“As the days begin to lengthen
So the cold begins to strengthen”
Statistically, February is the month with the lowest average minimum temperature, according to the Meteorological Office’s thirty-year data for England. So this no doubt explains why my thoughts at this time of year turn so often to hot, filling dishes featuring suet pastry or dumplings. Last year I posted a recipe for goulash with dumplings.
Here’s another comfort-food recipe for a cold winter day, a steamed savoury suet crust roll that goes by the name of Bedfordshire Clangers. Always ‘Clangers’ plural, even though a single large roll is made. It’s a traditional dish in the south midlands region of England, around the counties of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, hence the ‘Bedfordshire’ component of the name.
As for ‘Clangers’? Well, one theory is that it comes from a Northamptonshire dialect word ‘clang’, meaning ‘to eat voraciously’ (see the British Regional Cooking website – scroll down). But no-one really knows, so your guess is as good as anyone else’s.
I can, however, be fairly confident that it doesn’t derive from the British children’s television series The Clangers, about a family of knitted aliens who lived under saucepan lids on the Moon. Shame.
Here’s the recipe.
Suet crust pastry
6 oz (approx 150 g) self-raising flour
3 oz (approx 75 g) shredded suet
1 small cooking apple (about 4 oz, approx 100 g, when prepared)
1 oz (approx 25 g) raisins
6 oz (approx 150 g) shin beef or stewing steak
2 oz (approx 50 g) kidney (about 1 whole lamb kidney)
Half an onion (approx 3-4 oz, approx 75-100 g)
Mix the flour and suet in a bowl.
Gradually add cold water, mixing well after each addition, until the mixture forms a soft but not sticky dough. If the dough is sticky, you’ve added too much water, and need to mix in more flour until it stops being sticky.
Or you could buy ready-made suet crust pastry, if available.
Roll the pastry out on a floured work surface to an approximately square shape and about one-eighth of an inch or about 0.25 cm thick. It will probably end up about 12” (about 30 cm) square.
Peel the apple and chop it finely.
Scatter the chopped apple and raisins evenly over half the pastry square.
Fold the other half of the pastry square over so the fruit is sandwiched between two layers of pastry.
Turn the pastry so the short side is facing you, and roll the pastry gently so that the raisins show through. You want a rectangular shape that’s at least twice as long as it is wide (the exact proportions don’t matter).
Chop the shin beef into 0.5 inch (approx 1 cm) dice.
Snip the white central core out of the kidney and chop into small pieces.
Peel and chop the onion.
Mix the beef, kidney and onion in a bowl and season with salt and black pepper.
Spread the meat and onion mixture evenly over the whole of the pastry rectangle, leaving a border of about 0.5 inch (approx 1 cm) clear round all the edges.
Roll the pastry up from one of the short ends like a Swiss roll, so the meat and onion is enclosed within the pastry crust.
Wrap the roll in tinfoil.
Steam for 3 hours or so.
Serve cut in slices, with a green leafy vegetable and gravy. (I find there’s no need for potatoes with the dish, as the suet crust pastry is quite filling enough).
I’ve never tried freezing this, because I suspect that the pastry would fall apart when it was reheated. But I haven’t got a microwave, and it’s quite possible that reheating in a microwave would put less strain on the pastry than re-steaming it. So by all means give it a try.
If you don’t like kidney, substitute the equivalent weight of extra beef.