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  Rag puddings ... the pasty of the North.

Rag Puddings

Rag puddings are another traditional Lancashire (maybe just Oldham) favourite. Like many simple working-class meals, it's an easy way of making a little bit of meat go a long way while filling up the hungry mill worker with plenty of calories.

I'm speculating here, but it may also have been popular because it doesn't need many cooking utensils - pans, ovens, trays, which maybe poor people didn't have - just a bit of rag and something to boil the water in.

They are very simple - just a meat filling wraped in suet pastry, tied up in a cloth and boiled for an hour or two. In my family, it's just minced beef in the middle, but any filling could be used. Once I made a chicken curry filling!

You can now buy ready-made ones from various freezer shops and butchers in Oldham. They're ok, but it just seems a bit pointless - firstly, they come in plastic wrappers, not rags, and secondly, they fill them with the nondescript meaty slime you get in pies from the chippy. You can do far better if you make your own!

Below is a step-by-step guide to making them. This is my mum's recipe, which she got from our Aunty Betty (not really an aunty, she was actually our next door neighbour, but all nice ladies are "aunty" in Oldham).

Ingredients (makes 2):

8 oz (250g) minced beef
2 tablespoons (30ml) cooking oil
6 oz (170g) self-raising flour
3 oz (85g) suet (beef or vegetable)
2 teaspoons (10ml) gravy granules (any flavour)
black pepper

pinch of salt
2 clean white handkerchiefs or similar cloths
safety pins

Now in the pictures below, I decided to go all exotic and throw in a few nigella (black onion) seeds, the sort you get in naan breads. This is completely non-traditional! But they added a nice bit of extra flavour.


Mix the flour, suet and salt in a bowl and add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing between each spoonful, until it forms a ball.
IMPORTANT: it should feel slightly sticky to the touch, but not slimy. If it gets slimy, add a bit more flour.

pudding picture

When it looks like this, give it a quick kneed by hand. The black dots are the (optional) nigella seeds I added for kicks.

pudding picture
Now brown the mince in the oil. Grind in some black pepper. You could throw in some onions or kidney if you're feeling adventurous. pudding picture
Now split the pastry into two equal halves and roll them out to about 6 inches (15cm). You can see the size here from my son Sam's 15 cm ruler.. pudding picture
Now add the meat in the middle.

Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of gravy granules and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water onto each pile.
pudding picture
Fold them in half and fold over the edges to make pasty shapes.

pudding picture

Take a handkerchief. Sprinkle it with flour. pudding picture
Now put a pudding in the middle and fold it up. This is how I fold it, but there are other ways. It's important to wrap them tightly. Then use one (or more) safety pins to fasten it closed. D:\data\www\oven_bottom_muffins
Then boil them in a pan of water on a gentle simmer. My mum says to cook them for at least one hour, but I found that 45 minutes was OK. Unwrap and serve immediately. They look ungainly but the taste is superb! pudding pictures



      © 2008 Mat Bennion