Food and Drink

Funny Puddings

Written by Susan Shanahan

Recently I’ve been reading books written by British authors and have been amused by the names of some the puddings mentioned. The word ‘pudding’ is not often used here in New Zealand although I recall it was used frequently when I was a child. It is a true British word. Now in New Zealand we mostly talk of desserts.

The names of some of these puddings are Spotted Dick, Roly Poly, Clootie Dumpling and Plum Duff.  What are these puddings?

Lady Finger Cake

Spotted Dick is a steamed pudding made from ‘suet’ and dried fruit such as raisins and currants.  Suet is hard, white fat from beef or mutton. This pudding was apparently part of the school dinners provided in British schools. It was sometimes also known as ‘railway cake’ or ‘spotted dog’. The dried fruit of course made the spots and the word ‘dick’ meant dough. No double meanings here.  It was usually served with custard.

Roly Poly is another pudding that was part of the British school dinner menu. Apparently, it’s easy to make and very delicious. It involves suet and jam, and sometimes golden syrup. It is very similar to the jam rolls we either make or buy from the supermarket.  It was also known as ‘Dead man’s arm’ because it was sometimes rolled and steamed inside a man’s shirt sleeve. Beatrix Potter wrote a children’s book in which Tom Kitten, a character of the story, was rolled into a Roly Poly pudding by rats.

Clootie Dumpling is a Scottish steamed pudding made with dried fruit, spice, good old suet and sometimes breadcrumbs.  The word ‘Clootie’ means a piece of material or cloth.  Isn’t that a wonderful word?  The clootie wrapped the spiced dough during steaming.

Plum Duff is made in a similar way with dried fruit and suet but no plums.  Over three hundred years ago, raisins, currents and other fruit were called plums or plumbs.  Duff was an old-fashioned word for dough.

Spotted Dick, Clootie’s Dumpling and Plum Duff are similar in that they use suet and dried fruit. All, including Roly Poly are supposedly very delicious served with custard or plain ice cream. There are some wonderful recipes on the internet if you are interested in giving these a try. Maybe you already make these puddings or had them as a child. Are you amused by the names as I am?

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