Steak and Kidney pudding should, truthfully, be the National Dish of England. Even to cook it fills your house with the wonderful, warm and comforting smells of Grandmother's kitchen. It's good food. It's honest food. And it's food that cooks slowly and can look after itself whilst you're off saving the Home Front from the Nazi menace.
In her 1845 book, Modern Cookery, Eliza Acton describes this dish as John Bull's Pudding. Jane Grigson in "English Food" (Penguin, 1974) suggests that this meant it had been around long enough for us to be known for it abroad. Anyway, it's delicious. Try it. This is my recipe, which is adapted from all the many recipes for it that I have read and experimented with. I'm not convinced of the merits of adding oysters, which is, by all accounts, traditional. If you are, you will have to look elsewhere for the method, as I think 5 hours cooking time would destroy them!
For the Suet Crust:
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g (5 oz) chopped suet
For the filling:
1 kg (2 lb) rump steak
500g (1 lb) calves' (Ox) kidney
2 tbsp seasoned flour
1 large onion, sliced
300 ml (1/2 pint) Beef stock
300 ml (1/2 pint) red wine
250g (8 oz) large field mushrooms, sliced
To make the crust - mix all the dry ingredients together, then gradually add cold water, mixing with a knife, until you have a firm dough. Roll out into a large circle and cut a quarter out of it, for the lid. Line a 3 pint pudding basin with the pastry, allowing a generous overhang at the rim.
For the filling - dust the steak and kidney with the seasoned flour. Pack it into the lined basin, layering it with the onion and mushrooms until the basin in packed tightly and full. Now carefully pour in enough of the wine and beef stock to almost cover the filling.
Roll out the quarter of pastry you put to one side to make a lid for the pudding, and seal using the overhanging pastry you left and a little water.
Cover the pudding with a tent of foil, being careful to leave enough room for the pudding to rise. Tie a string handle round the basin.
Now gently steam it (preferably in a steamer, but standing the bowl on a saucer in a large pan of water also works) for five hours. No more. No less. Your mouth will start watering after three hours, but you must resist!
It's traditional to serve this straight from the basin. Do it that way. It's best served with thick chips and marrowfat peas.
This amount serves three greedy people. I wouldn't recommend stretching it to four.