A traditional Clootie Dumpling recipe is deeply embedded in Scottish cooking. The spicy scent of a cooking clootie conjures up images of Scotland's past; a time when grandmothers would spend hours at the stove making this lovely pudding.
The fruit-spice pudding is famed for the role it plays in Scottish celebrations, and no Hogmanay, or Burn's Night Supper would be complete without one. The dumpling is not reserved just for celebrations, and is lovely served with brandy butter.
The Clootie in the recipe name refers to the cloth - a cloot - and is used to cook the dumpling in.
Place all the ingredients, except the tea, together in a large mixing bowl and mix together so that everything is evenly mixed together.
Now add enough tea to the mix until you have a stiff mixture. The mixture is pretty sticky so you will not need too much tea to achieve the desired effect. Try to not make the mixture too dry, but also avoid making it too wet.
To prepare a pudding cloth. Use a large square of muslin or cut up an old sheet - anything cotton (not towelling) and that will not lose fibres. Soak the cloth in boiling water. Then wring it out. The cloth should be damp but not dripping. Lay the scalded cloth on the work surface and give it a good dusting with flour, this will protect the dumpling and give it its skin at the end.
Pile the dumpling mixture into the centre of cloth and then bring the cloth together at the top and tie together tightly with string so that you now have something that resembles an old money bag. Ensure that there is enough room to allow the dumpling to swell when cooking. There must not be any gaps or holes where the cloth has been tied together or water will get in and you’ll be left with a soggy mess!
Place a oven-proof plate in the bottom of a large saucepan / stock pot you are going to cook the dumpling in, as this will give it something to sit on without burning the bottom. The pan should be large enough to allow the dumpling to swell without touching the sides.
Boil a kettle and pour in enough water to cover the plate, then put the pan on a high heat and the add the dumpling and remaining boiled water until the water level comes ¾ of the way up the side of the dumpling. Do not pour water directly onto the dumpling, add it to the side. Add more boiling water if necessary to bring the water to the correct level Do not submerge the dumpling.
Cover the pan keeping the water at a rolling boil cook the dumpling for 3-3.5 hours, checking the level every 20 minutes or so and adding boiling water from the kettle if necessary. Do not let the dumpling boil dry. Do not let the water go off the boil (or you’ll have a soggy mess).
Depending on how much space you left when tying the dumpling, some of the mixture may squeeze out as the dumpling starts to cook and swell. Fear not - provided it doesn’t become too wet the dumpling will be ok. Once cooked, take the dumpling out and leave it to cool for about 10 minutes on plate, then cut the string and gently peel off the cloth.
There should be a translucent skin left on the surface of the dumpling, which should now resemble a large fruity boulder. If you leave the dumpling to cool for too long, when you take remove the cloth you will probably lose most of the skin. This is not a serious issue, but the skin is nice!
Serve warm or cold with brandy butter, rum sauce, custard, ice-cream - whatever takes your fancy. This reheats well in the microwave and freezes really.