Using a porcelain basin
1. Start by drawing two separate circles on greaseproof paper by going around the top and bottom of the basin. The larger one needs a bit of space around it as you’ll be cutting an inch or so around the circle. Cut out the small one, but not the big one yet.
2. Prepare the basin by rubbing a little bit of butter around the inside to grease it – that will make it easier to turn the pudding out. Then press down the small circle of greaseproof paper into the basin’s base which will stop the mixture sticking there and again make turning out so much less likely to go wrong.
3. Now pile the mixture into the basin, packing it in quite densely with the back of a spoon and make sure it is an inch or so (less if using a small basin) below the top as it will expand a bit as it cooks.
4. Now you need to sort out covering the basin. Go back to the greaseproof and cut out a circle an inch or so around the one you drew from the basin’s circumference and therefore a bit bigger. Make a pleat in the centre, lay it over the top of the basin, fold it down over the outside edges so that it falls below the basin’s lip. Secure the greaseproof circle by tying around with string, but be warned that this is a bit fiddly and not a one person job. If your helpers have deserted you and by this stage in the operation there are only ten willing fingers, you may find it easier to snap around a large plastic band.
You can choose between putting another layer of covering over the greaseproof ‘lid’ or wrap the whole thing up in a cloth:
5a – Cloth: stand the basin in the middle of a square piece of muslin / cotton / linen / clean old bed sheet. Bring the opposite corners up to meet, twist and tie; and then the same for the other set of opposite corners – as shown by my glamorous assistant.
5b – Foil or muslin square (you can get these in cookery shops): make and secure the covering exactly as you did for the greaseproof ‘lid’ above. Then use another piece of string to create a handle by tying it to the string that’s holding the lids in place.
6. Use a pan that has a lid and is a good bit larger than your pudding. You’re trying to get as much steam as possible to circulate around so you need the space. If your pudding is a bit of a neat fit, this can still be made to work you’ll just need to compensate by leaving it to steam for a little longer.
7. Place a saucer face down in the middle of the base. Try to use a saucer that you’re not bothered about and that will withstand high heat. Put the pudding basin onto the saucer. Now pour boiling water into the pan until it comes up about a quarter of the way up the pudding basin. Pop the pan lid on and turn the heat up on the stove so that the water is bubbling at a gentle simmer. You’ll then start to hear the saucer merrily jiggling around. Check every 40 minutes or so to see if you need to top up the water level. You need to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
If you have a steamer that you use for veggies, you absolutely could use that and so the puddings will sit totally out of the water. But I warn you that there is then no need for the saucer and you’ll miss out on the puttering noise.
8. When it comes to taking the pudding out of the pan, do be careful as it will be very hot. The string will really help you get it out if you went that way.
9. Leave to cool entirely. Then unwrap the papers / cloth and redo with fresh ones. Store somewhere cool and dry until you need to re-steam it on the Big Day.