Saturday, 10 March 2012

PomPom Pondered About The Pudding…

For PomPom, and any others who may be wondering, here’s the lowdown on suet-

Suet is the hard white animal fat from round the kidneys of sheep and cows, which is has been used in England for over 400 years to make pastries and puddings. It is an inexpensive alternative to using butter or oil in many recipes. About 100 years ago, a way of preparing it as a dry shredded product was developed in Manchester, by M. Hugon, a Frenchman.

atora‘Atora’*** was created and marketed to the delight of housewives all over the country, who found it much more convenient than buying hunks of fat from their butchers. The name ‘Atora’ is believed to have been derived from ‘toro’ – the Spanish word for bull.

The Atora Factory is now in Hartlepool [where I lived as a child] and produces a vegetarian ‘light’ version, completely free of animal fats, as well as the original shredded animal suet.

To make pastry, you stir the suet with flour and a little salt, then pour in cold water. Ridiculously easy, you can blend it all in quickly with a knife and it is ready to use. My big bag from Approved Foods is a flour/suet/salt mix – I just add water. This is made by McDougalls, the flour company.

stew and dumplingsYou can drop balls of suet dough into boiling liquid to cook – these are dumplings and can be savoury [on top of a casserole] or sweet [containing sugar and dried fruit and served with a sweet sauce] The county of Norfolk is famed for its wonderful dumplings

sussex pond puddingYou can roll out your dough like pastry and use it to line and/or top a pie, as I did for our meal the other night. The county of Sussex has a traditional rib-sticking dessert using lemons called Sussex Pond Pudding [recipe here]

If you make a rectangle of suet pastry, spread it with jam [or golden syrup] and roll it up, that is a Roly Poly Pudding. It is usually served sliced with custard. Because this has to be wrapped in a pudding cloth whilst cooking, the outer surface is damp and pale in colour when unwrapped and served, and when sliced you see the lines of red jam inside like veins. Hence the popular alternative names of Dead Baby or Dead Man’s Leg! [recipe here]If you put dried fruit in the roll, it is called Spotted Dick.

Dumplings can be cooked in the oven or on top of the stove. Puddings are traditionally steamed for hours – but the process can be speeded up by using a pressure cooker or a microwave oven.

sharp-microwave-ovenImportant Note Suet puds are delicious but calorie-laden. If you decide to eat only part of the dish, and save the rest for supper NEVER attempt to reheat suet puds in the microwave. They will become inedible and chewy – corrugated cardboard would be tastier. Either reheat leftover pud in a regular oven or eat cold [perhaps with hot custard]

So PomPom, now you know.

And to answer your other question, PP, Bob’s cake was a Pecan Plait – we were originally going to share a toasted teacake, but then we noticed they had reduced the PP’s from 89p to 19p as it was almost closing time at the cafe, so we had one each. We love PPs!

[***check the Atora company website here for the full history and good recipes]


  1. I use the vegetarian version- it makes lovely dumplings! J is rather partial to a Pecan Plait - they are sometimes reduced to less than 20p each at the local Co-op in the early evening, though it's been quite a while since I went on a bargain cake hunting jaunt due to budget restraints.

  2. Thank you, Angela! Now I think I know why all my relatives make so much pastry! My mother often made dumplings and I always wondered what a Roly Poly Pudding was!
    My pastry skills have diminished of late. Our children do not value what we call pie. I really need to study English cookery. It's fascinating!
    We call bird food suet sometimes. Funny. Again, thank you very much for answering my questions. A Pecan Plait sounds like a wonderful thing!

  3. Dead Baby? Well, I'd never have eaten it if I'd heard it called that!

    I did a post about Atora when Sarah from NZ asked about it. I think it freaked her out! (And mine didn't even have dead babies in it...)

    One year I made my own suet from basic ingredients. The butcher thought I was mad but agreed to save some of the right fat for me. These crazy English! Now I always buy it in the UK when we're over, and I do keep a bit in the freezer too. I only really use it at Christmas, I have to admit.

  4. I remember trying to buy suet in Australia to make the Christmas puddings. No one had heard of anything like Atora, so I had to buy it from the butcher...not so nice.

  5. I love pecan plaits too.

    Here in the States suet is often associated with bird food - in the winter people hang out balls of suet studded with seed.

    I have always wondered what Roly Poly pudding was (and Spotted Dick). Thanks for the info! (Also for not mentioning such unpleasant things as saturated fat.)

  6. Gosh this was good! Made me want to dash straight to the fridge, but I didn't! I buy vegetarian lard for cooking so that at Christmas I can use it for vegetarian mince pie in case the uber beautiful K comes for mulled stuff etc with her uber beautiful vegetarian family. It's one of the things that wow me most about the uber beautiful! I have recommended your jean fixing abilities to Deborah of A Different Drum!

  7. I've always thought that lard (rendered pig fat) was superior to vegetable shortening and butter when making pastries. Suet, I've never tried, but I rendered some suet once for soap.

    Interesting stuff here!


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!