Also known as a clanger or bacon pudding, bacon roly-poly is believed to have origins in Bedfordshire and its surrounding counties, such as Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. A classic British suet pudding, the dish dates back to at least the 19th century, though suet has been used in cooking for hundreds of years, and is still available at select bakers, cafes, restaurants, and local places of interest. Most typically, however, bacon roly-poly is a home cooked classic, with recipes handed down through generations (as is the case with my family’s simple bacon roly-poly recipe).
An elongated dumpling with a suet crust, the dish is fairly stodgy and heavy, in which the name ‘clanger’ refers to – related to the dialect term ‘clung’, which traditionally meant ‘heavy’, in relation to food. It’s also often described as a savoury alternative to the famous jam roly-poly, but instead of containing jam, the suet pudding base is lined with bacon, onions, and sage and onion stuffing, then wrapped and steamed.
Although traditionally boiled in a cloth, this bacon roly-poly recipe calls for the pudding to be steamed for two hours, then finished in the oven to give a slight crust, which provides additional depth of texture, contrasting the soft centre. Finishing in the oven can be avoided entirely, however, in order to recreate a more traditional take on the British classic. In this case, I’d suggest steaming for two-and-a-half hours.
Other recipes also call for shortcrust pastry instead of suet, which spends the duration of the cooking time in the oven (approximately 45 minutes at 200/Gas Mark 6). Different fillings can also be used: try mixing some chopped chestnuts and apple into the stuffing; substitute bacon for minced beef, or even a vegetarian alternative. Either way, it’s best served with mashed potato or roasted vegetables, and a good amount of gravy.
- Greaseproof or baking paper
- 225 g plain flour plus more for dusting
- 125 g suet
- 100 g stuffing pre-made or leftover
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 20 g butter
- 10 rashers smoked streaky bacon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cooking oil
- Cold water for the dough approx. 200ml
- To make the suet dough, mix the suet and flour with approximately 200ml of cold water, adding gradually until the dough has the consistency of dumpling mix.
- Set the dough aside and melt the butter in a frying pan to sauté the onions. Cook over medium heat for 2-5 minutes until soft, but not coloured. Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
- Roll out dough to approx. 15 x 30 cm on a floured sheet of greaseproof paper.
- Carefully spread the stuffing over the dough, leaving a 1cm border around the edges. Then place the bacon rashers in a row, lengthwise, slightly overlapping each rasher to cover the stuffing. Finally add the sautéed onions in a thin layer and season with salt and pepper.
- Wet the edges of the dough with a little cold water to form a seal and, using the greaseproof paper, roll the pudding tightly but not so it bulges, pushing edges closed as you go.
- When secure use tin foil to form a second layer to secure the pudding as it steams.
- Steam for 2 hours. If using a stovetop steamer, check the water half way through steaming to make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry.
- Remove the pudding from the steamer basket, take off the paper and foil, then transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven, preheated to 200C/Gas 6, for 30 minutes or until slightly crispy.
- (Alternatively forgo baking and steam for 2 hours 30 minutes in total).
- Leave to stand for five minutes before slicing.
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