I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The festivities held at my parents’ house were as colourful as any from my childhood and, get this, there wasn’t even one single tiny argument. Not one, not even when the board games came out, not even when there was only one remaining roast potato, nowt, not even after booze for breakfast. Instead there was lots of loving banter and nicely worded cards and sharing and I’m not sure Christmas Days in even the most tranquil families are often ended without even one slander, heated debate or slammed door so how on earth we all managed to behave was a Christmas Miracle of the finest kind.
New Year is always a tad rubbish and it isn’t really a favourite time of year, whilst my parents were up in Scotland, Vinnie and I did not repeat last year’s ‘celebration’ by being asleep by ten in the evening. It was still all very quiet and we watched the fireworks on the TV. I have only ever been up to the London Eye once to see in the New Year. You only ever do it once. It’s all very nice and exciting until it starts to rain and you realise you need the toilet but won’t escape the crush for another few hours and there’s a desperate grab of or from strangers at the midnight bells for someone to kiss and it’s all just a bit too full of people. Especially on the last train home, that really is too full of people. Really drunk people depressed by their lack of achievement in the last year and either, as a result, nearing suicidal ideation or punching someone. I often feel like New Year’s and it’s accompanying celebrations are something we feel we have to say we enjoy, but inside it’s kind of empty and sad and full of pressure and remorse, even if you’ve had a really great year or are going to have a really exciting year.
By next Christmas and New Year, Vinnie and I will be married, we will hopefully be elsewhere in the country (the more I need to get out of Surrey, the more I seem to be stuck here!) and hopefully in fulfilling and stable jobs. If I can do all that, I will not feel the smallest bit ashamed if, on the 31st, I just take some xanax and sleep through the midnight weirdness. I’ll have my husband and my cats and, however pathetic that seems, I only need them to make the New Year happy.
For now though, first dinner of the New Year, a good old fashioned steamed pudding in beefy suet pastry. Like an old, childhood friend at the table (a good one, not a rubbish friend that you’re only still in contact with because you feel the bonds of the year six lacrosse team were too strong to ever be broken), happy and comforting and forgiving in its construction. This one is filled with beef and onions and cider and I had carrots and broccoli on the side.
- 100g beef, cut as you prefer (I used the leftovers of a rare-cooked top rump roast, cut into small strips. Cubes is traditional and the blade cut is a good one to use – I used leftover beef because I had it to use, usually use uncooked beef)
- 2 onions, finely sliced
- 300ml cider
- 1/2t english mustard
- A little flour for dusting
For the pastry:
- 170g self raising flour
- 85g beef suet
- cold water
- butter for greasing moulds
- Put a little butter in a pan and cook down the sliced onions on a low heat until golden.
- Toss the beef in seasoned flour, dust off excess, add to pan with mustard and a pinch of salt and stir to cook off the flour and incorporate.
- Add the cider to cover. Cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for about half an hour. Afterwards, take off the heat to cool.
- Meanwhile make the pastry – start by heavily buttering two individual pudding moulds.
- Sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and rub in the suet – if this is not done well your pastry will look cracked, shrink and look like it has ‘worms’ imprinted in it.
- Add a little cold water and blend in with a knife. This pastry will take more cold water than other pastries and you need it to initially be a little sticky. When it is combined, turn out of the bowl and knead until smooth and elastic – not too long.
- Cut into thirds, roll two of the thirds out to be bases and lift up and press without stretching into the moulds, only 2/4 of the way. Fill with the filling to about 1.5cm of the top with generous amounts of the liquid and roll out the other third for the lids, attach with a little cold water, seal and trim with a knife.
- Heat your oven to 160C and boil some water.
- Grease rounds of greaseproof paper, folding in the middle to allow for growth and covering with foil, firmly tie these around the lip with string. Do this firmly or liquid will steam in and the pastry will be soggy and useless.
- Place the puddings in a bain marie, filling halfway up with boiling water, and place in the oven for 1.5 hours.