This classic pudding is undoubtably one of our oldest desserts and is part of our British cuisine and came into existence in the 19th century. It certainly has evolved throughout our history especially loved by the Victorians. It goes back as far as 1861 and was mentioned in Mrs Beeton’s book of household management as a rolled treacle pudding. It was earlier known as suety Jack in the Potteries and was first called a roly poly in 1875 in “Cassells dictionary of Cookery”. This pudding was also known as ‘shirt-sleeve’ pudding, ‘because it was often cooked inside an old shirt sleeve giving it the nickname of dead-man’s arm’ or dead man’s leg!
A roly-poly is a pudding made from suet dough that is spread with jam and then rolled up. Originally, it was boiled in cloth, but is these days steamed or baked. Traditional suet is hard fat found around the loins and kidneys in beef and mutton. It is essential for creating delicious moist dumplings, mincemeat and puddings. Other fillings can also be used such as golden syrup, apples or savoury such as sausage meat, but the most popular filling is raspberry jam. This is normally a simple sweet dessert that was part of our school dinner tradition in the early fifties and sixties and is always served with hot custard.
At Eggardon Country Cooks we like to use traditional recipes where- ever we can, and this is no exception. We use vegetarian suet which is a solid white fat made from refined vegetable oil. Using this helps us bake a tasty pudding for vegetarians as well.
Softened butter, for greasing
200g/7oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
100g/3½oz shredded vegetarian suet
1 tbsp caster sugar
good pinch salt
150ml/5fl oz semi-skimmed milk or water
6–7 tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Butter a large sheet of baking paper and set aside.
- Stir the flour, suet, sugar and salt in a large bowl until fully combined. Slowly stir in the milk to form a soft, spongy dough.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Roll the dough out to a 22cm x 32cm/8½in x 13in rectangle.
- Spread the jam onto the dough, leaving a 1.5cm/½in border. Gently roll the dough up from the short end and transfer to the greaseproof paper, seam-side down. Wrap the roly poly in the baking paper, making a long pleat in the paper to allow the pudding to expand as it cooks. Twist the ends of the paper like a Christmas cracker and tie tightly with kitchen string, to seal the pudding inside. Repeat the process with a large piece of kitchen foil.
- Place the pudding onto a roasting rack set on a deep-sided roasting tin. Pour boiling water halfway up the roasting tin and cook in the oven for 30–35 minutes.
- Remove the pudding from the oven, unwrap the kitchen foil, then snip the string and unwrap the paper.
- The pudding should be well risen and lightly browned in places. Don’t worry if the jam has made its way through to the outside of the pudding a little – it will taste all the more delicious.
- Put on a board or serving plate and cut into thick slices. Serve with lots of hot custard.