by Frances Housden
Escape to Christmas Past
It may come as no surprise that I grew up in Scotland, and when the call went out for recipes suitable for the holiday season, my thoughts immediately flew to a recipe my mother used to make for birthdays and Christmas—Clootie Dumpling—always a treat. The problem was that after moving house twice this year, I couldn’t remember where I had put the slip of paper she had written the recipe on.
However, my mother must have been listening from up above for what should arrive in the post yesterday, sent by my great friend Carol Marinelli—Maw Broon’s Cookbook which included the lost recipe. Serendipity! For anyone who never had the pleasure of reading ‘The Sunday Post’ and the weekly cartoon strip of the Broons. I first read the strip when I was little, and it is still going strong in the Post, as well as in books published every second year though maybe you need to be Scottish to appreciate them. That said, Clootie Dumplings taste good no matter your nationality. Of course what made them really special to a five year old was the silver charms and threepenny bits my mother used to wrap in greaseproof paper and stir into the mix that I’m going to translate below.
- 4oz of shredded suet
- 8oz of self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 4oz of white bread crumbs
- 3oz of brown sugar
- 1 grated apple
- 8oz of currants and sultanas
- 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon of golden syrup
- 2 eggs and a little milk around 4 fluid oz
Half fill a large pot and bring to the boil. Scald a large piece of linen—large old-fashioned tea towel—or cheese-cloth, with boiling water then dust it with flour.
Beat the eggs, mix in the syrup and a little milk, and gradually mix into the dry ingredients and fruit. Place the mixture in the middle of the cloth. Tie it tight, but allow for swelling. Place an inverted plate on the bottom of the pan and put the pudding on top of it. Boil for three to four hours. Never let the water drop below half the depth of the pudding. When cooked, dip in cold water, remove the cloth and dry the pudding off in a medium-to-hot oven. Sprinkle the top with sugar and serve with sugar and serve with cream or custard.
My mother always dried the dumpling next to the fire. It used to be lovely to open the door after school and smell it drying by the fire. Being made with suet the dumpling will have a skin holding it together, which makes it easy to slice next day and fry for breakfast.
One last thing, at the top of the page above the recipe, Maw Broon has written, “If ye dinnae like this ye’ll no’ like anything.”
Frances Housden returns with her best-selling, award-winning Chieftain series in this short novel about a young woman with a strong will and a sharp mind, and the man who has nothing to offer but his heart.