[I first met Margaret online a decade ago, and have been lucky enough to be a guest in her home in Ipswich on the majority of my trips to the UK. On one of those first trips I recall remarking on looking forward to trying Yorkshire Pudding, only to have Margaret point out to me that I’d already had eaten one with my roast lunch. Definitely my first realization that I knew very little about classic British food. – Ellen]
When Ellen first asked me to write a guest post for her blog my instant reaction was “but I don’t cook much British food!”. But a little bit of thought later, I realised that wasn’t actually true. Yes, when people come to dinner (particularly when it’s “someone who cooks” or someone I want to impress) I cook something from one of my cookery books. Something Chinese, or Indian, or Thai, or even Mexican. The British food is family food, not company food, with only the exceptions of a roast dinner for guests on a Sunday or a fry-up for brunch if we have overnight guests. And even then, that’s for closer friends or family, not “proper company”.
It’s also generally not food I get from recipe books. I once mentioned in passing to a friend while we were out for a pub Sunday lunch that this was my second roast dinner of the weekend, and was startled when he started quizzing me about whose recipe I’d used for my roast chicken! Whose recipe? I put it in the oven and roasted it, what else would I do? Some meals are just “the way they are” like a roast, some have recipes my mother-in-law gave me and I have one cookery book that covers almost everything else I might want to know (the third edition of “The Penguin Cookery Book” by Bee Nilson, from the 1970s).
So as I skim-read through part of the Time Life book on British cooking, to think of something to write I found myself nodding in agreement a lot more than I expected given the age of the book. British food, to me is comfort food and good hearty, plain meals. I tend to cook less of it in the summer but when it’s cold, wet and dark outside there’s nothing better than a leek pudding for dinner. Or maybe a beef hotpot to use up the last of the roast beef and warm you up in the evening. It may not be fancy, it may not be celebrity chef-endorsed, but it’ll be tasty and filling which I think is more important!
This recipe from my mother-in-law is a modern variant of a traditional steamed suet pudding, and shows that even if you’re cooking old-fashioned food it doesn’t mean you have to do without modern conveniences!
1 large onion
4 rashers bacon [I note for Americans, this is back bacon –ed]
8 oz self-raising flour
4 oz suet
Chops leeks & onion and place in a microwavable bowl with several knobs of butter. Cover with clingfilm and microwave on full for 8-10 minutes. Shake halfway through.
Fry the bacon and chop into pieces. Mix this in with the leeks and onions when they’ve finished cooking.
Mix the self-raising flour with the suet and salt & pepper. Add the egg, and sufficient water to make a pastry-like dough. If it gets too sticky add a little more flour.
Set aside a small amount of dough for the lid, then roll out the rest to a circle on a well-floured work surface (it will be fairly sticky).
Line a microwaveable pudding basin with the dough and add the bacon, leek and onion mixture. Roll out the dough for the lid, and place on top of the pudding folding over the edges so it is sealed.
Microwave on full for 8-10 minutes and leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with mashed potatoes & gravy. Makes four servings, and will re-heat well.
Margaret is a recovering biochemist who lives in Suffolk with her husband and cat. She enjoys photography and killing zombies in her spare time.