Thursday, 21 April 2016

Spotted Dick: a Traditional English Pudding (Wheat Free, Egg Free, with Dairy Free Option)

Since I made the Christmas pudding in a quarter of the time, I have had an itch for making steamed puddings. So, I've started off my series of experimentation with an English classic, though unfortunately named for nowadays audience, Spotted Dick.

Nobody does stodgy, heavy puddings like the English (well, Indian desserts are also fairly stodgy), and it's something that's kind of lacking in Irish cuisine. In fact, desserts aren't really a feature in Irish cuisine in general, except for the odd bread and butter putting, fruit scone, or "goody", which is a porridge made of white breadcrumbs, milk, sugar, and dried fruit (it's truly disgusting); we like dairy products big time, and most desserts here tend to be milky rather than bready or cakey.

Whereas across the Drink -- the land to which I owe half of my heritage -- desserts and puddings are a national pastime. Whether it's a dense and fruity Chelsea bun (which is a personal favourite of mine) or a steamed suet and syrup pudding, it's all about the stodge; filling every corner of the tummy.

My brother and I often talk about the stark contrast of the cakes section in Dunnes Stores (an Irish supermarket) and Tesco (an English supermarket that has stores in Ireland): the Tesco cakes and desserts section is far more comprehensive, including a whole section dedicated to steamed puddings, ready to eat custard, and evaporated milk.

Steamed puddings are the business, however, they're not truly understood by Irish people of my generation; maybe of the generation before us, but not folk my age. Golden syrup puddings are nice, but nothing is nicer than Spotted Dick.

Yes, you can giggle at the name, but essentially it's a like a plain sponge cake spotted with dried fruit, boiled for a few hours. The long cooking process gives it a beautiful caramelised golden crust, and a lovely dense moist centre. Traditionally, the dried fruit used is currants -- and sometimes citrus peel -- but here currants are expensive so I use chopped raisins.

It's really very simple to make: just flour, raising agent, suet, sugar, milk, and dried fruit. Now, because suet that you buy from the shop is neither vegetarian nor wheat-intolerance friendly, I use grated lard, or grated butter for an extra level of indulgence.


☑ Soya (check for soya lecithin)

☑ Yeast
☑ Wheat
☑ Nuts
☑ Eggs

☒ Gluten
☒ Refined sugar products
☒ Dairy

  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) baking powder
  • 6 fluid ounces (170 millilitres) milk
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) vegetable lard or block butter, very cold
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) caster sugar
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) raisins, chopped into small pieces
If using unsalted butter, add 2 pinches of salt.

  • Lightly grease a 2 pint (1 litre) pudding basin with a little butter.
  • In a mixing bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder, and caster sugar together until blended. 
  • Using a box grater, grate the lard or butter into the dry ingredients, dipping the grated side in the flour between grates. Using the fingertips, slightly break up the strands of lard or butter.
  • Stir in the raisins, and then mix in the milk. Mix gently without beating to a thick batter.
  • Pour into the pudding basin and smooth off the top with the back of a metal spoon or the tip of a rubber spatula.
  • Cover the top of the basin with a sheet of aluminium foil, crumpled underneath the rim, or if your basin has a lid, use that. If you don't have aluminium foil, use a square of greaseproof paper with a pleat in the middle, and secure underneath the rim with some twine. Cook as instructed below.
  • After cooling slightly on the rack as instructed, remove the cover and turn out onto a plate for serving.

To cook in a pressure cooker:
  • Place the pudding in the cooker's steaming basket, or on an upturned side plate on the bottom of the pan. Fill the pan with boiled water to half way up the side of the pudding basin.
  • Cover and lock, and bring to full pressure. If your cooker has pressure options, put it on high pressure.
  • Once brought to pressure, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 45 to 55 minutes. After 45 minutes, vent to release the pressure and check the doneness of the pudding with a knife or a skewer: if there is any sticky under cooked mixture stuck to the skewer or knife, cover again and bring to pressure to cook for an additional 5 or 10 minutes.
  • When cooked, vent to release the pressure, take the pudding out of the pan with oven mitts, and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

To cook in a normal saucepan:
  • Find a saucepan big enough to accommodate the pudding. Place the pudding in a steaming basket, or on an upturned side plate on the bottom of the pan. Fill the pan with boiled water to half way up the side of the pudding basin.
  • Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce to a vigorous simmer, and cook the pudding for 2 to 2½ hours, checking for doneness after 2 hours.
  • When cooked, turn off the heat and take the pudding out of the pan with oven mitts, and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

This pudding is best enjoyed immediately after cooking with heated custard or pouring cream. It doesn't keep very well -- 2 days in the fridge at the most before it goes bendy -- so eat it quick!


  1. Goody .... ... I personally can't speak for its taste/texture - - - - But apparently its an oldy-timey staple for those who have no teeth!;D XD That's according to my culchie West Corkonian mother;3 My townie Dubliner father truly was baffled by the concept!!XD
    We both heard about it for the first time just a few weeks ago when my mother happened to bring it up in the context of a conversation about sweets and deserts 'back in the day'. How coincidentical;3

    Don't be forgetting the key position of the good old humble apple and/or rhubarb crumbles in the tiny pantheon of Irish baking;3 ... And apple pies for the true culinary masters;3 Any Irish Granny worth her salt could pull together a daycent apple pie for after dinner on a Sunday.^_^

    But cyha, according to both my parents, townie and culchie alike, -Jelly and Ice Cream - reigned supreme as the all time Irish desert of choice. ;3

  2. Another Irish culinary desert masterpiece, according to my mother, passed down to her from her mother .....
    Was -
    - - A plain sponge, or madeira cake, sliced, and placed in a bowl with a splash of orange squash, so that the squash could soak into the cake. ... ... ... .... Maybe served with custard.


    Very Delicious right! O_o

    My maternal Grandmother was not the most culinary minded woman around by most accounts I have gathered-_-

    But! - - - my sources do say that the farm laborers she was dishing up such innovative après-tea delicacies to were appreciativeO_o

    The Irish palette is an easily pleased one!!!O_o XD

    1. Ah yes, jelly and ice-cream, and apple pie! How could I forget! I dunno if blancmange is a thing that's eaten in Ireland, to be honest: it's like a set cornflour custard (it's the bidniz, actually I might try it) :3

      Madeira cake with orange juice?! Good God no! That sounds disgusting! Have you ever tried eating breakfast cereal with fruit juice? I did it once and it was horrendous XD

    2. Never cereal with fruit juice.... but think I have tried fruit smoothie mixed into porridge before!! ... Not actually too terrible if you just put in a wee drop to flavour it, ('specially if its a blueberry smoothie yum!!) ;3

      The first time I Ever heard of blancmange was in a Roald Dahl book. I had to get a dictionary to find out what it was!!!^_^ ...And I had to get the dictionary out 'cos my parents weren't 100% confident in explaining what it was when I asked!!XD Ha! That prob tells how widespread blancmange appreciation is in Eirinn!;D XD

      First time I saw a visual representation of a blancmange was in Monty Python!!XD
      (cut to 5:00 mins in ;3
      OR see -> ) XD


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