150g self-raising flour
80g shredded suet
1 pinch salt
½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
100g butter, cubed, plus extra to grease
100g soft brown sugar
1 unwaxed lemon
Generously grease a 750ml pudding basin and line the base with greaseproof paper. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 (if using) and boil the kettle.
Put the flour, suet, salt and ginger in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Mix the milk and water, and pour into the bowl. Stir to bring it together into a firm dough, adding a little more liquid or flour if it feels too dry or too soft.
Set aside a quarter of the pastry, for the lid, and roll out the rest on a lightly floured surface until just large enough to line the basin (make sure it isn’t too thin).
Toss together the butter and sugar, and put most of this in a layer in the bottom. Cut the lemon almost but not wholly across about a quarter of the way up; repeat on the opposite side halfway up, and finally from the opposite side three-quarters of the way up: the lemon should still be more or less intact when you put it in the basin. Pack round it with the remaining butter and sugar.
Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid, moisten the pastry around the rim of the basin with water, then pop on the lid and press the two together firmly.
Cut out another two circles of paper 10cm larger than the top of the basin, and fold a pleat into the centre (this will give the pudding room to breathe). Top the basin with the pleated paper and secure with string, looping it first around the rim and then across the top to make a handle (if this is your first time, there are more detailed instructions here).
Put the basin in a steamer or on an upturned saucer in a pan large enough to hold it fully, and pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides of the basin. Bring to a simmer, cover and put in the oven for about four hours, topping up the water as necessary.
Lift the basin from the pan, cut off the handle and paper, and turn out the pudding on to a plate with a lip around the edge, to catch the juices inside when you cut into it; the pudding will sag, but don’t worry – looks aren’t everything with suet puddings, after all. Cut into portions (ideally straight through the lemon which is now at the top of the pudding, and serve with chilled cream.
Where to start. Firstly, I should be clear this is a zetigheisty kind of thing. I have never made Sussex Pond Pudding (or SPP as I shall call it) before, I was (must have been) subliminally aware of it but not consciously I think. And then this week there was a programme on the Radio (and this is part of the curse of being a Radio 4 listener) that, I believe mentioned it. I can't remember context or programme or anything about it, but SPP was just in the corner of my consciousness waving a little hand and saying "look at me"
I had the In Laws coming for Sunday Lunch so it seemed like a good chance to try something new. So out comes Mr Google to search for SPP. Luckily it turned up a recent article from the estimable Felicity Cloake in the Guardian. It is one of here series where she does the hard work for you - does research into the dish, looks for themes in different recipes and sources and - even better - tries them for you and then arrives at a final recipe which is often an amalgam of the best bits of the recipes she has found. I have used her end results before and based my Gravad Lax recipe on hers. So I was optimistic about the results and, when I saw what was in the pudding it seemed very appropriate. For at the end of the week freaturing the "Beast from the East" what better than a steamed suet pudding! Warming, Filling and Lemony.
Don't be put off by the fact that it is steamed or suet based. Cloake points us to a method of steaming the pudding in the oven. Even though it take a log time (4 hours) again that did not seem an issue for me as I was slow roasting a shoulder of lamb for the same amount of time, so it seemed like some kind of Karmic thing to make this pud at the same time as that roast. S surfeit of saturated animal fat to keep us all warm on a cold Winter's night.
And I must confess to being completely surprised by this pudding. The simple ingredients, really easy method of making and cooking produced a pud that hit all the right notes when served with a glug of cream. It was warm, intense the pastry slightly sticky but with a kind of lemony caramel filling which, when eaten with a piece of the cooked lemon was wonderful. Sweet ,sour, creamy and satisfying. I am at a loss to understand why this pud is not better known and more commonly made (well, actually with 4 hour cooking I'm not really at a loss) but on those occasions where you are roasting a joint for family, this slots easily in with the rhythm of the whole meal and I would heartily recommend you try it.Use veggie Suet if real suet offends your sensibility. Although this seems small, it is rich so will feed 6 people