It’s Not Christmas Pudding!

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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