Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Granny Chisholm's Clootie Dumpling

There are some things, usually food related I find, that can transport you back to childhood in an instant. It might be the smell of your mum's chicken casserole, the memory of licking the spoon after a marathon cake-baking session, or the sight of a stack of pancakes for Sunday breakfast. For me, it is Clootie Dumpling. My granny was a wonderful, traditional Scottish cook - mince and tatties, tablet, raspberry jam were all staples - but her greatest recipe, and the one she is most fondly remembered for, was good old clootie dumpling. My family (particularly my uncle) still celebrates birthdays with a clootie instead of the more modern sponge confections, and New Year dinners wouldn't be the same without one.

It seems incredible that I had never attempted to make a clootie dumpling myself, considering how important the recipe has been in my life. Since my granny passed away, the clootie mantle has been passed to my aunt, who lovingly prepares a sumptuous, bulging clootie for my uncle's birthday each year. But recently I've been thinking it's time for me to have a go, to keep the clootie dumpling alive in my generation instead of allowing it to become a relic of the past. Yes it's traditional, yes it's old-fashioned, but I think that's to be celebrated rather than ignored.

So here it is, my granny's clootie dumpling, kept alive into the Noughties.

Serves a big hungry family.

1 cup shredded suet (vegetarian suet is available)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup sultanas
1 cup currants
1 cup milk
1 grated carrot OR 1 grated apple
1 large teaspoon cinnamon
1 large teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.
2. Flour a large sheet of greaseproof paper and place the clootie mix upon it. Place in a large cloth and then double wrap inside another teatowel/muslin (or old pillowcase!) Secure firmly with string. The clootie should be taking shape now - it should look a bit like a curling stone.
3. Place on an upturned plate in a large heavy pan with about 5cm water and steam on a low heat for 4-5 hours, topping up the water when it gets too low.
4. Remove the clootie from the pan, carefully unwrap it and place on a baking tray in a medium overn (160 C / gas mark 3) for 15 minutes. This will allow the clootie to dry out and form its traditional 'skin'.
5. Remove from the oven, cut into generous slices and serve with either custard, cream or just a sprinkling of caster sugar. Or, for a more modern twist, try serving with a dollop of creme fraiche.

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