Granny’s Clootie Dumpling – from Catherine Laing, North Uist

Posted by True Highlands in Scottish Recipes | 29 comments

I first tasted clootie dumpling as a child in 1955, the lingering memory is of watching my great grandmother collect the ingredients and the long, long wait for the first taste. The dumpling would typically make an appearance at particular times like weddings, New Year, when it took centre table, funerals or when there was plenty dried fruit available, but it was a staple and we partook as often as my great grannie would make one, and latterly my late aunt.

The cloth used in the cooking was a fine white linen square, slightly bigger than a dish towel. Once removed from the dumpling it was immediately soaked in cold water, and this cloth was not used for any other purpose, even the string used was put away till the next time.

The dumpling was served warm, and if there was any left over some liked it heated up on the frying pan. Sometimes we had it with custard, but my personal favourite was straight from the pan with a cup of tea. In the early fifties, ingredients were sometimes difficult to obtain so ingredients like marmalade or jam were substituted depending on what was available, indeed, I would encourage experimenting with all the wonderful array of dried fruits which are now at our disposal. Suet was always traditionally used, but nowadays I prefer margarine. For those who are vegans, you can easily substitute vegetable suet.



    • 4ozs self raising flour
    • 4ozs breadcrumbs
    • One cup raisins
    • One cup sultanas,
    • One cup currants
    • Half a teaspoon of baking soda
    • One teaspoon of cream of tartar
    • One teaspoon of mixed spice
    • One teaspoon of cinnamon
    • One cup of sugar
    • 5 ozs of margarine
    • 2 level tablespoons of syrup
    • 2 level tablespoons of treacle
    • 2 eggs and milk


Mix all the ingredients together, the consistency should be soft but not runny.

Scald the cloth in boiling water, spread out and sprinkle with plenty of flour before lightly shaking off the excess. Place the mixture in the centre of the cloth, gather up the corners, allowing room for expansion, but not too much and tie tightly with string. Place a plate in the bottom of a large pan, the boiling water should ideally come to about half way up the submerged pudding. Plunge the dumpling into the pan and boil for three hours over a moderate heat.

Check the water level, and add extra as the level goes down over the cooking time.

Removing the cloth is the trickiest bit, slowly and carefully does it, as you want to retain the lovely thick skin. Place a large plate underneath the opening and turn the whole pudding upside down. Some may choose to dry
off the pudding in the oven for a short time, but I prefer it just as it is.

Serve with custard and a lovely cup of tea.

– Catherine Laing, North Uist

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Comments (29)
  1. Cate Fitt says:

    Sounds wonderful.

  2. jimmymc says:

    My mother used to put it in front of the fire to get a nice skin on it . Was always good to come home from school and smell the spices knowing your maw was making a clootie dumpling

  3. jean scott says:

    just made this although tastes yummy find it crumbly dont know where i went wrong any advice on where i could of went wrong

    • Charlene says:

      Possibly cooked too long

  4. catherine laing says:

    Maybe not enough milk used to mix your ingredients, perhaps boiled for too long, or not enough butter/marg. Sometimes it may not require just so much boiling, you need to test after two or two and a half hours. if it feels firm then , it will be ok. I am remembering we cooked this dumpling on an old cast iron stove, so perhaps the heat was not so intense. don`t give up, i hope your next attempt will be less crumbly

    • Lesley says:

      Does anyone have a vegan recipe for this? My mother in law always made this for me when I was vegetarian but now vegan. Any ideas anyone please?

      • True Highlands says:

        Hi Lesley
        Hopefully someone will be able to help with that. 🙂

    • Ella says:

      Hi Catherine

      I made this yesterday and my husband had a piece with custard and loved it. I was born in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, and my Dad always made the Clootie Dumpling in a pillow slip kept for that purpose but I never watched him make it to my sincere regret. The first one I made looked like a molten mess and didn’t solidify. Yesterday, it solidified but unfortunately, had a white layer on the bottom which I assume is because I used too much flour and forgot to remove any surplus – do you do this over a sink? Also, it kept falling over in the pan. I so want to get this right in my Dad’s memory. Can you help me, please? I would really appreciate it.

      • True Highlands says:

        Hi Ella. I am delighted your husband enjoyed it! I’m afarid I can’t help as it was written by someone else. However, I will see if I can get hold of her and ask her to respond to you. Good luck!

      • T Dewar says:

        Hi Ella I always put a tea plate in the pan of boiling water and place the dumpling on that. My mum did this and just copied her maybe stop dumpling falling over.I’m born n bred in Hamilton so was my mum.

  5. Morag says:

    Love clootie dumpling, have never put golden syrup in it, only ever use treacle. I love the skin, but not dried out in oven or beside a fire. I always use suet and do it the traditional way. Been eating it for over 50 years and still here to tell the tail……so much for all the ”healthy eating” of todays dieticians.

    • Gordon fotheringham says:

      It was and still is a delight to eat at any time day or night

  6. JEAN MORRISON says:

    Been looking for a while for a recipe for this!

  7. liz morgan says:

    Looking forward to trying out the recipes

  8. Eileen MacLeod says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I was born in Stornoway and when we emigrated to New Zealand my Mum used to make us this . I loved it but never got the recipe from her so really appreciate you publishing it . we always new it as her ‘plum duff’ and I loved it fried up in the bacon fat. Many thanks again and can’t wait to give it a go . Lovely memories.

    • True Highlands says:

      Thank you for commenting and I really hope you enjoy it!

  9. Nettie Ward says:

    This sounds delicious but I usually avoid recipes that give quantities in ‘cups’ ….. what size cup should I use? I would prefer to have quantities in grams/ounces, can anyone suggest weight of the dry fruit and sugar rather than ‘cups’?

    • True Highlands says:

      Hi Nettie. My inclination would be around 4 to 4.5oz equals a cup, but someone else may be able to confirm that.

      • Nettie Ward says:

        Thanks for that, I will give it a go

    • Carol Cassin says:

      You can buy baking cups specifically for baking they come in different sizes and in sets 1/3, 1/4, 1/2 & 1 cup

  10. Marie Thompson says:

    My father in law used to make this and give it to us for christmas god I miss it. It was the best Christmas pressie ever.

  11. Morag Garrow says:

    Cups means the ‘old fashioned ‘ tea cups, not modern day mugs. I’m not sure how many ounces/gms it would be, but if you make all the ingredients of equal amounts it should be fine.

  12. Chris says:

    Seems like my grandmother’s plum pudding, which she steamed for a few hours in molds in a large boiling pot with shelf.

  13. Agnes Cormack says:

    (My recipe is very similar now)but thank goodness I now have made them perfect, the first dumpling I ever made we kicked it around like a football it was like rubber,50yrs ago

  14. Christine Morrison says:

    Here’s our family recipe for a duff, and it’s got the measurements for all the ingredients.



    2 pounds plain flour
    2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
    2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    10 oz shredded suet (Atora)
    3 teaspoons mixed spice
    1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
    1 ½ teaspoons salt
    1 lb currants
    8 oz raisins
    8 oz sultanas
    (cherries, mixed peel or grated apple or grated carrot may be added if desired, just substitute for some of the total 2 lb of fruit)
    4 oz sugar
    4 tablespoons treacle or Golden syrup (or a mixture of both)
    2 eggs and enough water to mix to dropping consistency


    Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well together. Add the suet and mixed fruit. Make a well in the centre and mix to a dropping consistency.

    Scald cloth (cotton cloth 18” square) with boiling water (e.g. pan that duff is cooked in). Dredge the cloth with flour, removing any excess.

    Place cloth over a bowl (the larger the better) Then pour in the duff mixture and tie neck of cloth with string, making sure that no mixture can escape and leave enough room for expansion when the mixture is cooking.

    Place a plate in the bottom of a large pan of boiling water (with well fitting lid) and drop the clootie dumpling in.

    Steam for 3 ½ hours. Do not let the pan boil dry. Water level should be half way up the dumpling, and not submerged.

    Remove duff from pan carefully. Leave to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before slowly removing the cloth.


    Quantities can be halved to make a smaller duff

  15. Pat dey says:

    My recipes exactly the same but I do use suet and I only use sultanas as I don’t like the gritty seeds in the raisins. I never dry mine off either they are fine the way they are once the skin cools I have been making then for over 40years and never had a bad one yet.

  16. Rennie robertson says:

    For the fat free.
    I made this and forgot the butter. It was still delicious
    Will make again

  17. Matt Rodgers says:

    Recently made a nice traditional dumpling .Used fat free milk .Skin was very tough indeed .Dried it in the oven for ?8 minutes .Was this a mistake ?

    • True Highlands says:

      I think the recipe has to be followed to the letter to ake the perfect dumpling. Good excuse to try again! 🙂

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