I am still alive. I had not been kidnapped by aliens or lost the use of my hands. Simply far too busy and with so many things to prioritize. Tut, tut, tut....blog writing = top priority. I know, I know but the reality is that these wonderful little posts don't pay the rent or buy Christmas presents - unless you, devoted readers, wish to make a donation....;-D
But I am now back ready to face Christmas and the Italian invasion, as well as presents, turkey, crackers, puddings....and so on and so forth...
If English food is neglected, Scottish food is practically unheard, with the exception of salmon, haggis, and whiskey, which is a real shame as Scots culinary traditions are lost in the midst of antiquity. I admit it, it is all rather heavy but would you not go for a juicy and fatty piece of meat rather than a Mediterranean tomato grilled with herbs that might well refresh you and help your tan but won't warm up your freezing bones?
This cake, "Clootie Dumpling", is a variation on the most known English Christmas pudding - or who knows, perhaps it went from North to South rather than the other way round...after all weren't English invading its northern cousins?
At first sight I thought it was a big lump of cold meat. So when I reluctantly put it in my mouth I was expecting to chew hard fat and swollen tears of disgust. To my surprise it was sweet, moist and spicy! And much lighter than its other southern rival!
The history of the Clootie Dumpling goes back many generations and gets its name from the cloot or cloth in which the pudding was traditionally boiled and its use dates back to the 1600s. It is really easy to make, so Scottish grannies claim, if done right and can be served with cream, butter, jam, custard and even for breakfast as a toast! And of course the cloth, traditionally made of cotton, is finished with a tartan ribbon according to the family preparing it.
Traditionally it was made for New Year with all the remaining ingredients used for Christmas, including from bread and that is why it has breadcrumbs too. With time of course people started making for Christmas and then even for other occasions including birthdays and other celebrations.
200g diced butter
350g plain flour
200g fresh breadcrumbs
175g caster sugar
175g currants and raisins
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixes spices
50 ml full fat milk
Rub the butter with the flour to make breadcrumbs. Add the real breadcrums, sugar, fruits, bicarb, and spices and mix well.
Beat the egg with the milk and add it to the dry mixture. Stir well to make it into a dough. If it is still a little bit wet, it is ok or it will become too heavy.
Using a cloth previously dipped in boiling water to make sure it becomes stiffer, place the mixture in the centre of the cloth and close the edges securing them with a string. Make sure you don't squeeze the dumpling in it too tightly as it will expand while cooking.
Steam on a saucepan and cook for 3 hours. Alternatively, as modern grannies would do, you could fill up a pressure cooker with a few cm of water, place the dumpling in the basket (as if you were making vegetables) and cook for 7-10 minutes from when the cooker starts whistling.
Once it has steamed, take it out of the cloth, place it in the oven in an ovenproof plate and bake it for 15 minutes at 140C so that it crisps up. You can do this just before serving it back again in its pretty cloth with the tartan ribbon.