Friday, 7 November 2014

Sussex Pond Pudding

When the temperatures begin to plummet, there is nothing quite like a good old-fashioned pudding to warm you up and provide that comfort food factor. I love steamed puddings and whilst they are incredibly filling and often tend to be quite sweet, they don’t always have to be heavy and stodgy.

Although many traditional steamed puddings use suet pastry or sponges made with beef suet, there are also many others that are based on sponge cake batters. These tend to be lighter to eat but because they have been steamed they retain their moistness and never dry out.

Suet is the hard raw fat that is found around the kidneys in cattle and has, historically, long been used as a fat. It is not often used these days except in steamed puddings or in traditional Christmas mincemeat.  Most Christmas Puddings use suet, but actually the recipe that I have been using for years and which has seen much tweaking and perfecting uses butter and not suet. However, in this recipe for Sussex Pond Pudding suet is used to make the pastry which encases the filling. The filling is unusual in that whole lemons are used – I have used two here but depending on how large your lemons are, you may only need one. The lemons are pricked all over with a skewer or small sharp knife and are used whole, skin and all. For this reason, it is preferable to use unwaxed lemons, or if you are unable to source these make sure that you give the skins a good wash and light scrub in some water to remove any waxy residue.

This is a beautiful pudding; warming and rich and very sweet, but this is tempered somewhat by the sour lemon juices which ooze out and intermingle with the sugar and butter as the pudding is steaming. I just love it and try not to think of how many calories each spoonful contains… but I am absolutely convinced that a little comforting treat like this every now and again is good for the soul and psyche, if not the waistline!
It is unclear how the pudding got its name, but I am convinced it must have something to do with the way the sweet and buttery lemon sauces oozes into a puddle when you turn the pudding out. The pudding then sits in the middle of this puddle or ‘pond’ of sauce waiting to be doled out to salivating diners. This is not an elegant or beautiful looking pudding, but because it tastes so incredibly delicious, this is largely irrelevant.
The great thing about steamed puddings is that they steam away quite happily on their own and all you have to do every 40-50 minutes is top up the hot/boiling water to maintain optimum steam levels. Also, although this pudding requires over three and half hours steaming, it doesn’t particularly matter if you exceed this a bit.


Suet pastry:
225g self-raising flour
110g shredded suet (I used Atora)
150ml milk - or as I use - 150ml of half milk half water
200g butter, cubed
200g soft brown sugar
2 lemons, pricked all over with a small sharp knife


1. Generously grease a 1.5ltr pudding bowl with butter and set aside.
2. Place the flour and suet in a large bowl and mix together so that the suet is evenly distributed. Make a well in the centre and add enough of the milk/water mixture to create a slightly soft dough.
3. Using a well-floured roiling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to make a large circle. Remove about ¼ of the dough by cutting out a wedge shaped piece and reserve this for the lid of the pudding. Place the rest of the dough in the pudding bowl, joining the cut edges together so that the inside of the bowl is completely lined. The pastry should be slightly higher than the top rim of the bowl.
4. Pack half the butter cubes and half the brown sugar into the pastry and sit the lemons on top of the butter and sugar in the pastry lined bowl. Pack the rest of the sugar and butter around the lemons.
5. Take the reserved pastry and roll out into a circle slightly larger than the top of the bowl. Place on top of the filling and press the edges together so that the filling is completely enclosed. Trim the edges with a sharp knife.
6. Place a piece of non-stick baking parchment  with a pleat  folded into it to allow for expansion over the pudding bowl  and then place a pleated sheet of tin foil over this. Tie the baking parchment and foil in place around the rim of the bowl using string, making sure that it is well secured.
7. Place the bowl in a large pan of simmering water so that the water comes half way up the outside of the bowl. Place the lid on top of the saucepan and simmer for 3 ½ hours, topping up the water levels every 30 minutes or so.  You can also use an electric steamer with a built in timer following the manufacturer steam in a dedicated steamer.
8. Remove from the saucepan/steamer and allow to sit for 10 minutes before removing the baking paper and foil and upturning onto a large serving plate. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8.