Can anyone make steak-and-kidney pudding? It was one of my very favourite childhood dishes, up there with the fish pie my mother used to produce only on Good Friday. I talk here of pudding, crowned by its cumulus of suet, dry as a judge on the outside, soft as suede where the gravy melts it; a pie with a pastry crust can only disappoint. As the weather turned bitter, I thought it was time to introduce my children to this emperor of winter dishes.
A famous but not impossibly fancy chef supplied the recipe. Suet rolled, meat chopped, Worcestershire sauce sprinkled, and the thing was ready to be steamed for five hours. The stove became an altar, I the Vestal virgin who dedicated the afternoon to tending it. Mount Etna has not produced more steam.
‘Stay for supper,’ I said to a friend who had looked in. Plated, as they say in restaurants, it looked like something you might find on the floor of a barn at lambing time. Naturally, one doesn’t steam something for half a day without attempting to serve the more cooked parts of it.
The vomiting bug that one of our children developed the next day was, I maintain, pure coincidence. Creating the perfect steak-and-kidney pudding, like the technique of Leonardo, may be an art that has been lost.