Christmas Pudding Stuffing

Last week I got two of Matthew Walker’s Christmas Puddings  sent through the post.

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 055

The company have a competition  to win a camera and a photography course and asked  everyone  in the UK Food Blogger’s Association to have a go and invent something new using their Christmas puddings…

As the company says,

“the original Christmas pudding is based on a traditional recipe that includes 13 core ingredients, which represent Jesus and his 12 apostles.

I travel the globe to select the very finest spirits, vine fruits and seasonal spices, from a stout that is brewed right here in The Peak District to succulent sultanas and currents from Turkey and Greece.

The result is a beautifully moist and fruity Christmas pudding that truly captures the traditional taste of the festive season.”

And what exactly are the ingredients?

  • Sultanas
  • Raisins
  • Demerara Sugar
  • Currants
  • Glacé Cherries
  • Stout
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Sherry
  • Vegetarian Suet
  • Almonds
  • Orange & Lemon Peel
  • Cognac
  • Mixed Spices

Well then. With a list like that of ingredients,  I had better start thinking. I began with the little pudding. I was thinking of trying something savoury, something different….

And then I thought of stuffing. What about some lovely roast pork with crispy crackling? After all apple and apricot are perfectly normal stuffings for pork. When I talked about this at work there was a fifty-fifty split about whether this would work, probably just as there will be amongst those of you who read this.  I thought it would work… sweetly, spicy, savoury stuffing? What’s not to like about that?

The very first thing to do will be to get the oven as hot as possible to make the perfect crackling for that lovely pork… so put it on now to preheat

Then, open the pudding and smell it

 woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 056

It was rich and dense and spicy and dark – as dark as the devil’s heart as we would say.

 So the next step was to make it into stuffing – first things first, start with the savoury aspect

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 064

Bacon and onion would add a good savoury taste


woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 070

Gently fry the onion then chop the bacon (or do as I do and use scissors – much quicker)  and add that to the onion

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 072

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 073

Make some breadcrumbs  – I have a Bamix and this makes breadcrumbs in seconds

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 057

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 059

Cut up the pudding and add it to the breadcrumbs and mix it well. Adding a sprinkle of  some salt and pepper rounds things out

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 063

Some suet.. real suet from the butcher….. just a sprinkle, but imagine how that will make it taste….

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 074

Once the bacon and onion have cooled slightly, stir that in as well

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 077

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 078

Then mix an egg lightly

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 080

And add that – this will bind everything together and chill the mix in the fridge. Having it cool will make it easier to roll and it also means you have time to tidy the benches and give things a quick wipe down.

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 082

On to the pork…. make sure the skin is properly scored – if it isn’t already, sharpen a knife and slash it. Remember, the thinner the slashes the thinner and crispier the crackling will be. Massage in some oil and then rub that rind with salt.

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 087

Now, I spotted a problem… I had been going to stuff the pork with the stuffing but it wasn’t the best rolled joint…

Balls, I thought. 

Stuffing balls, I mean, obviously! Straightforward stuffing the joint wouldn’t work, but rolling it into balls and roasting separately might just do it….

 woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 085

Look how pretty they look

So, put that pork in to sear and blister. Leave that in there on the highest heat till you can see the skin bubbling, then you can turn things down and relax for a while.

I decided some nice goose fat roasted potatoes and the benefit of that would be that I could put those stuffing balls in with them towards the end of the roasting time and they could roll around in the sizzling goose fat so they become crispy on the outside and stay moist and juicy in the middle….

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 093

So, things were progressing well….once the potatoes were starting to turn golden, in went the stuffing balls

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 092

The meat was taken out to rest… look at that crackling

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 094


And then…. put everything together…

woodpigeon, Christmas pud stuffing, blueberryyoghurt cake 099

In conclusion? I was right. As a festive stuffing it hits all the right buttons.

The stuffing balls, born from necessity, are probably the better way to go. The outside crisps up beautifully, while the inside stays juicy.

And… this might be noted as a guilty pleasure… I got in from work the following night and nibbled one… even cold it tasted gorgeous!

And the Bear’s verdict? He ate everything and then asked for pork and Christmas Pudding stuffing sandwiches for lunch. I guess that means he likes it too.

Make them, this is a recipe to remember and use.

Oh and thank you, Matthew Walker, that pudding is a real Christmas cracker     😉

Lamb stew and minty dumplings

While I was preparing to get back to work I went shopping to get supplies in. I saw that the butcher had some stewing lamb and I thought that there would be nothing nicer to come home to, after a day at work than some slow cooked lamb that I could pop some dumplings into, to cook while I got changed and then we could settle down to a hot meal.

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 008

The lovely thing about slow cookers is that you can get everything prepared (and when I say prepared, I am not talking about a huge investment of time… maybe 5 minutes or so?) anyway, you can do that the night before and then start the slow cooker in the morning before you leave for work.

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 010

Fry off the meat (you can see why it is a good thing to do this at night… I certainly wouldn’t want to be frying meat at 6am) until it is browned on the edges. This helps the gravy develop a good colour and a decent flavour.

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 009

While that is sizzling, chop an onion and some garlic and think about the way you want to go with the lamb stew. I thought about using some spices… sort of a tagine feel but in a toned down way. I looked about to see what we had and found a bag of dried peaches. I had thought there might be some apricots but there wasn’t, so peaches it was going to be.

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 013

They are pretty sharp in flavour which is a good thing with lamb as that is sweet in itself . I hadn’t actually used dried peaches before so this really was going to be an experiment.

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 015

mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 016

Because I was using fruit in there I looked for spices to go with it… and found a tin of tagine spices…

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 014

By now the lamb was browned off and I put it into the slow cooker with the chopped onions.

Then scattered a handful of dried peaches on top

And then sprinkled the spice mix.

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 022

Some stock granules over the top of that and pour in some water.


That took just over 9 minutes and that is because I was having to wash my hands in between each step to take a picture. If you aren’t doing that  😉 you can expect it to take a lot less time

 And that’s it for the night. Lid on and leave it unto the morning when you can turn it on before you go to work.

 lamb 2 001

Set it to Auto and then set off to work.


The good thing about a slow cooker is that the Auto function starts it off as high to get things going then goes right down to low to tick over until you get home….


What to do with it? When I started out I was thinking of minty dumplings but then I hadn’t thought of the tagine hint….and by the time I got home we had a friend to feed as well. That was good news and there was certainly no problem about that but what it did mean was that dumplings for three people wouldn’t fit in the small slow cooker…

mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 023

Anyway, I got in and tasted it.. it wasn’t too spicey… there was a hint of spice, sure enough, but it wasn’t totally tagine. It was a mix of sharpness from the fruit, warmth from the spices and and meaty juiciness. Dumplings would go, after all. Maybe not dumplings poached in the gravy… but they could be baked and then placed on top…

I needed to thicken the gravy slightly – at the moment it was just the slow cooked lamb juices and the water… a delicious stock but it needed to be thicker. mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 028 If you take a  couple of spoonfuls out of the pot and mix it with some cornflour, it mixes easily in the bowl you can add it straight back in to the main pot without making it lumpy. Now that is is thickening nicely… on to the dumplings!

First of all, put the oven on, if it isn’t on already. 200 degrees C should do it.

mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 026

So, in a bowl put 80g of self raising flour ( add a couple of teaspooons of baking powder if you use plain) and 40 g of suet..

mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 024

Chop up some mint

Add that and a sprinkling of stock granules to the flour and suet and then add a couple of teaspoons of water and mix together

 mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 027

Form into dumpling shapes and put on a baking tray

mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 029

Fifteen minutes later… look!

Serve up the lamb and balance the  dumplings on top….

mashed celeriac, lamb and dumplings 030

Oh they were delicious! Light and fluffy with a soft middle and a gorgeously crispy outside…. what a good thing it was that we needed more than could be cooked in the slow cooker.

Sometimes you discover things by accident and are really glad you did.

Chicken in cider casserole with apple and chive dumplings

I was wondering what to make for supper and looking round to see what we had when I spotted the last  Bramley apple in the fruit dish. My aunt has a huge tree in her garden so whenever I go to see her, I come away with the cooking apples.

Chicken, I thought. Chicken casserole and I’ll add the apple… and make the gravy with a bottle of cider! And maybe dumplings to go on top…. just the thing for a blustery day. So off I went to the butcher’s and came back with legs and thighs (my favourite bits of the chicken – so juicy and flavoursome) I got a leek, some sweet onions and a couple of carrots, too.

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 018

First thing to do was brown the chicken in the casserole dish. If you are using a slow cooker, just brown them off in a frying pan. It won’t take long and it does make a difference. Besides it melts out some of the fat which is a good thing.

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 020

While they are browning chop your vegetables. You of course can add whatever you fancy. Onion and leek are good as they sweeten over the cooking time and I am going for a sweetly savoury, rich and delicious casserole here, a soothing meal rather than a spicy one. Carrots look pretty, so they can go in!

Take the chicken out and add your vegetables, stirring them round gently so they pick up some of the brown and caremelised bits of the chicken that are stuck on the dish.

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 021

Then lay your chicken bits on top the vegetables. I sprinkled some Knorr Granulated Bouillon over the chicken (much easier than cubes) as I needed some stock in there

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 022

Then, pour in the Bulmer’s apple cider!  Look at it froth beautifully. That is going to go perfectly with the apple and make the stock taste delicious. The smell as it hits the hot dish is incredible

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 023


Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 024

I peeled the Bramley, cored and cut it into pieces and quartered some mushrooms. They went in on top of everything.

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 025

And that was it….into a preheated oven at 160 degrees so it could bubble away this afternoon. A couple of hours at the most and it would be ready.

But I wanted this to be the perfect casserole. Dumplings are always a good move… light and tasty, floating on top of delicious gravy….

For them you need flour – I used 40 g of self raising  – and 20 g of beef suet. This will make 6 lovely little  dumplings, perfect for the two of us and with two of them left over so that a certain person can take some casserole for his lunch the following day. Double the quantity, I think, for more people.

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 027

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 028

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 029

When I make dumplings, I often chop into the mix some herbs – maybe lemon zest and some thyme, or chives… and there I was staring at the chopping board where the peel from my Bramley lay…. why not, I wondered? I nibbled a bit of the peel – definitely sharp flavoured and appley. If they added just a hint of appleness to the savoury dumplings… well, that might just be considered a triumph!

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 026

So I chopped the apple peel finely and chopped up some chives


I added some salt to the suet and flour and a tablespoon or so of  cold water… then stirred in the chopped chives and apple peel

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 030

Look how the colour changes slightly as it comes together

 Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 031

Then I rolled the dumpling mix into 6 little balls.Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 032

Before you put the little morsels of dumpling loveliness into there, stir in, if you have any, a spoonful cream. Cream in a chicken gravy is perfect. The apple and cider sharpen it so it isn’t too rich and the mixture of it all together is just so delicious.

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 033

Then, add the dumplings.   

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 034

I pop them on top of the casserole (remembering to leave space for them to expand a bit) maybe half an hour before I am ready to serve it. If you are doing this in the slow cooker then just turn the heat up to high for the last half hour.

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 036

Look at them… flecked with the green of the chives and the apple…

Brisket, chcicken casserole and dumplings 037

And that, let me tell you, was delicious. The chicken was tender, the gravy was smooth, both sweet and savoury and the dumplings had a gorgeous taste of apple running through them. How inspired was I to think of adding the peel?

I think I am on to something with that!