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Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lizzie Lamb's Clootie Dumpling Recipe

On Wednesday, November 30th, it is the Feast of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland and several other countries, Russia, Cyprus and Greece to name a few.  Although, (to my knowledge), I don't have any Scottish blood, my guest this week does. Lizzie Lamb is a hugely successful romantic novelist and inspiration to all of those who know her so I am thrilled to welcome her to my blog sharing her childhood memories and her recipe for the wonderfully named, Clootie Dumplings. 

    So, over to the lovely Lizzie.

Relax and enjoy!

I only have to unscrew a jar of cinnamon and I’m seven years old again, making my way home from school through the deep snow of a Scottish winter. But I don’t mind the cold because I know that there’s Clootie Dumpling waiting for me. Not Lord Snooty’s Christmas pudding, as dark and round as Guy Fawkes’s bomb - I mean Clootie Dumpling, its bigger, more substantial Scottish cousin, a cross between a Quatermas Experiment and a Desperate Dan pie.  

On Clootie Dumpling day (we simply called it dumpling) the kitchen was a blissful warm fug of steam, redolent with the scent of cinnamon and ginger, like some medieval banquet, the clatter of pots and pans and lots of happy chatter. Just the antidote for dark, northern December days. The dumpling would have been mixed by hand (not wooden spoon) earlier by my mother and grandmother in a huge bowl. No weighing of ingredients for them, everything was done by guestimate and experience.  

The copper would be fired up, filled with water from the immersion heater and brought to boiling point. (We always had lots of hot water because my grandfather was a coal miner and we had a ton of coal delivered twice a year) Then the dumpling cloth would be brought out - my mother swore by a square of linen sheet she’d bought at the Glasgow Barrows. String would be filched from the large hairy ball of twine my granddad guarded jealously and we were off. From my point of view, the best bit was smacking the dumpling’s bottom - for luck - just before it was wrapped in its wet, flour sprinkled cloth, tied at the neck with string and immersed in the copper for three hours. 

Then came the great reveal, the steaming dumpling was taken out of its cloth, rolled onto a large turkey plate and put in front of the coal fire to ‘dry out’ and form a skin. There’s nothing finer on a cold winter’s day than sitting by the fire waiting for the first slice to be ready. We always ate the first slice hot with the top of the milk poured over it. Next day, I’d take a slice to school as my ‘piece’ for break time, wrapped in a ‘loaf paper;’ while the adults ate theirs with a friend's egg, and sometimes baked beans. The poor old dumpling never lasted long as slices were given to neighbours - who reciprocated when they made their dumping - but theirs was never as good as my Mammy’s.   

When we moved to England in 1962, we left the copper behind and my grandma hit on the idea of boiling the dumpling up in the twin tub. I don’t know how, but the mixture never seeped through the cloth into the water. Too dense I suppose. Then Mammy found a huge catering saucepan [with handles on two sides] on a stall on Leicester market, and we carried it home - all the way up London Road. That saucepan became the family dumpling pot.  

When we no longer had coal fires, we dried the dumpling in the oven - but that always seemed a poor show, somehow. The making of dumpling and other Scottish treats like tablet, stovies, tatties, sausage and onions, and the traditional peppery steak pie on New Year’s Day passed into folklore when first my grandmother and then my Mammy died. But I only have to unscrew the lid of a Bart’s spice jar to be transported back to those happy childhood days - when dumpling was king.

Ingredients For Clootie Dumpling:
125g suet
250g plain flour
125g oatmeal
250g mixed sultanas and currants
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
75g sugar
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
4 tablespoons of milk
1 tablespoon of flour for the cloth

Cooking Directions for Clootie Dumpling:

1. Rub the suet into the flour and add oatmeal, baking powder, sugar, sultanas and currants and the ginger and cinnamon. Blend together and add the eggs and syrup. Stir well and add just enough milk to firm.

2. If you are using a cloth (cloot), put it into boiling water first then spread onto your table and sprinkle a liberal amount of flour over the inside. Put the mixture into the middle and tie up, leaving a wee bit of space for the mixture to expand.

3. Place an upside-down saucer at the bottom of a deep pan and put the tied cloot in and cover with boiling water and simmer for about 3 hours.

4. If you'd rather use a bowl it will need to be greased before adding the mixture. Leave an inch space at the top for the pudding to expand. Cover with greaseproof paper and tie.

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride. Although much of her time is taken up publicising Tall, Dark and Kilted and Boot Camp Bride, she published a third novel SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS in July 2015. It achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon. Lizzie is a founding member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press. In November 2014 they  held an Author Event at Waterstones High Street, Kensington, London - the icing on the cake as far as they are concerned. In March 2016, Lizzie was a finalist in the prestigious Exeter Novel Prize for Scotch on the Rocks. And, in November, she will be hosting an author event at Aspinall, St Pancras, talking about writing and handing out prosecco and macaroons.  Lizzie lives in Leicestershire with her husband David (aka Bongo Man) and a naughty parrot called Jasper. She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . . 

Scotch on the Rocks – a contemporary romance set in the Highlands of Scotland

Boot Camp Bride - Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes

Tall, Dark and Kilted Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen

Take a chance on us - a tapas of novel openings guaranteed to pique your taste buds
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology

Lizzie’s Links

twitter: @lizzie_lamb      

Thank you very much to Lizzie for a lovely post and Happy St. Andrew's Day to everyone!