NEW Year salads are wonderful, of course, but looking back over the festive weeks, it was all the simple old British favourites that were received at my table with éclat. Even rice pudding! (Although making this after so many years, I found myself lamenting the loss of my Rayburn — a woeful duet I have been singing with Jennifer Aldridge, who is grieving for her Aga.)
I bought some vegetarian suet, and rejoiced in the ease of making a suet crust, compared with pastry or roasting potatoes. We had casseroles with dumplings and mushroom puddings, as well as nostalgic bowls of vegetable soup with Suffolk swimmers (cousins of the Norfolk dumpling) which we used to enjoy after a long walk to Walberswick.
Dumplings for a casserole, vegetarian or otherwise, are easy to make. You make your casserole, of course, choosing a dish with a lid. About half an hour before you want to serve it, put in a bowl
115g (4 oz) self-rising flour
55g (2 oz) vegetable suet
salt and pepper
Mix these into a soft dough with about 3 tablespoons of cold water. I also like to add a pinch of finely chopped dried herbs. Drop spoonfuls of dough into the casserole, cover, and bake for another 20 minutes or until the dumplings have risen.
If you do not like the fats in vegetarian suet, I have another recipe for dumplings made with butter and cheese:
115g (4 oz) self-raising flour
knob of butter
1 dessertspoon of grated cheese
a pinch of salt
6 tablespoons water or tomato juice
I like to add a pinch of cayenne pepper, chopped fresh herbs, or a pinch of dried herbs to the mixture. Whizz together the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor, or use your fingers to rub them in together. Add the cheese and parsley and liquid. (I don’t usually have tomato juice in my fridge; so, if I want to use it, I drain a can of tomatoes, and use the tomatoes for something else.)
I never knew what went into those Suffolk swimmers — huge, sweet dumplings bobbing cheerfully about in a bowl of rich vegetable soup — but I found this recipe from the Suffolk local authority’s website. Whether this was what we enjoyed so many years ago, I cannot recall. No fat, except what’s in the milk.
225g (8 oz) plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Make a good vegetable soup with a little “swimming space” in it: that is, not too thick. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together, and gradually add the milk to form a stiff dough which you can knead lightly. Drop spoonfuls of the dough into the soup, and cover, simmering them altogether for about 20 minutes, before serving in a deep soup bowl, one swimmer in each.