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I would contend that this is the greatest of steamed puddings. Very simple in concept, it is essentially just a lemon suet sponge. The magical ingredient is a whole lemon that is entombed within the pud. As it is cooked, the juices of the lemon flow and mix with the butter and sugar, creating a rich, lemony sauce. The skin of the lemon poaches gently in these sweet, buttery juices, so it is edible and very tasty. As you cut into the hot pudding, a pond of the syrup flows out onto the plate.

If you are serving this to someone, the suprise of finding the whole fruit within the sponge, and discovering the lemon to be sweet and delicious, is worth the effort of making this in itself.

You want to find the best lemons you can for this, as you will be eating it whole. The ideal would be organic, unwaxed and thin-skinned. At the restaurant I was working in, I was once lucky enough to be given a box piled high with tiny fruit from our sous chef's neighbour's lemon tree. These I made into little individual Sussex pond puddings. Very cute. If you want to try these, the cooking time needs to be reduced substantially.

Makes 1 pudding, serving 4-6 people

You will need

  • 8 oz / 110g self raising flour
  • 4 oz / 55g chopped suet (You may use vegetable suet if you prefer. If you can't find this, then hard vegetable fat might work: I've never tried it myself. Try palm fat, and add a little more flour to the mix.)
  • milk and water mixed 50/50, or skimmed milk (which, let's face it, seems pretty much like diluted milk anyway)
  • demerara sugar
  • butter
  • 1 lemon

Method

Mix together the flour and suet in a bowl, then add the milk gradually, forming it into a soft dough. Make sure the dough doesn't get too sticky: it needs to be firm enough to roll.

Roll the dough into a circle, about 20cm / 9" in diameter, then cut a quarter out of the circle, rolling it into another circle to make a lid. Butter a large pudding basin and drop the ¾ circle of dough into it, pushing it down to the edges of the basin, and pressing the edges together.

You need equal parts of chopped butter pieces and sugar for the filling. The exact amount is difficult to say. Start with about 75g / 3oz of each, and put it into the bottom of the basin.

Take the lemon, washing the skin well in warm water, and pierce it all over with a fork or skewer. This is important! Place the lemon on top of the sugar / butter mix in the basin, making sure the lemon doesn't poke above sides of the basin, or attaching the lid may be difficult.

Pack more of the butter / sugar mix around the lemon, then cover with the pastry lid. Press the edges together to seal it well.

Cover the basin with a double thickness of foil, which should have a pleat folded into it to that it can expand. You need to steam it for 3-4 hours. Just put the basin in a saucepan, and fill to near the top of the basin with water.

Now, find me someone who isn't impressed with that!

Quantities adapted from a recipe in the excellent "English Food" by Jane Grigson

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