I have a growing sense that a good portion of our Northern neighbours believe us to be a little bit antiquated here in the top of the South. I had this confirmed to me last week when speaking with someone arranging a business trip south. She asked me what the roads were like here. I politely informed her that they were fine and that we even have electric lighting now.
This weeks blog is not going to do much to dispel the myth of our hobbity ways. I’m talking about what passes for fun here in the winter months. After all there is only so much banjo playing you can take. A couple of winters ago the team here at Country Trading started a Pudding Club. And before you jump to conclusions, no I didn’t know that phrase has an entirely different meaning to folks of a certain era. If you don’t know, go ask your Mum, I’m not going to enlighten you here.
When I was a kid, steamed pudding made a regular appearance most Sundays with its good friends custard and cream and then again cold sliced and buttered in our lunch box and as afternoon tea. So why did they fall from favour? Because in a 2 minute noodle world they took an hour or so to cook? Because the aluminium pudding steamers we all used apparently gave us dementia? Or maybe we just stopped sitting down together for the Sunday roast.
Whatever the reason, the steamed pudding is a dish whose time has surely come again. Good food is good food and it rises above fashion, like a pudding in a basin. It feeds our comfort genes like a warm blanket and a pair of slippers. A tummy full of steamed pudding sets the world to rights.
It is in these winter months that I fondly remember Pudding Club and pull out the steamer to make one of the recipes we tried. We all trawled old cook books and family recipe vaults, asked our Mothers and Nanas. I cooked so many different puddings that I started looking like one!
Proceedings culminated in a pudding evening at the historic Moutere Inn who kindly let us take over the kitchen. The members of Pudding Club with willing family and friends, managed to get through no less than 6 steamed puddings of all flavours during the course of a very memorable night.
I stonkered the crowd with a solid steak and kidney complete with suet crust. Other contributions included a boozy brandy Christmas pudding, date hangi pudding, dainty lemon pudding, sticky toffee apple pudding and a spicy sponge creation called Sinbad pudding. We all rolled home and didn’t eat another pudding for some time. To look at the photo album of all the puddings we made and tested in the pursuit of pudding perfection click here for the Pudding Club Facebook album.
If you fancy making a steamed pudding this winter here are a few tips and tricks and a recipe for one of the classics. And although we stopped eating them for a while, we did compile a wee steamed pudding recipe book and hunt down some lovely stainless steel pudding basins.
Top 5 Tips for Making the Perfect Steamed Pudding
A lot of recipe books are short on method for steamed pudding cooking as it was just something that all cooks knew how to do. Many books just give a name and a list of ingredients. To give a method would have been like describing how to butter toast. But times have changed and we’re not all pudding queens – so here are our top tips for making the perfect steamed pudding:
- Grease the steamed pudding bowl well with butter all over the base and up the sides of the bowl before putting the batter in. This helps the pudding come away from the basin at the end of cooking when you turn the pudding out onto a plate. Don’t use marg or oil thank you very much.
- Take the bowl and put it upside down on a sheet of grease proof paper and cut a circle out to fit the top of the basin. Grease the paper circle with butter and place it gently, buttered side down, on the pudding batter before putting the lid on the pudding steamer. This keeps the pudding moist and stops it sticking to the lid or escaping should it rise too much.
- Most steamed puddings will nearly double in size during cooking so when you put your pudding batter in your steamed pudding bowl, make sure you have enough headroom.
- While you are preparing your pudding, put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a low rolling boil or a high simmer. Put enough water in the pot to come at least half way up the pudding basin, preferably ¾ of the way up. These puddings have long cooking times so check the water level once or twice and top it up with boiling water from the kettle if it looks to be getting low. The Scottish Women’s Institute 1938 Cookbook states that it is best to keep a pudding at a crisp boil and I have found this to be correct. If it is at a simmer or just hot, the pudding does not rise and fluff up, it ends up stodgy.
- In our experience, recipes aren’t that accurate with their cooking times, giving guidance like; “about an hour” when it’s closer to 2 hours. So to avoid eating raw cake batter, poke a skewer in the center of the pudding. If it comes out clean or with crumbs on it the pudding is ready. If it comes out with gooey mixture on it then put the lid on and put it back in the pot of water. They are quite forgiving; it’s not like taking a sponge out of the oven. You can also tell if it’s cooked if the top of the pudding is firm and springy to touch and evenly risen with no sink hole in the middle.
My dad’s favourite steamed pudding from a book Auntie Margie gave mum in 1963. The book was a fundraiser for the Ashburton Branch of the NZ Registered Nurses Assn (Inc.). I can still see the cover with the nurse in her white cap and red cape. This is a pudding to set you on the road back to good health if ever there was one. It is particularly fine with a good dollop of Edmonds Custard and a glug of cream.
- 1 good tablespoon(15 grams) butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 grated apple
- 1 heaped breakfast cup of flour
- 1 cup fruit, (half dates, half raisins)
- 1 good teaspoon baking soda
- Mix with milk till fairly soft
Put in greased pudding steamer. Steam for 1½ hours. Mum still makes it occasionally and says any leftovers (I don’t remember there being any) butter up nicely as a loaf when cold and it also is good made in deep muffin tins, baked at 180°C for 15-20 mins for individual puddings.
So there you have it, pudding eating is the pastime of choice in winter months here at the top of the South. And this is a good thing – we need all the padding we can get with the state of our roads! Some of you North Islanders may even want to give Pudding Club a try. I don’t think it is illegal to eat cream, butter and sugar in the North Island yet.