17 February, 2008

February recipe: Bedfordshire Clangers

“As the days begin to lengthen
So the cold begins to strengthen”

--Old saying

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.

Bedfordshire Clangers

Serves 2

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.


Bernita said...

Yum with the beef replacing the kidney ( for me)
I like the dish name too.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I may have to try these if the weather gets much colder - severe frosts at the moment! February is definitely rib-sticking weather.
I have the almost identical text to the one supplied by the Regional Foods website. Mine is in book form - Traditional Foods of Britain: An Inventory prepared fort Euro Terroirs by Laura Mason with Catherine Brown and published by Prospect Books in 1999. Estimated consumption of Bedfordshiore Clangers commercially when the book went to press was 15-18,000 per annum.

Constance Brewer said...

I think you lost me at "shredded suet", and definitely by "kidney"... *g*, Although I would probably try it if someone else made it. I'm not brave enough to tackle kidney on my own...

Michelle Moran said...

You really have the best recipes, Carla!!! I'm going to try this as soon as the weather (okay if the weather) changes here in So. Cal!

Carla said...

Bernita - it's a great name, isn't it?

Elizabeth - definitely the right weather at the moment! Possibly the website and your book share a common source? I wonder how they estimated annual consumption?

Constance - you can always substitute extra beef if you don't like kidney.

Michelle - does Southern California ever get cold enough for suet pastry? :-)

Sarah Cuthbertson said...

Yum Yum. I might try this if I can pluck up the courage to overcome by pastry complex. It sounds just the thing for a cold winter's evening. I used to love The Clangers but I bet the children of today, so used to slick Pixar productions, would find the knitted aliens (I love that description) rather primitive. I saw my other two childhood faves on the BBC link you gave: Bagpuss and Crackerjack (the Leslie Crowther/Peter Glaze era).

Carla said...

Sarah - suet pastry is very forgiving, so it's well worth giving it a try. Especially while the cold weather lasts! I don't know what modern children would make of knitted aliens, let alone the Soup Dragon and blue string pudding....

Michelle Moran said...

Ha! Yes, about twice a year, and today is one of those days. So guess what I just went shopping for ;] Even though I'm a vegetarian, I'm always on the lookout for new recipes for my husband and friends.

Carla said...

Michelle - this must be about as non-vegetarian a recipe as they come! Hope your husband and friends enjoy it!

Mary said...

My mother used beef with onion and diced potato and salt, pepper and sprinkled with bisto powder. She always cooked it wrapped in cloth and tied and then dropped into to boiling water and cooked for about 2 and half hours. If there were any leftovers we used to have it sliced and fried until the suet crust was crispy. She also used bacon as a substitute for the beef.

Carla said...

Hello Mary and welcome. Adding diced potato is an interesting variation - I have never tried that. I sometimes make a version with bacon instead of beef, and sometimes add apple to the filling as well as onion.