without skin, as they are not authentic. The skin must be dried off before serving and this is done nowadays in the oven. But my mother tells me her task (as youngest child) was to dry off the dumpling in front of the open fire-place. She would sit there on a stool for 15 - 20 minutes, turning the dumpling round and round until it was dried off and ready to eat. Since it was made only for special occasions such as birthdays (in which case there were silver threepennies hidden inside, similar to charms in a Christmas pudding), this was a chore worth doing well. It would then be eaten with custard, but is now also served with cream or ice-cream. Next day any leftovers would be served for breakfast: sliced and fried in rendered suet and eaten with bacon.
If you want to add coins, wrap 5 pence pieces or charms in waxed or greaseproof paper and add to the mixture.
225g / 8 oz plain flour, sifted
200 g / 7 oz golden caster sugar
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp mixed spice
110 g / 4 oz shredded suet
110 g / 4 oz sultanas
110 g / 4 oz currants
110 g / 4 oz stoned dates, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
Approx. 200 ml / 7 fl oz milk, sour milk or cold tea
Flour and caster sugar, to sprinkle
- Mix the first 9 ingredients together in a bowl with enough liquid to make a soft dough of a stiff, dropping consistency.
- Dip a large pudding cloth (or tea-towel) into boiling water then drain well and lay out flat on a table. Sprinkle with flour and then sugar (I use my flour and sugar shakers) : you want an even - but not thick - sprinkling. (This forms the characteristic skin.)
- Place the mixture in the middle of the cloth then tie up the cloth securely with string, allowing a little room for expansion. Place on a heatproof plate in the bottom of a large saucepan. Top up with boiling water to just cover the pudding then cover with a lid and simmer gently for 3¾ - 4 hours. Check the water level occasionally and top up if necessary. You should continually hear the reassuring, gentle shuddering sound of the plate on the bottom of the pan for the entire duration of cooking.)
- Wearing oven gloves, remove the pudding from the pan, dip briefly into a bowl of cold water : for no more than 10 seconds - so the skin does not stick to the cloth. Cut the string, untie the cloth and invert the dumpling onto an ovenproof plate.
- Place in the oven (180°C / 350°F / Gas4) for 10 - 15 minutes - just until the skin feels less sticky - then sprinkle with caster sugar and serve hot with custard.