The age of steam

Rich and unc­tu­ous, Granny’s trea­cle dumpling was just the thing on a bit­terly cold day in auld Dundee. Made to a fam­ily recipe, this steamed pud­ding is plainer than most, more Scots and won­der­fully good with both cream and cus­tard

The Guardian - Cook - - King Of Puddings - Jeremy Lee Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis restau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv

Trea­cle dumpling was prob­a­bly the great­est favourite of the many pud­dings my grand­mother made for me. While I sat on the No 37 bus from Caird Hall in the cen­tre of Dundee where I al­ways jumped aboard, I would won­der what Granny might have on the stove. Trea­cle dumpling was al­ways high on the wish­list. The bus would make its way up Perth Road, run­ning par­al­lel with the river Tay sparkling in the dis­tance and the King­dom of Fife be­yond. After nu­mer­ous stops, the green dou­bledecker would fi­nally ar­rive at its des­ti­na­tion, Hawkhill, at the be­gin­ning of Black­ness Av­enue, one among the many cu­ri­ous names of the roads, wynds and streets of Auld Dundee.

My grand­mother had a small but very good clutch of trusted and beloved recipes. Even a bit­terly cold Dundee day, as the chill wind from the North Sea blew through the streets, would be for­got­ten upon ar­rival at Granny’s to the smell of soups and stews, pud­dings and tarts bak­ing.

Un­like trea­cle tart, which calls for the more gen­teel golden syrup, trea­cle dumpling re­quires the more ro­bust end of the scale: the con­tents of the red, black and gold tin of Lyle’s finest black trea­cle.

Trea­cle is a byprod­uct of the sug­ar­refin­ing process, a re­mark­able busi­ness with an even more re­mark­able his­tory. Dense and rich, unc­tu­ous and po­tent, trea­cle re­quires ju­di­cious mea­sur­ing, as too much can over­whelm even a steamed suet pud­ding. It is of­ten paired, as it is here, with golden syrup to tem­per its might. I have writ­ten pre­vi­ously of a steamed ginger pud­ding with mar­malade, but this recipe is older, plainer, more Scots and won­der­fully good. What it lacks in fruit and spice it more than makes up for in com­fort and joy.

Like trea­cle tart, soft, fresh white bread­crumbs are re­quired to make a trea­cle dumpling. Here they are stirred into a bowl along with the trea­cle and golden syrup, then spices are added along with eggs and milk to lighten the bat­ter. The whole is then steamed in a sealed bowl.

This is one of a fair few mem­o­rable pud­dings that ap­peared of­ten at our ta­ble when I was grow­ing up. My mother would watch Granny care­fully as she worked, and I joined her, an avid au­di­ence to these old rit­u­als. In­deed, there was a time long ago when such pud­dings ap­peared al­most daily. Old Scots recipe books, such as Meg Dod’s The Cook and Housewife’s Man­ual (1826) and those by Han­nah Glasse ex­ist still, yet cu­ri­ously, I never saw a recipe book in my Granny’s scullery. There was only ever a mod­est note­book, the pages cov­ered in Granny’s neat hand­writ­ing with care­ful in­struc­tions on how to cook our favourite dishes. This was sadly lost, but thank­fully, my mum’s were not. And therein, in her (also very neat) hand­writ­ing, are a great many old Scots recipes. Bring on the steam age say I.

Trea­cle dumpling

Serves 6-8

210g black trea­cle, plus 2 tbsp ex­tra

100g golden syrup

125g suet

125g self-rais­ing flour

125g soft, fresh white bread­crumbs

½ tsp bak­ing pow­der

½ tsp bi­car­bon­ate of soda

A pinch of salt

125ml milk

1 egg

2 tsp ground mace

2 tsp ground cin­na­mon

1 Lightly but­ter a pud­ding basin. Cut a disc of grease­proof pa­per to sit on the bot­tom, then add the 2 tbsp of trea­cle.

2 Put a pan, with a close-fit­ting lid, onequar­ter full with wa­ter, on a medium heat. Put a small plate on the bot­tom of the pan be­neath the wa­ter level and cover. Re­duce to a sim­mer.

3 To a mix­ing bowl, add the 210g of trea­cle, the golden syrup and the rest of the in­gre­di­ents. Stir well into a fine bat­ter, then pour into the pre­pared pud­ding basin. Seal with a tight-fit­ting lid or with grease­proof pa­per and tin foil tied se­curely with string.

4 Care­fully put the basin on the plate in the pan of sim­mer­ing wa­ter. The wa­ter should come half­way up the side of the basin. Cover and sim­mer for three hours. Check the wa­ter oc­ca­sion­ally and top up if re­quired.

5 Once ready, the pud­ding will sit hap­pily. Serve with cream or cus­tard – both are good here, and to­gether they are very good.

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