Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Rumpole of the Bay Leaf would've given pud seal of approval

Rumpole of the Bay Leaf would've given pud seal of approval

BILLY Connolly, Bob Geldof, Jon Lord, Sam Fox, Pamela Stephenson, Neil and Glenys Kinnock shared a steak and kidney pudding. A pudding the size of a fat man’s head, writes Paul Clerehugh.

Table centre, sitting in its platter, hot and bothered, worried about the imminent spooning. Moreish, soft suet pastry. Tender local beef and kidney oozing with heavenly rich gravy. Only steak and kidney pudding can upstage Bob Geldof.

A steak and kidney wedding breakfast for beautiful local actress Emily Mortimer, American actor Alessandro Nivola the lucky groom. I steamed steak and kidney pudding, buttered cabbage and parsleyed carrots for 200 family and friends in Emily’s back garden. January — we had a big tent and a very happy time.

No wonder the bride fancied steak and kidney. Sir John Mortimer championed the pudding — his character Rumpole of the Bailey would happily breakfast, brunch, lunch, dine and sup on the stuff.

Wedding planning was 12 or 13 wine sampling nights and one food chat. “Steak and kidney pudding.” Sorted.

As kidney doesn’t feature in America’s culinary Top of the Pops and half the guests were American, I questioned if kidney was the right choice.

“Precisely the reason we must introduce America to steak and kidney pudding.”

Emily and her dad’s suggestion — a resounding triumph (buttered cabbage and parsley carrot being the vegetarian option).

Two hundred portions of steak and kidney equates to half a bathtub full — although I braised it in pans, not the bath.

Trick is, use the best quality ingredients, let the beef and kidney sing. Their flavour often lost to Worcestershire sauce, Oxo and a slap of HP. Be confident with the beef flavour — don’t mask it with such stuff. Brown the meat in beef dripping, seal carrots, onion and celery. The gentlest simmer with gorgeous beef stock, a glass of brown ale and a single bay leaf. Too much bay tastes of cough medicine.

Eliza Acton’s 1845 cookbook Modern Cookery has a pretty perfect steak and kidney suet recipe, although in 1845 it was called John Bull’s Pudding.

Braised steak and kidney is left to cool, encased in suet pastry, steamed in the sort of dish used by Professor Brian Cox’s barber, then presented centre stage to a jubilant audience. Use chuck steak, support your local butcher or farm shop. Try Mr Stracey’s Angus beef from White Pond Farm, Stonor on (01491) 638224 or Emma Jackson’s Dexter beef from Blue Tin Farm, Ipsden, on (01491) 681145. Go the whole hog and use Stonor flour milled at Wantage, packaged as Wessex Mill, sold at the Herb Farm, Sonning Common.

Daily steamings of steak and kidney pudding will occur throughout November at the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row. Our number is (01491) 681048. Good idea to book.

I’ll steam two dozen every luncheon, Monday to Friday. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola are invited “on the house”.

n Paul Clerehugh is chef proprietor of the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row, and the London Street Brasserie, Reading. Catch Paul every week on Food on Friday (2pm, BBC Radio Berkshire).

Wine and Dine

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