It’s been a while since I wrote a post on a good old British steamed pudding, and this is one of my all-time favourites. Spotted Dick is a great pudding because it lies somewhere in between a suet pudding and a sponge pudding and is borne of that period of prolific pudding invention: the Victorian Era.
If you’ve never heard of Spotted Dick, it is a spongy steamed pudding that contains suet instead of butter. It is only slightly sweet and flavoured delicately with lemon. The spots on the Spotted Dick come from currants. You don’t want a pudding that is too sweet, the sweetness – I believe – should come from the currants and the custard that must be served with it (for a custard recipe, click here).
For some unknown and crazy reason, Spotted Dick doesn’t appear in my favourite cook book of all, English Food by Jane Grigson (to see why it’s my favourite, see my other blog).
Now for the big question: who the heck is Dick?
The pud is first mentioned in a book from the 1850s by the famous Chef Alexis Soyer called The Modern Housewife, or, Ménagère. Alexis Soyer was the first celebrity chef and he deserves a whole post just to himself! He mentions Spotted Dick in passing when listing a typical week’s meals during tougher times. This was Tuesday’s dinner:
‘Tuesday. – Broiled Beef and Bones, Vegetables, and Spotted Dick Pudding’
The ‘Dick’ in Spotted Dick seems to come from the shortened Old English names for pudding: puddog or puddick. In Scotland it is often called Spotted Dog Pudding.
Spotted Dick is a very simple pudding to make; it can be steamed in a basin or be rolled out like a sausage and covered in buttered foil and then steamed. Sometimes it takes the form of a roly-poly pudding with the currants and some brown sugar making the filling. Personally, I prefer to use a basin.
Anyways, here’s the recipe:
For a 2 pint pudding basin, that serves 6 to 8 people:
300g plain flour
10g baking powder
150g beef suet (fresh or packet)
75g caster sugar
Zest 2 lemons
butter, for greasing
In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, suet, sugar, currants and lemons. Add the milk, mixing slowly until all is incorporated. You’re looking for a mixture of dropping consistency.
Liberally butter a 2 pint pudding basin and spoon in the mixture. Cover with a lid. It’s easiest to buy a plastic basin with a fitted lid. If you’re using a glass or porcelain basin, make a lid from a double sheet of pleated foil and secure with string. It is worth making a foil or string handle for the pudding so that you can get the basin out of the steamer safely.
Place in a steamer and steam for 2 hours. Make sure there’s a good brisk boil for the first 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to medium-low. If you don’t have a steamer, simply place an upturned saucer in the base of a deep saucepan and pour over it boiling water straight from the kettle. Gingerly place in the pudding.
Turn out the pudding onto a serving plate and serve immediately with plenty of custard.