As part of YKL’s Year of Vague Endeavours, her aim was to attempt 40 different things that she had never done before, there were certain rules (yunno, nothing life-threatening so she wasn’t going to attempt a parachute jump) and for one of her tasks, she made a Steak and Kidney pudding from scratch. It actually ended up as a bit of a retro night as we also had prawn cocktail and an arctic roll for pudding afterwards. However, the star of the show was undoubtedly the Steak and Kidney Pudding, so with meat from a good butcher and ingredients assembled, a trusty cookbook from Delia at our side, we (well she) made a start..
The idea for Steak and Kidney pudding came about because neither YKL or myself had ever really made a steamed savoury suet pudding, we’ve made various steamed sweet suet puddings and made steak and kidney pies, but never a steamed pudding. If I’m honest, the whole suet thing scares me a little but as with a lot of other dishes that I cook and feature in this blog, they’re all good every now and again, but it’s definitely not something you would (or should) eat every day. There are plenty of recipes and variations to go by online and in cookbooks (including one by Felicity Cloake in The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog where she details what she considers to be the Best recipe, but more on that later), but we felt that Delia (being a stalwart when it comes to traditional dishes) would be the more reliable recipe, although we did reference some other recipes too so we could get a general idea of how the pudding should be made.
Firstly then, the suet pastry. As I mentioned earlier, I have a bit of a phobia of suet. That’s not to say that I’m terrified of it and can’t see or touch it, more that it’s been drilled in my head for years that suet may as well be the devil’s food given how calorific and fattening it is, and eating it is pretty much signing your own death warrant. Well, there’s no getting away from the fact that suet is raw (generally) beef fat (although it’s sometimes raw mutton fat). However, there is also a vegetarian version (though why you would want something synthetic to replicate the taste and/or flavour of animal fat doesn’t seem right). The pastry is made by sifting some flour into a large bowl before seasoning and mixing in the suet, the water added and everything is combined with a knife until it all comes together into a sticky dough. At this point, use your hands until you get a smooth, elastic dough which leaves the bowl cleanly. Remove and set aside about a quarter of the pastry for the lid, then roll the reminder into a circle and line the bowl you’re going to use to steam the pudding in. One little note: Make sure you butter or grease the inside of the bowl before you line it with the suet pastry. We didn’t and well, you’ll see the results later..
Once the bowl has been lined with the pastry, it’s time to fill that puppy: drop the cut steak and kidney pieces into some seasoned flour and layer into the lined pudding bowl a layer at a time with the steak and kidneys, then some sliced onion, dropping a bot of Worcestershire sauce every layer until you fill the bowl. Don’t be afraid to push down the filling to really pack it in (remembering that the meat will shrink as it cooks), but be careful not to push TOO hard otherwise you’ll split the suet pastry lining the bowl. I actually dropped a bit of extra seasoning along with the Worcestershire sauce after every layer but you don’t necessarily need to do so yourself. So, with the bowl lined with the suet pastry and filled with the filling, now add some water until it just about covers the filling, then roll out the saved pastry and stick on top for the lid, pressing it at the edges to seal and tidying up by removing any bits hanging over.
Now my favourite part, cover the top of the pudding with a double sheet of foil with a pleat in the middle to allow for expansion and hold it tightly in place with some string around the circumference of the bowl. Watching YKL tie the string, I was strangely filled with a feeling of giddiness as to me, it showed that we were making a proper, old-fashioned steamed pudding and it made me really happy. Actually, it was at this point that we realised that we had actually made another mistake in that we forgot to add the water to the filling so had to cut a small hold in the lid to add the water. So again, don’t make the same mistake we did. With the new foil lid tied securely, we placed the bowl in the steamer and left it there for 4 hours, checking periodically to make sure the water doesn’t boil dry.
In those 4 hours, the house will be filled with a really beefy smell from the suet and so YKL and I had no choice but to spread out our dinner over a few hours (including making a prawn cocktail for starters, complete with our own Marie-Rose sauce and served in glass tumblers). Once the pudding was ready, YKL carefully lifted the pudding from the steamer and cut the string. The foil was removed carefully and the waft of beefy goodness that was released was heavenly. The lid was certainly cooked through removing the foil left it looking a bit rustic, but the moment of truth was to be revealed once the pudding was turned over. A plate was placed on top of the lid and the whole thing (including bowl) was turned upside-down so that all that was required was to release the pudding from the bowl. Well, that was the idea anyway; YKL turned the whole thing upside-down and immediately the lid fell down and so the pudding started to release its contents. Lifting up the bowl made the whole thing split completely – with the pastry which lined the bowl staying in the bowl. We tried to slide a small palette knife along the edge of the bowl between the pastry and the bowl as perhaps it just needed some air in between to loosen the pastry? But it wasn’t budging, why would it when we hadn’t greased the bowl beforehand? Carefully, YKL separated the pastry from the bowl as best she could but it came out in clumps, with the resulting final product looking a bit messy to say the least. Let that be a lesson for next time – MAKE SURE YOU GREASE THE BOWL!
There was a bit of steak left over, so I made it again by myself a couple of days later and this time remembered the grease the bowl. It came out of the bowl easily and certainly looked the part, well apart from one part of the pudding which split.
So there you go, a couple of half-failures but rookie mistakes aside, it doesn’t take away how tasty this dish is. Served with old fashioned boiled carrots (cut in rounds) with peas and boiled potatoes and got stuck – It tasted pretty good with the meat cooked until tender and enveloped in a rich sauce but I sense that YKL was a bit disheartened by being denied a gloriously looking steamed savoury pudding. Making it at home means you can dictate how big or small the meat pieces should be, it also means that you get to dictate how MUCH filling you want (though why you would want to make something that is mainly gravy like what you get when you buy one in a supermarket is beyond me). It amazes me that you can get such a deep, rich and velvety sauce when all you’ve done is toss the meat in seasoned flour and added a bit of Worcestershire sauce, then topped the whole lot off with some water. I absolutely do NOT put any herbs into the filling and any vegetables should be served on the side – not as part of the filling as Felicity Cloake suggests in her perfect steak and kidney pudding recipe. As I’ve already mentioned before, the sauce of the filling is rich enough without the need to pre-cook it first with any stout or beef stock. I can see how doing so will save time cooking later, but if you’ve got the time, then you will be thoroughly well rewarded. I absolutely love this recipe and when the weather is a bit crap and you want something a bit more stodgy and filling, Steak and Kidney pudding is absolutely ideal. Welcome back to my life Kate and Sidney – I never realised how much I missed you and look forward to having you for dinner again soon.
You can view the full set of photos on my Flickr page.