Suet comes traditionally from beef cattle, but also occasionally from sheep and is the shredded fat taken from around the internal organs. Combined with flour, salt and a little water it is formed into ball shapes which are called dumplings. (Suet can also be the fat content of a sweet or savoury winter pudding or of a roly-poly, both which are usually quite satisfying, or it can be made into suet crust pastry. Suet is also one of the ingredients of sweet mincemeat which is most commonly made into Mince Pies at Christmas and is also a major ingredient of the traditional Christmas Pudding.) Suet dumplings are often added to warming casseroles or stews, mostly in cold weather, where they cook in the gravy, but they can also be steamed and served separately. This is usually eaten as part of a hearty meal with potatoes, although I usually serve them as an alternative.
I always buy vegetable suet, although I am not vegetarian. It is readly available and is made from vegetable fats. It contains less saturated fat so I feel it is slightly healthier, especially as the version I buy contains 30% less fat than meat suet. Dumplings benefit from gentle handling with hands and ingredients both being as cold as possible. Additional flavourings can be added to dumplings, a common example being herbs. The Atora website gives some good hints and tips for using suet and a number of recipes. The basic recipe for making dumplings is very simple and the one below comes from the side of a packet of Atora Light Suet. I have frozen dumplings but they are much better made and used immediately and it is such a simple method there is really no need to freeze. Dumplings can be served plain, as in this basic recipe, or can be flavoured (see alternative versions and links to recipes further down this page).
(Suet Dumplings cooked in Beef & Bean Casserole)
(Serves 3/4 alongside potatoes – double quantity if serving in place of potato)
100g/4ozs self-raising flour
50g/2ozs shredded suet
pinch of salt
5 tbsp cold water, aproximately
Herbs or other ingredients to flavour – optional
1. Mix the flour, suet and salt with the water. It should not be sticky but soft and pliable. If too dry add a little more water: if too sticky add a little more flour.
2. Using floured hands divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into balls.
3. Place on the top of a stew or casserole where the liquid is already simmering. Cover with a well fitting lid and cook gently for about 20minutes.
4. Serve hot.
Further recipes for dumplings:
(Please leave comments about the following recipes with the recipe at the link given rather than here – thank you)
Beef & Bean Casserole
(with plain dumplings using above recipe)
Alternative flavourings - tried and ideas:
Fennel Seeds (to replace Caraway Seeds)
Toasted Sesame seeds
Herbs, dried or fresh
Grated root vegetable, particularly carrot (see above), parsnip or beetroot
Anything else? Comments appreciated especially tried and trusted ideas!