Still very winter in London so craving comfort food as February plods on. Seriously fancied roast beef Sunday with all the trimmings. Found a recipe from HFW in the Guardian for a steamed leek pudding and I was intrigued. Actually it would be fair to say I was utterly intent on making one because a) I love leeks and smoked bacon b) most of Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall's recipes work out a treat and c) I am undeniably a greedy cow and I could imagine how wonderful it might be!
According to ham and pease pudding leek puddings are the traditional accompaniment to stewed meat in the north east. It makes perfect sense for anyone who's ever seen the intensity with which leeks are cultivated, the care lavished daily, the night time vigils to prevent skulduggery, all determined to be the prize winner in local shows. All that attention produces ENORMOUS leeks, the big beasts of the vegetable world, but probably not entirely naturally. Obviously a leek that is over 8cm in diameter would be so tough and stringy it will be inedible, steamed or otherwise. For eating, smaller is sweeter.
I have certainly never made a steamed pudding before and I'm not convinced I have ever eaten from one either. If I have it wasn't memorable. I loved the idea of making suet pastry having previously fallen in love, in winter, with suet dumplings. Suet makes for such a silky mouthful it is irresistable though possibly not entirely good for you.
I am thoroughly enjoying playing with the steam oven from Miele and have used it nearly every day since it arrived. Have mostly made Chinese dishes, it being a cuisine that has a lot of time for steaming but there is a strong tradition too in Britain for steamed puddings, mostly sweet but occasionally savoury too.
The recipe is very simple but I would double the quantities for the filling next time or at the very least use bigger leeks, especially if I was planning to serve it to six. It had a great flavour but there could have been a lot more of it. See c) above.
HFW sasys 'A north country favourite. Serve it alongside a roast, so the tender pastry can soak up the meat juices. Serves six as a side dish'.
200g self-raising flour
100g shredded suet (beef or vegetable)
1 tsp English mustard powder (I omitted the mustard as I don't like it)
Salt and pepper
50g butter, plus more for greasing
6 slices unsmoked bacon, cut into 2cm pieces - use 12
3 leeks, white and pale green part only, washed and finely chopped - use 6
70ml double cream - double that to 140ml
Mix the flour and suet with the mustard, a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine with just enough water – about 140ml or so – to make a stiffish dough.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the bacon until just golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan, gently sauté the leeks in the same fat until soft, move the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.
Roll out the dough into a large circle. Cut a quarter out of the circle. Generously butter a one-and-a-half-litre pudding basin and line it by dropping the larger piece of pastry into it, drawing together the cut sides to make a firm join. I didn't know this trick but it worked flawlessly!
Fill with alternating layers of leeks and bacon.
Roll out the remaining quarter of pastry into a circle and lay it on top. Press together the edges of the pastry lid and casing to seal. Put a double layer of buttered, pleated foil over the top and tie in place with string.
Put a large pan of water on to boil (fill the pan with enough water to come a little more than halfway up the side of the basin), and place a pan lid or upturned tart tin in the bottom to act as a trivet. Lower the pudding on to the makeshift trivet, cover the pot and leave bubbling away for two hours. If the water gets low, top up with boiling water. I obviously used the steam oven which simply heats to 100C then cooks, with no requirement for more water, for the requisite two hours but if I am to make it again these instructions will come in handy.
Once cooked, remove the foil, run a knife around the edge of the pudding, turn out on to a plate and serve hot.
Sadly this was not great next day cold - the filling remained toothsome but once cold the pastry reverts, like the ugly sisters after the ball, to undesirable stodge.