20 July is the feast day of St. Margaret of Antioch, the patron saint of expectant mothers. Legend has it that she was swallowed whole by the Devil, who had disguised himself as a dragon, but made a miraculous escape by making the sign of the cross with her fingers. In a triumph of good over evil, the power of the cross caused the dragon’s stomach to explode, and Margaret walked free, completely unharmed.
It is therefore interesting that her saint day used to be celebrated by feasting on a large, sweet suet pudding, affectionately known as ‘Heg Peg Dump’. The ‘Heg’ came from ‘Hedge’, referring to fruit from the hedgerow, ‘Peg’ from the abbreviated form of Margaret and ‘Dump’ from dumpling.
The pudding is rich and traditionally made with hedgerow fruits, including blackcurrants, gooseberries, plums, sloes, and damsons. Below is a traditional recipe to give it a try – the choice of fruit is yours:
150g self-raising white flour
75g shredded suet (or vegetarian suet)
2 tbsp sugar
350g fresh fruit
Butter for greasing
Flour for dusting
Butter a two-pint pudding basin to prevent the pudding sticking.
Make up the suet crust by rubbing the suet well into the flour, then adding the sugar and mixing well. Add the milk and work into a smooth dough. Roll your dough out and line your basin with it, reserving a piece to make a lid.
Add your fruit so that the pudding basin is about ¾ full. You may want to add some extra sugar depending on your choice of filling. If you do, add your desired amount with two tablespoons of water before putting on the suet lid. To seal the pudding, pinch the edges of the crust firmly together.
Grease a piece of parchment or greaseproof paper with butter and place it loosely, butter side down, on top of the pudding.
Cover the pudding top tightly with aluminium foil and place in a large saucepan. Add boiling water to the pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the basin. Pop the lid on and simmer for about two hours, topping up the water as required.
When done, turn it carefully out onto a plate and serve with custard or cream.