To most Americans, this is the most humorous of names for a dish. But in England, spotted dick is a standard part of the cuisine. After welcoming it into our household, I can see why.
This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was brought to us by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
I felt that I was one leg up on some of the competition just by knowing what suet was. (It’s beef fat that is stored above the kidneys) However, I’d never cooked with it. Thankfully, a local butcher had suet available for me (for cheap – $1/lb!), so I was ready to go. I opted to first try out Esther’s suggestion at a traditional British savory pudding – steak and kidney pudding.
I have tried kidney once before in my life. While I’m a huge fan of offal (LOVE me some liver, and as you know, I’m no stranger to other weird body parts, such as cow’s head), I was not fond of kidney. However, that was years ago, and I concluded that I must have not prepared it correctly the last time. Time to try again. I began by making a suet crust, and rolling it out, and lining a bowl with the crust. I followed a recipe as instructed, and filled the crust with pieces of steak and kidney, along with some onion, carrot, and thyme. I covered the crust, and steamed it in my tamale steamer for about 5 hours. When I removed the pudding, uncovered the top, and the kitchen filled with the aroma, I immediately knew. No way was I going to be able to eat this. No offense to all of the kidney-lovers out there, but kidney is just not my thing. I even made myself take a bite or two (and the husband did the same), but I’m sorry to say, we had something else for dinner that night.
However, I was undeterred. I was still going to succeed in this challenge, and make something I liked. So I turned to the sweeter side of things. Spotted dick it was.
Spotted dick is a lightly sweet suet pudding, traditionally dotted with currants. (Hence the “spotted” part of the name.) I decided to add a few things to enhance the flavor just a bit – I contributed some golden raisins, and the zest from a meyer lemon. I steamed this pudding for about 2 hours, and topped it with a meyer lemon vanilla custard sauce. Let me tell you – although this pudding has a humble appearance, the flavors certainly deliver. It reminds me of a lighter (light in flavor, not in calories, mind you) bread pudding of sorts. The suet creates such a unique, yet addictive texture. It’s something I’m definitely going to try to incorporate instead of butter in various decadent recipes in the future.
A big thanks to Esther for challenging us! I love learning new cooking styles, incorporating new ingredients, and stepping outside my comfort zone. This one certainly challenged me!
Meyer Lemon Spotted Dick, adapted from Epicurious
For the pudding:
1 1/2 c gluten-free flour blend (I used 2 parts sweet white rice flour, 1 part cornstarch, 1 part tapioca starch)
1/3 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t xanthan gum
1/2 t salt
1 c cold finely chopped beef suet
8-10 T whole milk
1/2 c mixture of currants and golden raisins
zest from 1 meyer lemon
Pulse together flour blend, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a food processor. Add suet and pulse until mixture is evenly mixed. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Pour in milk and stir with a fork until incorporated. Knead with your hands until a slightly sticky dough is formed. Add currants, raisins, and zest and knead until evenly mixed.
Fill a large pot or steamer pot (I used my tamale steamer) with 1 1/2 inches water. Use the steamer insert, or you can make a platform by using crumbled foil or cookie cutters. Place the dough mixture in a well-buttered pudding basin or 1-quart ceramic or glass bowl, and flatten the top with your hands. Cover with a buttered piece of parchment paper (butter side facing the dough), and top with foil. Wrap the foil tightly around the edges, and tie with butcher’s twine. (Make sure it’s “waterproof” so the steam won’t seep inside and ruin your pudding.)
Bring water to a boil and set bowl on your “platform” or steamer insert. Steam pudding with your pot covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking every so often to make sure your water hasn’t all evaporated. (Add more if needed.) Remove bowl carefully from pot and place on a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove parchment and foil, and invert pudding onto a large plate. Serve immediately with custard sauce.
Meyer Lemon Vanilla Custard Sauce
1 1/2 c whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
pinch of salt
1 t vanilla
juice from 1 meyer lemon
Bring milk just to a boil in a medium saucepan and remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pour hot milk into the bowl in a steady stream, whisking. Pour custard back into pan and cook over low heat, whisking, until slightly thickened. Pour through a fine sieve into a pitcher or bowl. Whisk in lemon juice and serve warm over pudding.