Clootie Dumpling

Much as it may sound like a personal insult – ‘you’re such a clootie dumpling!’ – a clootie dumpling is in fact a traditional Scottish dessert, which gets its name, the clootie part at least, from the fact that the dumpling is made by boiling the ingredients in a cloth or clootie.

I’ve never made this before, and on reading recipes it seems to be more a test of patience than deep cooking skills – up to four hours from start to finish! Oh well, it’s a day off, so we have time and can try (and most of this time is sitting and watching it boil for three hours, so can wonder off and do other things).

Let’s start at the beginning then, the ingredients:

Laptop with recipe on the left, then the ingredients: flour, ginger, oats, margarine, sugar, milk
The ingredients
  • 200g Plain Flour – additional flour will be required for flouring the cloth and surface of the pudding
  • 125g Oatmeal
  • 150g Suet / Unsalted Butter
  • 125g Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp Mixed Spice
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 3 Tbls Black Treacle
  • 2 Eggs (Medium)
  • 125g Currants
  • 125g Sultanas/Raisins
  • 150ml Milk – To be used as required

(The recipe is from Scottish Scran,

I’m vegetarian, so no suet for me, and have substituted with solid baking margarine. Can’t find treacle in the shops, but could find molasses, a more typically American ingredient but as far as I can tell it’s about the same, a black sickly sweet liquid made of sugars. Don’t have exactly the right dried fruit, but close enough. Close enough is my cooking moto.

Mixing the ingredients together in a bowl.
Mixing it all together – using a spoon doesn’t work well!

To start we mix all the dry ingredients together, simple so far, then add the eggs and treacle. The aim is to make a ball that is bound together. Doing this with spoon doesn’t get me anywhere, so time to get the hands stuck in – as usual I forget to flour them first, so my hands are covered with a gooey mess quite quickly. Nonetheless, this works and we have something that looks like what it is – an uncooked pudding.

The next step is the introduction of the clootie. I have an old teacloth I am using. Lay it flat on a worktop and cover it lightly with flour. Move the flour around by hand to make sure it’s evenly spread. Once done, add the dumpling mix to the centre and bring the clootie together and tie it.

This is the point when I remember the mention of string in the instructions, and I don’t have any. A quick look round the flat establishes the best I have is some thread, and taking a few strings together I am able to tie by clootie.

Now we find a pot, put a small plate upside down in the bottom, to prevent the dumpling being stick on the bottom of the pan, place the dumpling in the pot and then cover with boiling water. All good!

The dumpling is in a pot which filled with boiling water.
The dumpling is in the pot with boiling water.

This is where both care and patience is needed. It is supposed to boil for three hours, patience!, and shouldn’t boil dry, so care needed to keep topping up the water. Finally, it’s done.

Take the clootie dumpling put the pan and drain it using a colander. Once it’s cooled down, take it out the colander, place on a cooking surface and unwrap. However, do this carefully so that the flour that was on the cloth doesn’t all come off the dumpling, ideally it forms a ‘skin.’

The dumpling sitting on the unwrapped 'clootie.' The pudding looks pale, and is covered in a wet skin caused by the flour.
The pale dumpling with its skin.

The dumpling as this point is a bit pale and very wet. This where drying out is needed, so place it in an oven for between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on how wet it is. The baking here will also turn the flour on the outside of the dumpling brown, giving it an appetising look.

The clootie dumpling is now browned after being baked for a few minutes.
Browned after being baked for about ten minutes.

And I’ve done it! Not sure why I’m surprised, but when taking it out the oven my clootie dumpling looks like what it’s supposed to be. Perhaps a little flat, had I tied it tighter I think it would have retained more of a ball shape, but for a first try, I’m pleased.

So how do you get? It’s really your choice. With custard is common, or cream, or if you’re strange like me, plain yoghurt!

A small bowl with a piece of clootie dumpling and yoghurt in it.
Clootie dumpling with yoghurt – it would have been better if I’d remembered to buy ice cream!

And finally, as St Andrew’s Day, top it off with a fine whisky!

a glass of whisky next to the clootie dumpling.
Whisky and clootie dumpling gang together.


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