Anyway, on to the deets: The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
Also could not find suet (my translation into German was Talg or Rindertalg) but I could find lots of lard!
Now this is where I failed to photo-document my process, probably because I was making three mini pies instead of one big one and feeling quite harumph-y about it by now. But this is when one must wrap the tops of the puddings with buttered foil (or dish cloth) and tie with twine right under the lip of the bowl. Then one must make a handle with twine so that one can lower it and lift it out of the steaming water and stay un-scalded. I steamed mine (in boiling water just above the half-way point of the bowls) for four hours. Clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter. For four hours.
Oh, but so worth it. Suet (or, in my case, lard) pastry can be so light and flaky, even steamed and boiled!
I poured in some gravy made from port, beef drippings, onions, and oyster sauce.
Recipe - I borrowed this from Audax Artifex, champion Daring Baker.
The following makes a 1 litre pudding, I made about 1 1/2 times the recipe for 3 little puddings.
For the suet crust pastry
225g/8 oz self-raising flour
salt and freshly milled black pepper
115 g/4 oz shredded beef suet
cold water, to mix
For the filling
380g/13 ½ ozs chuck steak
115g/4oz ox kidney after trimming (so buy extra about 15%)
3 tablespoon of oyster sauce and enough red dry wine to make a little over ½ cup
4 teaspoon plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the gravy
meat trimmings from the steak and kidney
1 onion, halved
570ml/1 pint red wine
1 tsp beef dripping
2 tbsp flour
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
You will also need a well-buttered, 1 litre/1 US quart capacity pudding basin and a steamer.
For the pastry, first sift the flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Add some freshly ground black pepper, then add the suet and mix it into the flour using the blade of a knife. When it's evenly blended, add a few drops of cold water and start to mix with the knife, using curving movements and turning the mixture around. The aim is to bring it together as a dough, so keep adding drops of water until it begins to get really claggy and sticky. Now abandon the knife, go in with your hands and bring it all together until you have a nice smooth elastic dough, which leaves the bowl clean. It's worth noting that suet pastry always needs more water than other types, so if it is still a bit dry just go on adding a few drops at a time.
After that, take a quarter of the dough for the lid, then roll the rest out fairly thickly. What you need is a circle, about 21.5 cm/8½ in in diameter. Now line the bowl with the pastry, pressing it well all around. Next chop the steak and kidney into fairly small cubes (reserving the trimmings for the gravy), toss them in the seasoned flour, then add them to the pastry-lined basin with the slices of onion. Add enough oyster sauce/red wine/water to reach almost the top of the meat and sprinkle in a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and another seasoning of salt and pepper.
Roll out the pastry lid, dampen its edges and put it in position on the pudding. Seal well and cover with a double sheet of foil, pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Now secure it with string, making a little handle so that you can lift it out of the hot steamer. Then place it in a steamer over boiling water. Steam for five hours, topping up the boiling water halfway through. (See more detailed instructions below.)
For the gravy, simply place the meat trimmings in a saucepan with the half onion, cover with one pint of red wine and 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, simmer for approximately one hour. Then strain the stock, and in the same pan, fry the remaining onion, chopped small, in the beef dripping until soft and blackened at the edges. Then stir in the flour, gradually add the meat trimmings/red wine/oyster sauce stock little by little to make a smooth gravy, adding a spot of gravy browning if it's needed. Taste to check the seasoning.
When the pudding is ready place a small hole in the top of the pudding and pour in as much of the gravy as you can.
To serve, either serve the pudding by spooning portions straight out of the bowl, or slide a palette knife round the edge and turn the whole thing out on to a serving plate (which is more fun!).
Instructions for Prepping for Steaming
The easiest way to steam a pudding is in a dedicated steamer as the water is kept away from the pudding so it can’t boil over. If, however, you don’t have a steamer use a pan large enough to easily fit the bowl you are cooking. Don’t fill the water more than about a third of the way up the bowl or it may boil over and into the bowl. Keep an eye and top up as needed with boiling water.
You need to lift the bowl off the bottom of the pan. This can be done with a steamer stand, an upturned plate or even crumpled up kitchen foil — anything that can stand being in boiling water and lifts the bowl off the bottom of the pan will work.
Make sure you have a well-fitted lid on the pan as you want the steam to cook the pudding not to boil off.
Make sure you put a pleat in the foil or paper you cover the bowl with to allow for expansion and then tie down tightly with string. Make a handle made from the string that lies over the top of the pudding, as this makes it very much easier to lift out when hot and is well worth doing.