Steamed Chicken and Mushroom Pudding

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This is an idea that’s been rolling about in my brain for quite a long time and today was the day that I finally found out if it worked or not. I really love a steamed savoury pudding, especially a steak and kidney one, but I had chicken, mushrooms, shallots and a small amount of Stilton in the fridge so that’s what I used.

However, as ever, this is very adaptable so you could do whatever filling you like. The twist is that I’ve put flavourings in the pastry. As this was chicken I tried two different things – one had some standard stuffing mix and one had finely chopped chestnuts, a little bit of grated apple and some fresh thyme leaves. Both worked really well. On balance I preferred the chestnut one best but would happily eat either again. The stuffing one is a bit easier with less faffing about and the only real tip would be to choose a fairly basic mix, some of the posher ones – you know the ones I mean… jelly baby and hemp, that sort of thing – have quite big chunks of dried stuff in them which may not work so well. I think the chestnut version would make a fabulous Boxing Day or Day After Boxing Day lunch filled with bacon, game, mushrooms and Madeira. If you choose to put other flavourings in, keep them on the drier side of things such as herbs, maybe a little finely chopped dried fruit, chopped nuts etc. Steak and kidney would be fab with some grainy mustard in there or bacon and apple would work well with a parmesan and parsley version.

The filling goes in raw and quantities are variable, just ensure you have enough of everything to fill the size of basin you decide to use. Ideally a mixture of meat, onion/leeks/shallots and some vegetables is best. You don’t need a lot of liquid but if you are using stock, water, booze etc. then roll the filling pieces in a little seasoned flour before packing them in. I used double cream because I had the bottom of a pot going spare so didn’t need any flour.

I cooked both of them in my slow cooker. It’s a big slow cooker and they were quite tiny, but I have done a full-sized steak and kidney pudding in it too so a larger version would also fit. If you haven’t got a slow cooker then you can steam in a pan on the stove or use a pressure cooker.

Suet pastry is an absolute doddle to make – just half the quantity of suet to self-raising flour, some seasoning and cold water to bind it all together. However, I prefer the taste of butter so I freeze a block of butter for an hour or so before starting and then use a coarse grater. If you put the bowl on the scales and grate straight into the flour it is then really easy to add the right amount and then cut and mix it in with a kitchen knife.

Chicken and Mushroom Pudding

For a 2 pint pudding basin

275g self raising flour
75g dry stuffing mix or equivalent weight of other flavourings, finely chopped
175g shredded suet or grated butter
Cold water to bind

Mix all the dry ingredients together, stir in the suet or butter and distribute evenly. Sprinkle over cold water and keep stirring with the knife. Keep sprinkling and stirring and eventually everything will start come together as a dough. You want the end result to be very slightly on the tacky side, this is the secret to a good suet pastry. Sprinkle the worktop with a little flour and knead very briefly.

Butter the pudding basin thoroughly. Cut off a quarter of the pastry dough and roll out the remainder into a circle large enough to fill the basin with a little extra hanging over the edge.

Pack your chosen filling into the pudding, all the way up to the rim then sprinkle over about 4 tbs of your chosen liquid.

Wet the rim of the pudding, roll out the remaining quarter of pastry and place over the top and press onto the dampened edge. Finally fold over all the pastry and press to seal.

You need to cover the top with some silicone baking paper. Cut off a large piece, fold in half and then fold a pleat across the middle of the doubled sheet. This is to allow the pudding to expand as it cooks – there’s a reason it’s called self raising flour…

Place the pleated paper on top of the pudding and secure. I use large rubber bands because it’s much easier but you can use string instead.

Fill the kettle and bring to the boil.

Roll out a sheet of tin foil long enough to fit underneath the pudding basin, come up the sides and fasten together at the top. Fold over lengthwise several times and apply to the basin. This makes a handle to lift the finished pudding easily out of a vat of boiling water/steam.

Place the pudding in the pan or slow cooker and add enough boiling water to come 2/3 of the way up the sides of the bowl. Cover and simmer (in pan) or switch slow cooker to High – a large pudding will take around 6 hours in a slow cooker, a little less on the stove. Check the water levels occasionally and top up with more boiling water if necessary.

If you have a temperature probe the middle should be about 84ºF

Once cooked, lift carefully from the pan. Please wear oven gloves, steam burns are very nasty indeed. Allow to stand for five minutes then remove the paper lid and turn out onto a plate. Don’t worry, it will be well behaved and should drop out easily but sometimes an encouraging shoogle is required.

I served this with my new favourite thing – pea, mint and potato mash. It’s my favourite thing because my pea-phobic daughter will eat it and she’s getting vegetable goodness without whingeing.

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