A belated Happy New Year to everyone. It’s been a long, long time since the white chocolate and cranberry cupcakes. I do do quite a bit of baking around Christmas (and this year, the fruit in the Christmas cake didn’t all sink to the bottom, and I even attempted a yule log) but I just don’t get the time to write about it.
I have two new books for the start of 2017, British Baking by Paul Hollywood and the Larousse Book of Bread by Éric Kayser. This week, I decided to give Mr Hollywood a try and, since we still have Christmas cake on the go and, until yesterday, when I eventually threw the last dollop away, a new year’s trifle, I decided to go savoury with a Norfolk Plough Pudding. It’s not something I’d heard of before but, according to the recipe, it’s a suet pudding, traditionally served on Plough Monday – the first Monday after Twelfth Night. I think that was a couple of days ago, so my plough pudding was pretty appropriately timed. Here it is.
I mixed self-raising flour, baking powder, beef suet, some chopped sage and salt and pepper together and added water. The recipe says that you want enough water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. This is what I ended up with.
Soft enough? Sticky enough? I didn’t know.
I wasn’t sure whether I needed to rest or chill the pastry before rolling it out. The recipe didn’t say anything, so I went right on with the rolling. First, I took a third of the pastry and rolled it out to make a lid to fit a 1.2 litre pudding basin, then I rolled out the rest of the pastry into a circle so that I could line the basin with it (30cm diameter).
Lining the basin was tricky. This is where I found that my dough was probably a bit too sticky. What I was supposed to do was to fold the pastry into thirds so that I could lower it easily into the pudding basin. Folding my dough into thirds was easy. Unfolding it? A completely different story. My thirds just stuck together. I sort of managed to open it out again, but on the worktop, not in the basin. I wrangled the pastry onto a rolling-pin, dropped it into the basin and moulded it as well as I could around the sides.
Plough pudding is lined with sausage meat and filled with a mixture of pancetta, onion and thyme. I didn’t know whether our butcher would sell sausage meat (as opposed to sausages), and when he told me that I could just let him know what type of sausage I wanted and he’d just take it out of the skins for me, I was a bit flummoxed. Obvious I suppose, but I wasn’t expecting a choice, and I went for the first name that I could see in the sausage cabinet. Bumblebee. It wasn’t until my bumblebee sausage meat was out of its skin that I noticed that bumblebee sausages were flavoured with honey and mustard. I was in trouble. My husband hates mustard. Hates it. It was too late to change my mind about the sausage meat. I decided to keep quiet. Fingers crossed that the mustard in the bumblebee sausages would be very, very subtle.
To line the pudding with the sausage meat, I rolled it out between two sheets of clingfilm. Rolling it out was OK, but lining the basin was the fiddliest of fiddly things. There was no hint of this in the recipe, just “lift it into the basin,” says Paul Hollywood. My version went a bit more like this, “scrape it off your clingfilm into a heap at the bottom of the basin and do your best from there.”
I would have taken a picture at this point, but my hands were dripping with bumblebee sausage meat and, by the time I’d got it all off I’d forgotten.
I mixed diced pancetta and onion, some chopped thyme, dark muscovado sugar and a little bit of black pepper and put it into the basin. I put the pastry lid onto the top, sealed and trimmed the edges.
I covered the lid of the basin with a layer of baking paper and a layer of foil which I’d put a pleat in, tied the cover on with string and put it into a saucepan to steam. I gave it three hours, checking once in a while to make sure there was still enough water in the pan.
This is how it turned out.
We had it with cabbage, carrots and a red wine gravy and it was very good. I wasn’t sure about the suet pastry, I didn’t like the texture all that much, but the filling was really tasty. I can imagine it would be just the thing you set you up for a day’s ploughing, or whatever backbreaking work that get’s done on Plough Monday. Jon enjoyed it pastry and all, and there was not one mention of mustard.