A wonderful traditional Scottish treat, the Clootie Dumpling has been widely enjoyed across Christmas and New Year for generations.
A fun pudding for the festive period, many will have fond memories of their mothers or grandmothers making it.
And even if they don’t, it’s the ultimate luxury comfort food that is a great way to celebrate a Scottish tradition this Christmas – even if you are a beginner.
Part of the homely traditions that permeate Scottish cuisine, the pudding takes time to make it, but it is well worth it.
A spiced pudding studded with dried fruits, it’s been around in some format in Scotland for centuries, though where it originated from is not certain.
To make it is usually wrapped in a cloth (Scots: clootie) such as a tea towel, calico or even a pillow case, and simmered in water for a lengthy period.
In more traditional times it would then have been left to dry by the open fire – but modern ovens can be an easier (and much faster way) to do this.
Individual recipes for this pudding, which is similar to a Christmas or plum pudding, were often passed down from generation to generation and can vary depending on who you speak to and where they are from.
Scottish food historian Fraser Wright states: “The clootie dumpling is a relic from times past. The method for cooking puddings in a cloth is an ancient one, and one that seems to have persisted in Scotland where other places it has died out.
“Perhaps this is due to the Scots’ natural aversion to anything too fancy or novel.”
Traditionally, as with many puddings and cakes like this, charms would be hidden in the mix for guests to find, often signifying what would happen in the year ahead.
Clootie Dumpling: Make your own
Speaking about this recipe, Fraser said: “If you make one this size you will likely have some leftover, so you can eat it for Breakfast on Boxing day.
“You need a strong digestion, but fried in butter and served with bacon and eggs it makes a fine breakfast. If you are confident, you could play around with the recipe a bit.”
What you’ll need:
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground allspice
• 1 tsp ground ginger
• 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
• 250g raisins
• 250g sultanas
• 1 bramley apple, peeled and grated
For the baking
• 500g plain flour
• 200g beef suet
• 250g castor sugar
• 3 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 large eggs
• 3 tbsp black treacle
• 100ml whole milk
• extra plain flour for dusting
How to make it:
You’ll need a very big pot of water brought to the boil to fit the whole dumpling.
Meanwhile, in one mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices, salt, baking powder, dried fruit and beef suet).
In another mixing bowl combine the eggs, milk and black treacle together with the grated apple, before combining both mixtures in the first bowl.
Dip your dumpling cloot (you can use a good teatowel or calico) into the boiling pot of water to soak it for a few minutes.
Wring it out to remove the excess water. Now spread the cloot over a large work surface and dust it fairly generously with plain flour fairly evenly across the whole thing.
Empty the dumpling mixture on to the cloot and draw up the cloot around it.
Then tie the top with a string, making sure it’s tight but also leaving spare room at the top, under where you are tying, to give the pudding a wee bit of room to expand.
Make sure to cut a generous length of string so you can tie the excess string on to the pot handles to suspend the cloot when it is submerged in the water.
Put a lid on the pot and keep on a low simmer for 4 hours. When the dumpling is ready you can lift it out by the string that was attached to the handle. Remove the cloth and transfer the dumpling to a baking tray.
Dry the dumpling in a 180˚C preheated oven for around 15 – 20 minutes. When you first remove the cloot you will have a white glutinous skin which covers the surface of the dumpling.
After it has been in the oven it will become darker and form a nice crust on the outside of the dumpling.
Allow to cool then slice and serve with some nice custard or ice cream.