Spotted Dick

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

By Annie Gray

Published 2019

  • About

Essentially just a plain suet dumpling with added fruit, spotted dick had been the cause of sniggers around the downstairs dinner table since it was first put into print in the middle of the nineteenth century. The term dick came from a dialect word for dough, and the spots refer to the dried fruit. It was a popular nursery dish, too, and a staple of school dinners in the twentieth century. It was sometimes called a bolster, after a type of long pillow, but you can also make it in a pudding basin. Spotted dick is vaguely related to another servants’ hall classic, the roly-poly, in which suet dough was rolled out into a rectangle, spread with a savory or sweet filling—often jam—rolled up like a jelly (Swiss) roll, and then wrapped in a cloth and boiled. Custard to accompany it is obligatory.


For the Dick

  • 1⅓ cups (170 g) flour, plus more for the work surface and cheesecloth
  • 3 oz (90 g) shredded suet (about ¾ cup)
  • cup (115 g) dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup (120 ml) milk

For the Custard

  • 3 egg yolks
  • teaspoons cornstarch
  • cups (300 ml) milk
  • tablespoons sugar
  • Orange flower water, pure vanilla extract, or brandy, for flavoring (optional)


To make the dick, combine the flour, suet, currants, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and stir to mix well. Add the milk and stir until a stiff, slightly sticky dough forms. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten the dough into a rectangle about 7 inches (18 cm) long, 5 inches (13 cm) wide, and 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. You can use your hands to flatten the dough, as it should be soft and malleable. Starting from a long side, roll up the rectangle into a log, leaving it seam side down. Dampen a double thickness of cheesecloth, butter muslin (similar to cheesecloth but with a finer weave), or a kitchen towel and sprinkle it with flour. Roll up the dough log in the cloth and tie the ends with kitchen string so it looks like a big boiled sweet. You can loop an extra piece of string between the ends to use as a handle, but make sure there is lots of slack, as the log will expand.

Bring a saucepan filled with water to a rolling boil and carefully lower the pudding into the pan. Allow the water to come back to a full boil, cover the pan, and then turn down the heat so the water is still at a rolling boil but not bubbling too vigorously. Boil the pudding for 2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level and adding more boiling water as needed to keep the pudding submerged.

Meanwhile, make the custard, which for this recipe should be thick and gloopy. Lightly whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch in a heatproof bowl until the cornstarch dissolves. Combine the milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and slowly pour the hot milk into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan, add a little flavoring if you like (2 or 3 teaspoons will do), and return the pan to very low heat. Stir the mixture continuously until it starts to thicken. If you have a thermometer, the custard should start to thicken at about 160°F (74°C) and will start to curdle at 175°F (80°C). Remove the custard from the heat and keep stirring for another few minutes until it stops cooking. If you don’t need the custard immediately, cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

When the dick is done, carefully remove it from the pan, let it rest for about 10 minutes, and then gently turn it out of the cloth onto a serving plate and cut into slices to serve. Pour the warm custard into a pitcher and serve on the side.

MRS. HUGHES: I hear you’re getting on well with your mathematics, Daisy.

BAXTER: An extra feather in your cap.

DAISY: Yes, it is. But now I wonder...

CARSON: You wonder what?

DAISY: Well, should I stop there?

MRS. PATMORE: That’s enough, Daisy. Come and carry the spotted dick!


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