A Sussex Pond Pudding is a very traditional farmhouse, or rural, English pudding recipe. It originated in the South-East of England, (in the county of Sussex). It is made of a soft suet pastry which encases a whole lemon, with butter and sugar, which is then boiled or steamed for several hours. Like most types of these wonderful suet puddings the golden suet crust is slowly steamed inside a buttered pudding basin to become lighter, like a sponge.
The name of this regionally famous pudding comes from the ‘pond’ or ‘moat’ of thin sweet-buttery sauce on the plate which surrounds it when the pudding has been turned out after steaming. Including a whole lemon in the centre of the suet pastry, (which is sliced into and served with the pudding) is a wonderful way of flavouring the pudding – and also, during steaming, the lemon, (pricked all over with a skewer and covered in butter and sugar) steams to a soft candied fruit – and that is not to mention the heavenly smells …
Note: It is thought that earliest ‘Sussex Pond Puddings’ developed from ‘Pond-Pudding’, which was very similar to a ‘Blackeyed Susan’, which had currants added into the suet crust.
‘Dictionary Of The Sussex Dialect’, By Rev. W. D. Parish, Published 1875
Vicar Of Selmeston, Sussex, published by Farncombe & Co. Lewes.
Pond-pudding: Another name for the Black-eyed Susan. Blackeyed Susan: A well pudding, with plums or raisins in it.
Sussex Pond Pudding Recipe
For the suet pastry
- 225g plan flour
- 60g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 125g suet shredded (fresh or packet)
- 125 ml cold water
For the lemon middle
- 125g butter (cut into small flakes)
- 125g natural brown sugar (Demerara)
- 1 large lemon (washed and pricked all over with a thin skewer)
- a traditional lemon sauce (see the recipe below)
- a traditional Vanilla Custard
Making the suet pastry:
Into a mixing bowl sift in the flour, then add the breadcrumbs, salt, suet, and baking powder (if using fresh suet chop / shred it very small, until it all resembles the breadcrumbs). Make a well in the centre.
Gradually mix in the water until the dough is soft and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently until it is free from cracks and is smooth and silky, (moist but not wet) add more flour if needed to stiffen the dough into something resembling a light pastry. Roll into a ball and leave to chill in the fridge covered for twenty minutes.
Making the Sussex Pond Pudding:
Grease a 1 & 1/2 pint (850ml) pudding basin thickly with butter.
Break the suet dough into two bits, a bigger and a smaller 1/4 piece. A quarter segment of the pastry is reserved to use as the pudding lid. Roll out the bigger piece of suet crust pastry into a large circle on a floured work surface. Put the pastry circle into the greased pudding basin and gently work it into the basin shape, to fully line it. Leave a little over-hang out of the bowl and trim around the pastry edge of the bowl neatly.
Pack half the butter flakes and half the sugar into the bottom of the suet crust lining in the pudding baisin. Place on top of this the whole lemon – wash the lemon, trim the ends if it needs it, and prick the surface all over with a sharp skewer. Cover with the remaining butter and sugar.
Roll out the reserved quarter of pastry into a circle to fit as a lid to the pudding. Damp it around the edges with a little water and put it on top of the pudding and press the edges to seal them carefully. Pack the pudding down a little – the level of the pudding should be about 3cm (1.5 inches) below the top of the basin (or less). Trim any excess pastry from the edges.
Cut a round, large sheet of greaseproof paper and one of foil slightly bigger so they will come down at least 10cm (4 inches) over the sides of the basin. Lay the baking parchment on top of the foil and fold a large pleat down the centre of both (to allow for any pudding expansion). A pleat is made by folding the paper over on itself, then after several centimetres re-fold it back to it’s full length leaving the folded pleat in place. Lay the sheets over the top of the pudding basin (foil side up) and secure around the sides with string – wrap the string around the pudding basin several times tightly and tie the string off to make sure the foil top is secured down firmly and the pudding is sealed.
Trim off any excess foil and paper if it is too long. You can even make a string handle by looping it over the top and tying it off under the string going around the basin.
Stand the pudding basin in a deep saucepan (which has a tight fitting lid) on an upturned heatproof plate (or metal bars etc.) to raise it off the bottom of the saucepan – add a little water under the plate to get rid of any air pockets. Pour in boiling water to come just under half way up the side of the pudding basin.
Keep the water at a medium simmer and a gentle bubble, cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for 3 and a 1/2 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. It is important to keep checking the level of the water every so often so that it does not run dry.
When fully steamed, remove the string, foil and greaseproof paper and turn the pudding out carefully on to a shallow dish or plate with a rim (to contain the ‘pond’ of sweet-buttery sauce) – cut into slices with a sharp knife and serve hot with custard, cold-thick cream, or a traditional lemon sauce (see the traditional recipe give below). Include a little bit of the candied lemon from the centre of the pudding and some of the pudding sauce on each plate.
Serve Sussex Pond Pudding with cream, custard or a traditional lemon sauce:
Lemon Sauce Recipe
Ingredients: 125g caster sugar; 1 tbsp cornflour; 1/4 tsp sea salt; 250ml water; finely grated rind of 1 lemon; 25g butter, diced; 3 tbsp lemon juice.
Method: put the sugar, cornflour and salt in a saucepan and stir in the water a little at a time to make a smooth paste with no lumps. Stir in the grated lemon rind and put the saucepan over a low heat. Cook gently, stirring all the time, until the mixture simmers and thickens. Continue simmering for about a minute then remove from the heat. Beat in the butter pieces one at a time and stir in the lemon juice. Once a nice thick yellow sauce it is ready to serve.