Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sussex Pond Pudding

I’m sure many would be surprised to learn that, despite my svelte athletic frame and whippet-like trim, where it comes to pudding, I favour traditional British varieties. Not for me the charms of an ethereally light, whipped to within an inch of it’s life, uppity frou-frou fancy, as favoured by our continental cousins and finer dining establishments. No. I want a bowl containing a ‘lump’ of pudding, definitely not a slice. Preferably consisting mainly of suet. It will be a squat, heavy almost leaden mass. It will be steaming hot. The only acceptable accompaniment will be cream or custard. This is the type of dessert that powered a globe straddling empire. Accept no substitute.

Is it any wonder then, when invited to dinner at the rather swanky Hix Mayfair (ensconced in Brown’s Hotel), for a meal that was planned, incidentally to celebrate duck (more about that later) I only had eyes for the dessert - the intriguingly named Sussex Pond Pudding. This was to be the first time I’d ever tried it. Of course I’ve heard mention of it, studied pictures and recipes but it always seemed a bit of an oddity. In case you don’t know, it’s suet based (praise be) but in the centre there sits a whole lemon. It’s always kind of put me off making it, as I just couldn’t imagine what it’d taste like or if it would be any good.

Well ladies and gentlemen, wiser and significantly plumper, I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely frigging top drawer. Hello sticky, sweet suet sitting in a puddle of buttery, caramel, lemon juices, get down my hatch pronto. One of the best British puddings I’ve ever tasted, possibly even better than spotted dick and that, is almost taking the piss.

I ate four massive portions. The rest of the assembled guests (including Mark Hix himself) looked on with what I can only describe as a mixture of awe, admiration, disgust and perhaps pity as I refused to submit and ate as much as I possibly could. Seriously, it was ridiculously good.

A week later, the memory of this exemplary pudding scored deep into my brain, I decided to have a go at making it myself.
I used Mark Hix’s recipe from British Food. It turned out looking exactly like the picture in the book, a broken, ruined skyline of suet with a lemon protruding through the rubble. The restaurant version unsurprisingly, was much neater. I notice they’re using shallower but wider bowls, perhaps that’s the trick. In any case it tasted amazing, even it if wasn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing. Elly wasn’t such a fan. This is verging on treason as far as I’m concerned. Over 3 days, I ate the whole bloody lot myself. Every last bit.

Here’s the recipe…

Sussex Pond Pudding

Serves 4-6 (or just me)

You’ll need: -

250g self-raising flour, plus extra to dust.
125g shredded beef or veggie suet
150ml milk
300g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease,
200g soft light brown sugar
1 large unwaxed lemon

Mix the flour and suet together in a bowl, then gradually mix in the milk to form a dough. The dough should be soft but firm enough to roll out.

Roll out the dough to a circle large enough to line a 1.5 litre pudding basin. Cut a quarter out of the circle for the lid and to ease the lining of the bowl. Butter the pudding basin well, drop the pastry into it and join up the edges where the quarter was removed.

Mix the butter and sugar together and put into the lined basin. With a roasting fork or skewer, prick the lemon thoroughly, all over, so the juices can escape during cooking, then push into the butter mixture.

Remould the pastry for the top and roll it out to the correct size. Lay it on top of the filling and press the edges together to seal in the filling. Cover the top of the basin with a generous piece of foil, making a pleat down the middle to allow for expansion. Secure in place under the rim with string, making a string handle so it can be lifted out easily.

Lower the pudding into a pan containing enough boiling water to come halfway up the die of the basin, Cover and simmer for 4 hours, topping up with more boiling water as necessary.

To serve, lift out the basin and allow to stand for about 30 minutes, then remove the foil and loosen the sides with a small sharp knife. Put a deep serving dish over the basin and quickly turn the whole thing upside down – it may collapse a little (like mine did) but it’s to be expected.

Eat the whole frigging lot with cream, except the lemon, unless you REALLY like lemons.

As for the aforementioned duck dinner…
I was an enthralled witness to an immaculately turned out, white-jacketed waiter pouring a roaring napalm furnace of alcoholic fuel onto a duck pinioned upright, presumably by virtue of a pole up it’s harris. The heady smell of scorched flesh with perhaps a smidgeon of singed eyebrow wafted across the table. This act, played out in the luxurious, suave, civility of the wood panelled Hix Mayfair dining room, felt akin to Cary Grant taking a flamethrower to a Bichon Frise.

I highly recommend it.


Graphic Foodie said...

Amazing isn't it. But last time I ate it was almost 2 years ago and still feel the calorie guilt! Still, one that has to be tried.

Dan said...

Graphic Foodie - Fran, 2 years is enough time to clutch the pudding guilt. Let it go and make another.

Lickedspoon said...

Four portions. That's impressive. It's one of my favourite puddings too - this is a nice reminder to make it again.

Dan said...

Lickedspoon - Think everyone else present was impressed as well!