The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
I was thrilled to see this as the challenge because I have wanted to make a steamed pudding for some time. It's been on my to-do list for about a year. My problem is not having a big enough pot to be able to put a bowl with the pudding in inside. So I borrowed one from Ann at Sacatomato. (Hint, hint for future gift!)
Why steam these puddings and pies instead of bake? An enlightenment hit me when I thought more about it. In the earlier centuries only large manors and castles had ovens. The small townfolk just had hearths and had to cook everything in pots or on spits. Steaming is a method of making a 'baked' good without an oven. Now you can have a 'cake' without having to bake it.
Suet is the really hard fat that is found around the kidney area of a cow. You might have come across pieces of suet in your raw steaks too. It's the harder, crumblier fat unlike the softer, slippery fat found throughout. You can get it from the butcher or buy it in some places after it has been processed.
I wanted to do the full experience of this challenge so I called Taylor's Market and ordered it. When I went to pick it up they gave it to me for free. That was a nice surprise and actually understandable since it is the fatty trimmings that would have gone in the garbage anyway. Thanks, Taylors.
So the first step was to take it home and render it. After you trim away as much connective tissue as possible, you then mince the fat or grate it on a grater. It's so hard and crumbly that I just minced it up with a knife and threw it in a pot. You melt the fat over very low heat. You have to be careful because fat is very hot. Many directions tell you to strain the liquid fat through a cheesecloth to remove all the other tissues. That's the fried bits you see in the pot. I just used a skimmer and lifted out the tissue bits and was left with the melted fat.
After it had cooled a bit I poured it into a tupperware and stuck it in the frig to harden. You want it to reharden into a block so that you can grate it again for the actual recipe.
The challenge required you to make a steamed pudding, use suet if possible, and you could choose whether you wanted sweet or savory. I wanted to do sweet initially, but then thought I ought to try the savory because that would equate to dinner. I found a steak & kidney pie recipe except that I made it with steak only. I had steak and kidney pie as a child because my dad is British and I never was a fan of the kidneys.
The first part of the recipe is to make the crust. It consists of flour, suet, salt, pepper, and water. The suet had to be grated to get it into very small bits to toss in the flour. You add enough water to get it into a nice dough ball for rolling and then roll it out big enough to fit into a ceramic or glass bowl. Then add the meat mixture, some broth, and top with a lid of crust.
I topped the lid with parchment paper, doubled aluminum foil, and then tied it tightly with string.
I filled the borrowed stockpot with about four inches of water and then used a small stainless steel bowl to help lift my pudding bowl. The pudding bowl sat above the water then. Lid on top and turn it on. The pudding had to steam for four hours. Here is the finished product...
I found that there was way too much crust and ended up throwing half of it away. I wished that there had been more juice/gravy as well. If I were to do it again, I'd add more broth. And, actually, I might opt for Guiness and Worchestershire sauce as seen in another recipe. I found the whole innards - beef, onions, gravy - to be rather boring. Another change I'd make would probably be to just bake it in pie form instead of going through the hassle of steaming. The dough was nice and moist, but I guess I prefer the flakiness of pie crust instead.
So I didn't care for this challenge in terms of a savory pudding. But it made me curious enough to try a sweet version as well. So see my post in a day or so about my chocolate steamed pudding that I also made.