The English pudding has taken on many forms and varieties but the traditional pudding was a dish that had been cooked in a pudding cloth or pudding bowl usually boiled or steamed and occasionally baked. It could be sweet or savory.
The English pudding is traditionally made with suet. Suet is the fat from inside of a sheep or a cow. It is flaky and hard and usually obtained from around and near the animal’s kidney.
Suet crumbles easily and may be a little difficult to obtain in its natural fresh form unless you know your local butcher, who will be only too happy to help. Suet has a low melting point, which makes cooking with it different. You can also look for processed suet that is usually combined with flour to keep it from clumping.
If you are not too comfortable about using suet to cook, there are many alternatives and one or more will be definitely suitable for you. You can look for vegetarian suet that comes combined with rice flour, making it suitable for those who need it gluten free.
Lard is also an alternative, if you so wish. Although do remember to avoid butter and margarine, as they don’t work well when making English puddings.
Puddings may be sponge pudding (spotted dick, college pudding and Christmas pudding) or crust puddings (Steak and kidney pudding, Sussex pond pudding).
Traditionally the pudding should be steamed for an hour or so, but many tend to boil it too.
Steaming it actually not very complicated. All you need is a sauce pan with a lid, a steamer rack to be placed at the bottom of the saucepan and a pudding bowl (heat proof) to steam the pudding.
The more traditional way of doping it is to place the pudding in a pudding cloth and hang it in the saucepan to boil.
The pudding will start with the pastry dough. Mix the suet and the flour well and then add a little water at a time till you get pliable dough.
You may add salt and pepper to the flour if making a savory pudding and a little salt and spices when making a sweet pudding. Keep aside about a quarter of the dough for the lid. With the rest line the pudding bowl.
Fill it with stuffing of your choice. Roll out the remaining dough and make a lid for the pudding. Remember to dampen the edges and then pinch them together to keep the pudding closed. Depending on the recipe you need to steam the English pudding for an hour or up to five hours.