I’m not Scottish – I just invaded the country from the North of England about 18 years ago, and decided to stay. Since my arrival in 1995 I’ve obviously come to love the country and the people within it. The traditions are a mixed bag. Some I like, some not so much.
For example, I’ve never found the kilt attractive on a man. But the clootie dumpling is something I think is tasty. It’s not as rich or as heavy as a Christmas pudding, and very easy to make.
The use of a cloth (or a cloot) as a wrapper for cooking pudding dates back to the 1600s, before homes had ovens, when all food had to be boiled on the stove.
Recipes for clootie dumpling have been passed along generations in Scotland. It’s quite often enjoyed by families on Burns Night, and over the festive season for either Christmas or Hogmanay. But it’s popular for any special occasion.
In the olden days, coins or lucky charms would be cooked in the dumpling, as gifts. They were meant to give diners a vision of their future. Finding a coin means wealth; a ring signifies marriage; and a wishbone promises the finder their heart’s desire. The man who finds a button and the woman who gets a thimble are destined to remain single.
This has fallen by the wayside for health and safety, food hygiene and dentistry reasons. But it might be best to ask your host before biting into a big mouthful of clootie dumpling – in case they happen to be a little old school!
Here’s a recipe I have used over the past few years – enjoyed my many Scots who have come to my home for Hogmanay. It makes enough to serve 8.
Put on a pot of water before you get started, so the water is boiling and ready for the dumpling.
Mix together the following in a large bowl (see pic 1):
- 340g plain flour
- 115g shredded suet
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 3 large handfuls of raisins (or sultanas or dried fruit)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon all spice, 1 teaspoon ginger
Once that’s all mixed in, add the following:
- 1 large tablespoon of treacle
- 1 large dessertspoon of syrup
- Enough milk to bind the mix together so it’s soft without going mushy
Take a round cloth – which you can cut from an old cotton tablecloth, piece of muslin, cotton sheet or tea towel.
Soak it in boiling water while you are preparing the dumpling mix, then wring it out and lay it flat before sprinkling plain flour across the middle part, where the mix will be poured.
Pour the mix into the centre of the cloth (pic 2). Gather up the edges and tie them together with string or a thin strip of cloth (pic 3), leaving enough room for the mix to expand as it cooks – you don’t want your dumpling to burst oot its cloot!
Traditionally each member of the household should now give it a good “skelp” (or smack) for luck, and to ensure it’s got a good round shape, before it’s gently lowered into a pan of boiling water (pic 4).
Put the lid on the pan, and leave it to boil for 3 to 3 and a half hours, always ensuring that the water level is sufficient to surround the whole dumpling.
Use tongs to lift your dumpling from the boiling water. Cut the string and turn it out onto a large plate – at this stage it will look very pale – or as they say in Scotland ‘peely wally’ (pic 5). Sprinkle with sugar and place into a hot oven for approximately 15 minutes, checking it doesn’t burn. In the past, it would be sat by the fireside to brown, but central heating radiators don’t lend themselves to this practice.
During its time in the oven, your dumpling should develop a lovely, brown, leathery-looking skin. At this point, it is ready for eating hot, when it can be served with cream, custard or even just milk (pic 6).
>You can decorate it with a dusting of icing sugar and small sprig of holly if you really want it to look festive.
Enjoy, and have a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.
Day 21 of the Blogger Advent Calendar was brought to you by Donna whose ramblings, rants and realities you can find over at Mummy Central. Donna is a 40-year-old Geordie living just outside of Edinburgh with her Lancastrian husband and their two gorgeous boys, aged 5 and 7.