In Which Mr. Doorley Sets Out to Make an Exceedingly Good Gluten-Free Ginger and Lemon Pudding and, Against all the Odds, Suceeds

Recipes kindly sponsored by Flahavan’s

I must confess to a weakness for puddings. I am using the word “puddings” not as the catch-all for sweet stuff eaten after savory (as used habitually by the very well brung up), but in its original sense.

In other words, we are being purist here: puddings are sweet or savoury confections that are boiled or steamed for a very long time and, hence, originate in more leisurely times. They also contain, in their original form, plenty of suet, i.e. animal fat, a substance that was sorely needed as a kind of inner central heating in the days when houses were cold and draughty and even the well-off burned off a lot of calories just getting through the day.

A Trick with Suet

Suet is great stuff and should be used much more widely. The inconvenience of cutting or shredding it can be avoided, Johann tells me, by freezing the stuff and using a coarse grater. So, there you are. One fewer excuse. The only reason I didn’t use the stuff on this occasion is because I didn’t have any to hand. I can imagine life without suet; life without butter, on the other hand, is unthinkable. So, butter it is.

The Bibliophile Cook is at it Again

Yes, suet is something I use rarely more than once in the year; and making a traditional Sussex pond pudding, suet and all, is something that we should all do at least once in our lives. It’s good in a rib-sticking way but you realise, half way through, that it dates from a time when the dessert menu was pretty damned short. My version comes from the brilliant Good Things in England by Florence White which was first published in 1932; our edition is a 1968 reprint, but no less wonderful for that. (It includes an intriguing “Irish Sauce” which I’ve reproduced here as a photo).

Mrs Glasse Rides Again

Incidentally, the sweet pudding has changed little in centuries. I consulted Mrs. Glasse’s book, the edition printed in Dublin in 1749, and found recipes for all manner of puddings, including“A boiled Suet-Pudding” and, appropriately for the season that’s in it, “A boiled Plumb-Pudding”. Feel free to have a go. The recipes are reproduced here. And the very best of luck…

The Craving

Anyway, I recently developed a craving for steamed ginger pudding; this may have been on account of finding a jar of crystallised ginger brought home from Kenya by my daughter when she was still at school. That’s at least seven years ago and it serves to underline the effectiveness of this form of preservation.

Ginger and lemon: the Romance

Ginger and citrus have a lovely synergy so I decided to enhance the former by the addition of some of the latter in the form of juice and (unwaxed) zest. That was the plan. I now needed to make the pudding, ideally in a form that eschewed gluten (I am alone in the family in being able to laugh in the face of the stuff, at least so far).

I decided, madly perhaps, to proceed from first principles, a ploy that doesn’t always work for me. This is what I used:


A Gluten-Free Ginger and Lemon Pudding

(serves 4 normal people / 2 savages / 1 teenage boy)
100g butter
75g sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 eggs
100g gluten fee flour, self-raising
½ tsp gluten free baking powder
50g crystallised ginger
butter for greasing
2 – 3 tbsps Golden Syrup

I used our Kenwood, which is 30 years old, employing the K beater, but it’s perfectly easy to make in the usual way.

Cut the butter into cubes and leave for an hour or more in the kitchen to soften. This process is greatly accelerated by our Aga, a piece of kitchen equipment I thoroughly recommend.

Now cream the butter and the sugar together, at first with a wooden spoon and then with an electric mixer, until it’s pale and fluffy, the usual thing. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest, then whisk in the eggs and make sure all is delightfully combined.

Weigh out your gluten-free flour (I used Dove’s Farm) and augment it with the baking powder. Now sieve it into the mixture and fold in. You want a sloppy consistency, what the old books mysteriously call “dropping”. If it’s just too thick, adjust the consistency with a little milk.

Chop the ginger into thin slices and slip half of these into the mixture, stirring them through; when you have greased your pudding bowl with lots of butter (you can’t use too much, fear not), toss the rest of the ginger in, followed by the Golden Syrup. A trick here is to dip your tablespoon in boiling water before taking each spoonful; the syrup then won’t stick.

Now pour the pudding mixture in on top of the syrup and the ginger and fashion a lid from aluminium foil. I would normally suggest that you pleat the lid but, to be honest, the pudding is not going to expand much during cooking so it would be a waste of effort. Secure the foil lid with string and attach a string handle so that the whole thing can be lifted in and out of the cooking vessel with ease.

Boil a kettle and put a pastry cutter in the bottom of a saucepan that’s big enough to hold the pudding bowl. Put the bowl on top and add boiling water to about two thirds of the way up it. Turn on the heat and adjust to ensure an enthusiastic simmer for 2 hours.

Actually, I cooked mine for 3 hours but that’s because I forgot about it. It was a close run thing, as the saucepan was within an ace of boiling dry.

All you have to do now is un-lid the pudding and run a knife around the rim of its top (which is just about to become its bottom), slap a decently sized dish on top and invert. The pudding will slip out, the Golden Syrup will have soaked into what is now the top half and the crystallised ginger will glisten like bits of amber (I’m getting carried away now) on its crown. Don’t forget to scrape out the bits.

You know what to do now. You don’t need to be told. But it involves lashings of cream, whipped or poured.

The post-mortem

This was a very successful pudding and, had I not made it myself, I would never have guessed that it’s gluten free. The self-raising flour, the little extra raising agent and the acidity of the lemon juice all seem to have conspired to deliver a nicely open texture, one that happily absorbed all that Golden Syrup.

Finally, I should add that if you have only preserved ginger in syrup, use it in the same way but don’t waste the syrup. Add a bit to the Golden Syrup; this pudding has the capacity to absorb indecent quantities of such goodness.