Scotland

A recipe for “clootie dumplings” and a lovely Scottish memory for St Andrew’s Day

St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and today, 30th November, is St Andrew’s Day –  and I have the perfect guest and the perfect recipe to celebrate!

Lizzie Lamb is a Scottish author and her fiction is set in lovely Scotland. Lizzie’s joined me here today with a recipe for the fabulous sounding Scottish “clootie dumpling”. Welcome, Lizzie – I can’t wait to find out just what this is!

* * *

lizzie lamb, helena fairfaxI only have to unscrew a jar of cinnamon and I’m seven years old again, making my way home from school through the deep snow of a Scottish winter. But I don’t mind the cold because I know that there’s Clootie Dumpling waiting for me. Not Lord Snooty’s Christmas pudding, as dark and round as Guy Fawkes’s bomb – I mean Clootie Dumpling, its bigger, more substantial Scottish cousin, a cross between a Quatermass Experiment and a Desperate Dan pie.

On Clootie Dumpling day (we simply called it dumpling) the kitchen was a blissful warm fug of steam, redolent with the scent of cinnamon and ginger, like some medieval banquet, the clatter of pots and pans and lots of happy chatter. Just the antidote for dark, northern December days. The dumpling would have been mixed by hand (not wooden spoon) earlier by my mother and grandmother in a huge bowl. No weighing of ingredients for them, everything was done by guestimate and experience.

The copper would be fired up, filled with water from the emersion heater and brought to boiling point. (We always had lots of hot water because my grandfather was a coal miner and we had a ton of coal delivered twice a year) Then the dumpling cloth would be brought out – my mother swore by a square of linen sheet she’d bought at the Glasgow Barrows. String would be filched from the large hairy ball of twine my granddad guarded jealously and we were off. From my point of view, the best bit was smacking the dumpling’s bottom – for luck – just before it was wrapped in its wet, flour sprinkled cloth, tied at the neck with string and immersed in the copper for three hours.

Then came the great reveal, the steaming dumpling was taken out of its cloth, rolled onto a large turkey plate and put in front of the coal fire to ‘dry out’ and form a skin. There’s nothing finer on a cold winter’s day than sitting by the fire waiting for the first slice to be ready. We always ate the first slice hot with the top of the milk poured over it. Next day, I’d take a slice to school as my ‘piece’ for break time, wrapped in a ‘loaf paper;’ while the adults ate theirs with a fried egg, and sometimes baked beans. The poor old dumpling never lasted long as slices were given to neighbours – who reciprocated when they made their dumping – but theirs was never as good as my Mammy’s.

lizzie lamb, helena fairfax

When we moved to England in 1962, we left the copper behind and my grandma hit on the idea of boiling the dumpling up in the twin tub. I don’t know how, but the mixture never seeped through the cloth into the water. Too dense I suppose. Then Mammy found a huge catering saucepan [with handles on two sides] on a stall on Leicester market, and we carried home – all the way up London Road. That saucepan became the family dumpling pot.

When we no longer had coal fires, we dried the dumpling in the oven – but that always seemed a poor show, somehow. The making of dumpling and other Scottish treats like tablet, stovies, tatties, sausage and onions, and the traditional peppery steak pie on New Year’s Day passed into folklore when first my grandmother and then my Mammy died. But I only have to unscrew the lid of a Bart’s spice jar to be transported back to those happy childhood days – when dumpling was king.

How to Make a Clootie Dumpling

ingredients

125g (1/2 cup) suet (lard / shortening in US)

250g (8oz / 2 cups) plain flour

125g (4oz / 1cup) oatmeal OR breadcrumbs

250g (8oz / 1 1/4 cups) mixed sultanas and currants

1 tablespoon of golden syrup (corn syrup)

75g (2-3oz / 1/3 cup) soft brown sugar

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

1 teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon & nutmeg

1 teaspoon of baking powder

4 tablespoons of milk (enough to soften the mix)

3 tablespoons of flour for the cloth

 

Method

  • 1. Rub the suet into the flour and add oatmeal, baking powder, sugar, sultanas and currants and the ginger and cinnamon. Blend together and add the eggs and syrup. Stir well and add just enough milk to firm.
  • 2. If you are using a cloth (cloot), put it into boiling water first then spread onto your table and sprinkle a liberal amount of flour over the inside. Put the mixture into the middle and tie up, leaving space for the mixture to expand.
  • 3. Place an upside-down saucer at the bottom of a deep pan and put the tied cloot in and cover with boiling water and hard simmer for about 3 to 4 hours.
  • 4. Remove from pan and dip into bowl of cold water to halt the cooking process. You can dry and heat in the oven (medium hot) if you plan to eat it straight away. Alternatively, store in the fridge until its needed and then microwave it to reheat. It cuts easily into slices.

To use the traditional cloth (cloot) method, cut up and use an old white pillow case, preferably linen. You can wash and reuse the cloth for another clootie dumpling making session.

Scotch on the Rocks 

Amazon UK

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lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

www.lizzielamb.co.uk

twitter: @lizzie_lamb

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lizzie lamb's coverSCOTCH ON THE ROCKS

Where the men are men and the women are glad of it!

ISHABEL STUART is at the crossroads of her life.

Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro. After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast -where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.

When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down.

In spite of her vow to steer clear of men, she grows to rely on Brodie. However, she suspects him of having an ulterior motive for staying at her aunt’s B&B on remote Cormorant Island. Having been let down twice by the men in her life, will it be third time lucky for Issy? Is it wise to trust a man she knows nothing about – a man who presents her with more questions than answers?

As for Aunt Esme, she has secrets of her own . . .

View book here

* * *

Lizzie, what absolutely wonderful memories. Your story brought back so many memories for me, too – sitting by the coal fire on a snowy day, and the twin tub in the kitchen. Your story of boiling the clootie in the twin tub made me laugh out loud. Somehow that just wouldn’t be the same in these days of automatic washing-machines :) And I love the premise behind Scotch on the Rocks!

I hope you enjoyed Lizzie’s wonderful walk down a snowy memory lane in Scotland. If you loved her post as much as I did, or if you have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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48 thoughts on “A recipe for “clootie dumplings” and a lovely Scottish memory for St Andrew’s Day

  1. You’ve brought back memories for me too. Lizzie! Although I don’t make clootie dumpling, my mother did and I know a few folk here in the west of Scotland who still do. It’s funny- my mother and granny never used measurements for their baking either!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Rosemary, it’s been good fun finding out about clootie dumplings. I loved Lizzie’s post and her description of the tradition. I really felt as though I was there with her on that snowy walk home from school. So glad it brought back goo memories for you. Happy St Andrew’s Day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Helena and Rosemary. Can I confess that when I wrote the part about my mother and grandmother having left this life, I was typing it with tears running down my cheeks. Happy days, indeed.

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  3. Oooh I’ve never heard of a Clootie Dumpling! It looks a bit odd, but the recipe sounds rather delicious.

    What a wonderful story, I loved the bit about carrying the huge saucepan through Leicester.

    Thank you for a funny and different post Lizzie and thanks Helena for sharing I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank for popping along, Sarah. The memories which we make when we are small seem to stay with us the longest. I bet you’ve got a few good ones, too.

    Like

  5. You couldn’t make it up!

    A tweep in the USA was reading Ian Rankin’s NAMING THE DEAD and came across a reference to Clootie Dumpling (see below) and had no idea what they were. Then she went onto Twitter and saw my tweets about my Clootie Dumpling blog post and all was revealed. She sent me a lovely tweet, thanking me !

    Like

  6. What a lovely story, I could smell the dumpling. I feel the same about Barm Brack, served at Halloween in Ireland, I can smell turf fires as soon as I bite into a slice. Lovely! Would love to try the dumpling …now where is that old twin-tub???

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aye Lizzie i remember visiting you all in Motherwell and yes those were the good days and its funny as i just made a Nine minute microwave dumpling yesterday and have just finished making stoves for our dinner sorry cant send you some down xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How lovely to have my auntie Sarah join us. I’ve hit yo have a hi st the microwave dumpling. And Sarah you are right they were very happy days in Motherwell . My dad always said nobody made stove is as good as my mammy did.

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      1. Sorry about the typos, that’s what I get for doing it on my phone. That should have said, I’d love to try microwaveable dumpling!

        Like

  8. Delightful, engaging blog post, Lizzie. Clootie is a new term to this Yank, as are several others. I can only imagine the process needed to achieve a delicious clootie dumpling, and certainly appreciate all the time and love put into doing so. Mmm, closing my eyes and dreaming I have a bite ready to eat. Yum! You said it has passed into folklore, soIn these modern times, is there a commercial version of the dumpling so you can pick it up at the grocery store? I’m sure the store version would be sadly lacking in flavor and presentation. Okay, a dumb American asking dumb questions. Very curious. Love the premise of your romance. Best wishes with your baking and your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi JQ, clootie is a new term to this English Sassenach, too! I’ve never seen clootie dumplings in the supermarket in England, but June Kearns – another Englishwoman – just commented that it sounds a little like our English Spotted Dick. My mum used to boil Spotted Dick in a glass bowl placed in water for a couple of hours. We used to have it for school dinner (and you can imagine the schoolboy/girl jokes around the name :) ). Nowadays you can buy microwavable Spotted Dick in the shops. It only takes three minutes, but it doesn’t taste half as good.
      Perhaps you can buy ready-made clootie dumplings in Scotland. I’m sure Lizzie or Rosemary Gemmell would know.
      Thanks so much for your great comment, and for dropping in!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you can soemtimes buy pieces of dumpling in certain shops up here, especially smaller Scottish bakery type shops – will investigate when in town! By complete coincidence, they were selling large sections of wrapped clootie dumpling at the local Christmas Fair I was at last week!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks JQ. It’s been great fun sharing my memories with others. How cool is that this blog has made it all the way across the pond to America !!

      Like

    1. Thank you. I bet not many folk know what white pudding is. Aberdeen is on my to-visit list. My friends went there in a package deal (via train) and loved it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve not made Clootie Dumpling but it sounds wonderful! Your childhood memory of the making of this special treat reminds me of when I was young and my grandmother would come to stay for a few days and she and my mum did all the Christmas baking – mince tarts, cranberry tarts, fruit cake… yum! Coming home at lunch time, the house always smelled so good. I used to do a lot of baking but haven’t in ages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mum did a lot of Christmas baking, too, Melanie. She made the Christmas puddings weeks in advance, and we were allowed to stir the silver sixpences into the mixture. The smell of them cooking always reminds me of Christmas.
      Thanks for dropping in, and for your lovely comment.

      Like

    2. Melanie, baking’s had a bit of revival in the UK in recent years due to Mary Berry’s Great British Bake Off. I wish I could make better scones. It seems like food and childhood memories are inextricably linked.

      Like

  10. This was an education for me as well, Lizzie. I had to wonder what a copper was also, much less a twin tub. But the picture you painted is wonderfully clear all the same and very enjoyable. Thanks for the recipe and story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lizzie did paint a great picture, Ken. I could even smell the cinammon, and the real coal fire takes me back to my own childhood. What happy memories. I’m so glad you enjoyed Lizzie’s post. Thanks very much for your comment!

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  11. What a lovely memory of your mum and gran, LIzzie. The past certainly is another country. Being a mere Sassenach, clootie dumpling’s new to me. What does ‘clootie’ mean?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hey, Helena. Nice to meet you, Lizzie. Oh, my goodness, this is an amazing process. I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea the water doesn’t get through the cloth. But it’s got cinnamon, sugar, flour, & oats. What’s not to love. It must be scrumptious! Best to you with your writing. :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does sound a wonderful tradition, Marsha. I think the water does pass through the cloth (and so they dry the dumpling afterwards by the fire) but the mixture never passes through the other way into the water. That’s how I understand it. I think there are quite a few more old recipes where people immersed a cloth bag in boiling water. Nowadays our microwaves have changed all of that. I bet there isn’t a person under forty who would think of cooking in this way.
      Thanks so much for dropping in to meet Lizzie. I loved hearing her childhood memories!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The war denied we older readers the joy of “clooties”. However, when rationing ended, it became the ideal birthday treat. I suggest the addition of a grated apple and carrot to moisten the mixture.

    Seasons greetings, Maggie H.

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    1. How sad that war stopped this tradition, Maggie. I can imagine the joy when the first clootie was baked after the war. It makes me realise just how much I take my baking ingredients for granted in these days of plenty. Thanks so much for dropping in with your lovely comment. And season’s greetings to you!

      Like

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