Tag Archives: steamed pudding

Date and maple syrup steamed pudding

Date and maple syrup steamed pudding

We had a pretty good summer in southern England this year, with very little rain and a reasonable amount of sunshine July to October. But now it’s definitely Autumn, with winter round the corner and that means one thing: steamed puddings!

OK, maybe not just one thing, but I do crave serious stodgy English puddings in the winter. Growing up, a favourite was treacle sponge – actually a steamed pud made with golden syrup. It’s a recipe I revisit regularly, and frequently use as the basis for variations on a theme, adding things like stem ginger, other fruits and spices.

Since the end of last winter, my kitchen whiteboard has featured an increasingly faint scribble saying “date and maple syrup steamed pudding”. This weekend we had a lovely visit from our friend Mary Margaret, who Fran worked with in Rome. She’s Canadian. So of course that’s a good excuse to reach for the maple syrup. MM said she hadn’t had a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving this year (10 October), so our Sunday roast stood in for it. She was very satisfied with my entirely non-traditional date and maple syrup pudding.

The dates were chopped and soaked in boiling water with half a teaspoon of baking soda. This is a technique used when making sticky toffee pudding, another classic stodgy English pudding. Which probably had its origins in a Canadian recipe.

I do include a bit of golden syrup here as it’s thicker than maple syrup and I felt it’d help with the texture but if you live somewhere that it’s not available (the US, I believe), just use all maple syrup. It’s a pretty forgiving recipe.

Date and maple syrup steamed pudding, sliced

100g dates, roughly chopped
2g baking soda
Boiling water
70g maple syrup
20g golden syrup
190g butter, softened
150g soft brown sugar, or light muscovado
3 eggs, lightly beaten that is about 170g
190g self-raising flour
4g baking powder
2g cinnamon
2g allspice
Pinch of salt

1. Put the dates in a bowl, add the baking soda and cover with boiling water. Leave to soften.
2. Grease a 1.2 litre pudding basin with butter.
3. Put the syrups in the bottom of the basin.
4. Beat together the softened butter and sugar until light and creamy.
5. Add the beaten egg a little at a time, continuing to beat. If it starts to curdle, add a little flour.
6. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and spices, then sieve this into the beaten mixture, along with a pinch of salt.
7. Strain the dates and add to the mixture.
8. Fold to combine. If it seems a bit firm, add some of the date liquid or a splash of milk.
9. Put the mixture in the pudding basin.
10. Cover the basin with a piece of foil, with a pleat in it. You can tie the foil on, but I’ve given up these days.
11. Put the basin in a large saucepan with some boiling water, or in a steamer over a saucepan, and steam for about 2 hours.
12. Remove from the saucepan and lift the foil. The top should be fairly firm and cakey.

Date and maple syrup steamed pudding, foil

13. Turn out onto a plate.
14. Drizzle with more maple syrup and serve warm with cream or ice cream for extra indulgence. Preferably on a cold, rainy day. If you feel the need, go for a good energetic walk – before or after – to justify it to yourself…

Date and maple syrup steamed pudding, with cream


Filed under Puddings & desserts, Recipes

St Nicholas pudding

St Nicholas' pudding

Christmas is looming. Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is waiting to do the impossible and deliver gifts to millions of kids on Christmas Eve. Santa is a slightly baffling modern evolution of St Nicholas, who was in fact born to a Greek family, in what is now part of Turkey but was then part of the Roman Empire, in the late 3rd century.

St Nicholas’ feast day is actually 6 December (in Western Christianity; 19 December in Eastern Christianity) and in many cultures that date is still a big deal, with celebrations and special baked products: speculoos biscuits in the Netherlands; ciastka miodowe, honey cakes, in Poland; and vanilkove rohlicky, vanilla crescent biscuits, in the Czech Republic, among others. Even here in England there was apparently1 a traditional pudding – though I can’t imagine many people still make it for 6 December. Which is a shame, as it’s rather good, and could even make a good alternative to the traditional British Christmas pudding – a heavy, alcohol-infused concoction I’ve never liked.

Traditional British Christmas pudding is often called “plum pudding” – though its main fruit component is raisins, not plums. It gets the name as in older English “plum” was used to mean raisin, or dried fruits in general. St Nicholas pudding, on the other hand, is a genuine plum pudding.

I’m slightly confused by this as the plums on our Victoria tree were all ripe in August, and while there are later varieties, any fresh plums in early December would surely have been imports – but importing fruit was a less commonplace activity in Olde England than it is now in our industrial, seasonality-quashing modern world. More likely, it used prunes – dried plums. This recipe uses both. Luckily I had 3kg of our plums stoned and frozen from August.

Prunes and plums

Like Christmas pudding, this is a steamed pudding2 so it’ll need a good 2 hours cooking time. Plan ahead!

125g butter
125g caster sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
90g plain flour
8g ground cinnamon
4g ground cloves
4g baking powder
50g breadcrumbs
200g plums, stoned
60g prunes, stoned and chopped
80g golden syrup
About 6 more plums or prunes, stone and halved

750g plums
240g caster sugar

1. Cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Add the zest of the orange.
3. Add the egg a little at a time.
4. Sieve together flour, baking powder and spices, and add to the mixture, along with the breadcrumbs.
5. Fold to combine.
6. Add the orange juice, plums and prunes and mix gently until well-combined.
7. Grease a pudding basin, then put the 80g (two generous tablespoons) of golden syrup in the bottom.
8. Arrange the halved 6 plums or prunes in the syrup.
9. Spoon the batter onto the top.
10. Seal with foil and tie.

Seal the pudding basin with foil and string

11. Steam for approx 2 hours.
12. Make the sauce by slicing plums into saucepan, with a little water. Simmer until well softened then puree by putting through a mouli, or blending and putting through a strainer.

Caramelise the sugar
13. Dissolve the sugar with about 60-80g water. When it’s dissolved, turn up the heat and boil to caramelise slightly. Remove from the heat, stir in about 60-80g more water – carefully, as it’ll spit.
14. Add the plum puree to the syrup, and stir well to combine. You can add some booze if you like – port, Kirsch, a dash of brandy.
14. Check if the pudding is cooked by lifting the foil and sticking in a skewer; it’s basically a moist cake, so the skewer won’t come out clean – but nor should it come out with bits that still resemble batter. If it’s still battery, keep steaming.
15. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out onto a plate and serve with the sauce.

You could even serve with some cream or vanilla ice cream, if you’re feeling really indulgent. It’s a lovely pud, with the orange, and possibly the caramelised sugar, tempering the sweetness of the sugar and syrup and adding some bitterness.

Portion of St Nicholas' pudding

1 I say apparently as although a recipe appears in my 1997 copy The Pudding Club Cookbook, and that one is essentially copied in Cooking With the Saints (Ignatius Press, 2001), I can’t find any mentions of the pudding in my books of older traditional British recipes.
2 OK, some Christmas puddings are boiled still. See this post for more discussion of just what is meant by “pudding” and its history.


Filed under Feasts, Puddings & desserts, Recipes

A pond pudding – Sussex or otherwise

Sussex pond pudding with clotted cream

This was the first nominally, specifically Sussex-in-origin recipe I tried, years ago, when I first bought the ‘The Pudding Club Cookbook’* by Keith and Jean Turner.

In their intro to the recipe (I do like a bit of blurb), the Turners say “Some brisk correspondence exists in the archives over this pudding. Purists declare the edition of a lemon to be the ‘twentieth-century whim of a seriously misguided cook,’ and furthermore ‘the pudding dating from the seventeenth century is served with roast Southdown lamb, and the pudding crust dotted with currants, the centre oozing with butter and sugar’.”

Further variables are recorded. The version in Hannah Woolley’s ‘The Queen-Like Closet’ (1672) has it made with a whole apple inside instead. Certainly apples would have been easier to source, and afford, for many 17th century cooks.

MK Samuelson’s ‘The Sussex Recipe Book With a Few Excursions into Kent’ (originally published 1937, reprinted 2005) does corroborate that the recipe was made without lemon and with currants. Ditto Florence White’s ‘Good Things In England’ (originally 1932), which lists another recipe early 20th century version that involved currants and no lemon. Though the inclusion of currants was vehemently denied by a Wikipedia contributor who said this made it a Kentish pond pudding. (I’ve revised that Wikipedia page.) The lemon seemed to arrive in the recipe in the mid-20th century, with some crediting it to Jane Grigson’s ‘English Food’ (published 1974). “The genius of the pudding is the lemon,” which would be fairly immodest if it was her innovation.

Such is the nature of debate about historical recipes. And, as I’ve said before, surely any dish is going to be mutable depending on season, availability, what’s in your cupboard, what your family prefers, what your family can afford, how your granny did it, etc.

Pond pudding - flour and suet

A pond of sugar and butter
Suffice to say, the word “pudding” traditionally referred to boiled items that, in Medieval cooking, could feature dried fruits, meats, spices, sugar and spices. This hybrid of flavours isn’t common in English cooking these days though I discussed the whole relationship between pudding and sausages, etc, over here.

Retaining the legacy of meat products in puddings, the fat used for the pastry or dough of  English puddings of a say 19th century and later traditional, when they had evolved into something sweet, was likely suet. Suet is raw animal fat from around the kidneys of cow or, less commonly, sheep.

These days a pond pudding is most likely to be sweet. I would say that what defines a pond pudding is an oozing of buttery sugary sauce, which gestates inside the crust while the dish is steaming and streams out when the pudding is upturned and cut for serving. The Samuelson recipe calls for 1/2 lb (225g) to 1/2 lb of Demerara sugar. I’ve used a little less.

Sussex pond pudding lemon and skewer

250g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
120g shredded suet**
140ml milk and water, mixed. Don’t worry too much about the proportions.
120g butter
120g Demerara sugar
1 lemon

1. Grease a 1 litre (2 pint) pudding basin. The original recipe called for a 2 1/2-3 pint basin, but I found this too big.
2. Sieve the flour and add the pinch of salt.
3. Add the suet to the flour, then bring to a dough, using a knife, by slowly adding the milk and water mix. Don’t add too much, as you don’t want a sticky dough.
4. Turn out the dough and work to bring together into a ball.
5. Roll out the dough to about 6-8mm thick, in a roughly circular shape.
6. Cut a quarter out of the dough, and form this back into another small ball.
7. Line the basin with the 3/4 portion of dough, bringing the edges together and sealing them using a little more of the milk and water mix, or just water.

Sussex pond pudding, butter and sugar
8. Cut the butter into small cubes, and mix with the Demerara.
9. Put half the butter and sugar mix in the basin.
10. Prick the lemon all over with a large skewer then put this in the basin.
11. Cover the lemon with the rest of the butter and sugar mix.

Sussex pond pudding
12. Roll out the final portion of dough and use it to create a lid, closing up the sides, again, dampened with some milk and water or water.
13. Cover the dish tightly. I generally do this with foil, with a pleat in it, though you can use baking parchment, and tie it off.
14. Steam the dish for about 3 hours. I do this in the top of a vegetable steamer, but you can also sit the dish directly in simmering water in a large saucepan. Make sure the saucepan doesn’t boil dry.
15. When cooked, remove the cover and turn the dish out onto a plate with enough of a rim to collect all the butter lemon sauce that flows out.
16. Serve with cream, ice cream or custard. We had clotted cream.

Pond pudding, before steamingPond pudding, after steaming

Apparently, Heston Blumenthal was inspired by this type of pond-pudding-with-a-lemon-inside to create a Christmas pudding with an orange inside. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t do this recipe with an orange inside either. Or indeed add currants to the crust paste. As long as it gushes butter and sugar, you’ll have your own bespoke pond pudding.

Sussex pond pudding

* The Pudding Club, “‌est. 1985”. Their recipe book was revised in 2012 and is now published as Great British Puddings. Strangely there’s a maternity-wear brand that’s nicked the same name, muddling the British desert curator’s Google viability. Ma dai! Come on! Give over!

** I do eat some meat, but only good quality local, free range products. So here I used vegetable fat suet as I’m struggling to find good quality, non-industrial versions of both suet, and lard, as used in my previous recipe. It’s funny, as the real food movement, and all us (middle-class) consumers, have made sure good quality, free range and/or organic meats are commonplace these days, but lard or suet from well-husbanded animals is less available. Strange really, as you’d think if a farm was rearing free range pigs, it’d have some free range lard. Ditto farms with well husbanded cows – what happens to all that kidney fat? Of course using vegetable fat suet is also ethically problematic as it likely contains some portion of palm oil, and palm oil is notorious for being grown on plantations created in cleared and burned tropical rainforest, one of planet earth’s most important types of ecosystem.

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