You can expect steak and kidney pudding to be a dead cert for any list of iconic British foods. It’s so British it even has its own rhyming slang. Less expected, though, is that Auguste Escoffier – the granddaddy of modern French cuisine – included it in his early twentieth century Le Guide Culinaire. Knowing that this pud can be appreciated beyond the White Cliffs is somehow nearly as comforting as the meal itself.
Appreciated and adored it absolutely deserves to be when done right: that’s meltingly tender steak, enough kidney that finding a piece isn’t like winning the lottery, and flavoursome gravy all housed in a beauty of a tasty, light crust.
Whenever we went to Blackpool when I was a child (and that was quite a lot) we’d go to the Derby Supper Bar for steak and kidney pudding, chips and mushy peas. That is the standard against which I have measured every subsequent pudding – I think this one gets close to the memory.
Steak and Kidney Pudding
Serves 3-4, it really depends on who’s eating it.
You’ll need a 1 litre pudding basin, very well-greased with butter.
For the meat filling:
- 3 tbsps plain flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
- 500g diced steak
- 200g lamb kidney, with the white core snipped out and the kidney in chunks
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- an onion – finely chopped
- 60g chestnut mushrooms – finely chopped
- 200ml stock – lamb or beef
- 200ml stout
- whole nutmeg
- 2 tbsps chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp Colman’s English mustard
For the pastry:
- 250g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1/2tsp salt
- 1/2tsp Colman’s English mustard powder
- 125g shredded beef suet
- 125ml cold water
The filling will benefit from being made the night or a few days before you want to eat it – it just gives the flavours extra time to do their thing.
Preheat the oven at 140C.
1. Get the butter and oil good and hot in a large casserole dish. Roll a handful of the meat in the flour, then put it into the pan just long enough for each chunk to brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep on going until you have browned off all the meat.
2. Soften the onion and mushrooms in the casserole over a low heat, with the lid on and half a tsp of salt sprinkled over. When they are cooked through, add the stout and the stock and scrape off any bits that are stuck to the base of the pan from the meat. They’ll be delicious. Return the meat to the pan.
3. Now add your extra flavourings: a couple of gratings of nutmeg and the parsley (merci, M. Escoffier), the bay and the mustard. Check the seasoning. Bring to the boil, put the lid on and cook in the oven for an hour and a half.
Most types of pastry need to chill for a while before being used but suet is ready to go straight away once you have made it. The filling should be at room temperature before it goes inside the pudding.
4. Get the steamer on. In my case, a stockpot with a saucer face down and a couple of inches of water being brought to the boil.
5. Make the pastry by combining in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, salt (pepper too), mustard powder and suet. Dribble over the water and start off using a knife and then your fingers to bring it into a smooth dough.
6. Cut off a third of the pastry – that will be your lid. Roll out the large piece to approximately one and half times the diameter of the pudding basin and 5mm thick. Ease it into the greased basin and smooth out – it should come a cm or so over the edge of the basin.
7. Put the filling in, stopping 2cm below the top. (It might seem like there’s a smidge too much gravy – in which case just keep some back to heat up later and serve alongside.) Roll out the lid, lay it over the top and pinch the excess base pastry over to seal. Moistening the edge of the pastry with a finger just dipped in water helps seal it.
8. Cut two pieces of kitchen foil a bit bigger than the top of the basin. Lay one over the top, making a 2cm pleat in the middle. Repeat with the other piece and then secure the foils by wrapping string around the lip of the basin. Loop another piece of string over the top to act as a handle.
9. Sit the pudding in the steamer on top of the saucer and let it cook for 2 1/2 hours, being sure not to let the pan dry out – top up with water as you need. Carefully lift the basin out, remove the coverings and invert the pudding into a shallow bowl.
It will come out in one piece and look spectacular – for a moment. Then your pudding will start to collapse slightly as if it can’t wait to show off what’s inside. The implosion is all part of the pud’s charms – well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Serve with mash and peas. You see how I’ve upgraded from the chips and mushy peas of my youth? After all, I don’t suppose they’re what M Escoffier had with his pudding. Then again…