The pudding whose name reminds me of an awkward teenager! I know that sounds cruel and is, since the invention of Clearasil, most likely no longer true. But that hasn't stopped at least one English supermarket go completely PC on it and rename it "Suet Pudding with Currants."
Not nearly as interesting a name. But still more sensible than the option of calling it "Spotted Richard" which Flintshire Country Council did in 2009 to combat the endless jokes. As far as I'm concerned, Spotted Dick it is and has been since 1849 or thereabouts. Where the pudding got its name is doubtful. The author of the Spotted Dick wikipedia page suggests that dick was once a widely used term for puddings, or that the word might be a corruption of pudding.
Whichever it is, the name has amused generations of Brits and whatever you call it will not impair the taste of one wonderful nursery pudding! Made from suet crust, with currants, sultanas and raisins providing the 'spots', Spotted Dick is a wonderful winter treat. Just make sure you steam it well. I don't think it's as velvety when it's baked.
And don't forget the custard. This is no time for cream, not even the Cornish Clotted variety. (But if custard is out of the question, try butter and brown sugar.
Unlike most other pastries, which are baked, suet crust is usually boiled or steamed and works well for both sweet and savoury dishes. According to Mrs Beeton the pastry can be baked, but in the process looses some of its richness.
Suet crust pastry is made from suet, flour, salt and water. It always contains baking powder as a raising agent. Self-raising flour works well when making this pastry, or you can add 4 tsp of baking powder to any 450g / 1lb of plain flour.
Suet can be bought in ready-to-use packets from your grocer or supermarket or fresh from the butcher, and there's also ready-to-use Vegetarian suet. When using fresh suet remove the skin and shred the suet finely before using.
This quantity of suet crust pastry is enough to make a 15cm / 6in pudding, which will feed four people.
If using block suet, remove skin and shred finely. If using packet suet, weigh out quantity required and follow instructions on the packet.
Sieve flour, baking powder (if using) and salt together and add the suet.
Mix with cold water to a soft, but not sticky dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll out as required.
Spotted Dick is a very basic suet pudding, commonly steamed in a cloth or pudding sleeve rather than a pudding basin. The only variation seems to be in the quantity and mix of dried fruit used. Currants and raisins are most common, but I've also seen a Spotted Dick recipe mentioning dried apricots. And in my husband's family, the pudding was often made with dates.
As with many traditional English recipes, it seems that you can please yourself without doing harm to the finished dish! To get you started, here's a recipe that should feed four people comfortably:
Soak your dried fruit and grated lemon or orange rind in the juice until the juice is gone and the fruit are plump. If you're using dates, apricots, prunes or any other large-ish fruit, chop them thoroughly.
Roll out your pastry into a rough rectangle and spread one third of the dried fruit over the surface.
Fold the pastry in half and roll out again to the previous size. Add the second third of dried fruit. Fold and roll again. Add the last third of fruit and repeat once more.
Then roll up the pastry into a long sausage shape.
Butter a sheet of grease-proof paper, place the pastry on it and wrap loosely, leaving space for the pudding to expand a little.
Wrap next into a muslin cloth - or check out the fantastic piece of kitchen equipment that I've just found below - before placing the whole into a steamer and steam over simmering water for about one hour.
Unwrap and serve with custard! Lots and lots of it.