Once a frugal kitchen mainstay and essential ingredient in the preparation of traditional steamed puds, the popularity of suet in more recent times seems to have waned. I suspect we probably lost this nose-to-tail treasure to the rigours of the 'low-fat healthy-eating' movement, although the thought of using the fat that surrounds the kidneys and loins of cattle to prepare sweet desserts probably dissuaded a few people too.
But while the offal-like nature of suet can be a little off-putting for some, the more adventurous amongst us get the benefit of using an ingredient with some rather desirable qualities. Originating from the inner core means that suet has a relatively high melting point and congealing temperature, making it the hardest culinary fat going around. By melting much slower than butter, which tends to blend into the pastry, suet melts once the pastry has begun to set, theoretically giving said pastry a wonderful lightness and rather delicate puff. Add to this its fantastic flavour and the promise of a soft and mellow crust, and you begin to wonder why you haven't hunted it down before.
So with suet chosen as this week's key ingredient, and having thusly procured my beefy adipose I decided to focus on tradition, and there seemed no better place to commence proceedings than with the classic, Ginger Pig beef bourguignon pie.
Dessert, naturally, came in the form of steamed pudding, and as I continue to champion the comeback of this delectable suppertime treat, this time it presented as an apple and currant number surrounded by a golden syrup suet crust. Steamed puddings are genuinely fantastic but they do take time, and so apart from the necessity for planning ahead there's always that undercurrent of fear that what if, after all this time, something goes wrong? But if you've ever made the effort and experienced what happens as you unveil the caramel-brown crust, and with ease turn out what looks like a proper bona fide pudding, you'll know that it's thoroughly worth it.
With a luscious and spongy crust, and the currants imparting a delightfully delicate crimson hue this was indeed smashing stuff, and will no doubt provide the basis for countless pudding preparations to come. Somebody please pass the custard...