A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (2024)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (1)

Back when I was living in Edinburgh, I made good friends with a lovely woman named Marianne, aka The Crafty Granny (it's on her business cards, and yes, she is very crafty). She is a staple in the Leith Folk Club, one of my favorite venues ever, and she adopted me as her own during my time living abroad. As someone whose grandmothers died when she was very young, I loved having The Crafty Granny in my life (okay, okay, so she's not actually old enough to be my grandmother, but it's okay to pretend, right?).

Not long after we moved there, Marianne invited me over to her flat to learn how to make a special Scottish dessert she'd grown up making -- a recipe she tells me (and many others confirmed) that very few people nowadays know how to make.

Marianne hails from the Isle of Barra, grew up looking out on a castle in the sea, and has the most beautiful and lilting accent you've ever heard. She's also an amazing cook. What she shared with me that afternoon (and evening too, as it takes a while to cook) was an old family recipe for: the clootie dumpling.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (2)
Rather remote, no?

Unless you are Scottish, you are probably wondering what in the world a clootie is. It's an old Scots word (yes, "Scots" is a language) meaning cloth, specifically a rag or strip of fabric. "Cloot" is the original word, and "clootie" the diminuitive form. (I guess maybe it's a particularly adorable piece of rag, that it should deserve a diminuitive.)

Anyway, a clootie dumpling is a dessert -- or pudding, if you're British -- and research shows that recipes vary from region to region.

I'm going to go with Marianne's recipe as the original, traditional clootie dumpling recipe, however, because do you see how remote Barra is? Full credit due, the recipe is Marianne's mother's, passed down from who knows how many generations before (cue a lone bagpipe tune and images of hills, stone circles, and the wind blowing through the sea).

Thank you, Marianne (and cheers to her mother, Winnie Dunn), for permitting me to publish this recipe. Enjoy!

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (3)
by David Caldwell. Hills in the Highlands. Sigh!


15 TBSP self-raising flour

4 TBSP sugar

3 TBSP suet (we used a vegetarian substitute)

1½ tsp mixed spice (a very British ingredient, find recipe for it here)
tsp cinnamon
tsp ginger
handfuls raisins
1½ handfuls currants
2 TBSP treacle
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, grated

  1. Blend together all the ingredients and add enough water to bind.
  2. Place in a floured cloth (clootie) and steam in a pan of water until cooked about 2.5-3 hours.
  3. Remove from cloth and dry out in oven.

I love this recipe for its simplicity and because "handful" is a measurement. That's my kind of cooking. Note the 3-4 hour process, however, and devote an afternoon to it -- preferably a cold, windy, rainy fall day, loaded with cups of tea and chocolate biscuits (the cookie kind, not the Southern brunch kind).

Let's walk through the steps with a little more detail and some explanation to poor Americans (like me) who may need some steps spelled out.

1. Blend together all the ingredients and add enough water to bind. (Straightforward enough, right?)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (4)Here we have the lovely Marianne referring to her old recipe (I think she just got it out to humor me and share it, as I'm fairly certain she could make a clootie dumpling blindfolded):

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (5)

Adding the treacle! Also known as molasses.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (6)

What it looks like before adding a bit of water...

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (7)

...and after adding some water.

And now for the CLOOTIE bit! What in the world do you use as a clootie? They can be used and reused, so many families use the same ones dumpling after dumpling. If you're starting fresh, try any piece of thin-but-sturdy cloth (like a thick dish towel americans are used to is probably too thick -- think a tea towel or something similar). You can use a piece of muslin or even an old pillowcase (obviously wash it first). I'm guessing Marianne's was about 18-22" square.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (8)

Wet your clootie, then flour it:

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (9)

Spoon the dough on the floured cloth:

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (10)

Add flour -- you don't want the dough to stick to the cloth.

Here is Marianne gathering up the cloth and preparing to tie it together with a piece of string:

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (11)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (12)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (13)
Plate on the bottom of pan, so the clootie doesn't stick.

Be sure to put a plate on the bottom of the large pot you'll be putting the cloth in. It'll prevent the cloth from sticking to the bottom of the pan while it steams for 2+ hours.

Add about 2" of water and bring to a boil before adding the dumpling.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (14)

Our trusty clootie contains the dumpling and is steaming happily in a big pot on the stovetop.

You should now be able to watch Braveheart in its entirety (182 minutes) before the dumpling will be ready. You may want to check to make sure the water hasn't entirely boiled away -- a delicate balance. You don't want too much water, just enough to see it around the sides.

After 2.5-3 hours, remove the dumpling from the pan using heavy oven mitts or tongs. It'll be very hot!

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (15)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (16)

Carefully untie or cut your string for the big reveal.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (17)

Put an oven-proof plate on top of the dumpling and flip both the plate and dumpling over, so your clootie dumpling has a nice place to hang out while we all ooooh and ahhhhhh over its magic.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (18)

Wait! It's not done yet. You want the "skin" to develop nicely (that is the best part!), so put the dumpling into a warm oven to dry it out for at least 10 minutes, or until the surface isn't wet anymore.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (19)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (20)

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (21)

We ended up bringing this final product to the Captain's Bar in Edinburgh's Old Town, where I was playing accordion for a traditional Scottish folk singer that night. We shared with several people in the pub, and, needless to say, there were no leftovers.

I'm also getting all sentimental and longing for Scotland now. Time to go cut up an old pillowcase.

A Scottish family recipe: The Clootie Dumpling! (2024)


What does clootie mean in scottish? ›

A clootie is Scots for a rag or cloth. Clootie may refer to. Clootie dumpling, a spiced suet fruit pudding boiled in a cloth. Clootie well, a sacred well where strips of cloth are left for healing.

What's the difference between Christmas pudding and clootie dumpling? ›

How is it different from a Christmas pudding? If you look back far enough you will find the origins of a clootie dumpling are really just a plum, or Christmas, pudding. Clootie dumpling, however, is plainer, not as rich and has a lighter texture.

What is another name for clootie dumpling? ›

Since its recipe calls for boiling a traditional pudding in a bag, the clootie dumpling has been called the sweet version Scotland's other famed dish: haggis, which replaces the sweet cake and cloth sack with savory offal and an animal's stomach.

How do you eat a clootie dumpling? ›

Clootie Dumplings were traditionally served hot with custard, with any leftovers fried in butter and served with bacon for breakfast the next day.

What is a dumpling in Scottish slang? ›

An idiot (Ags., Fif., Edb., Arg., Ayr., Rxb. 2000s).

What are the charms for the clootie dumpling? ›

Many generations ago a Scottish Clootie Dumpling often had coins, six-pence or 'tanners' or silver charms hidden inside for a lucky child or adult. The charms all had meanings and were there to give an insight into the diner's future.

Why is my clootie dumpling soggy? ›

The water should come about half-way up the dumpling. If it is too high it will get into the dumpling and make it soggy at the top. Tie the ends of the string to the pot handles to keep it upright.

Do the Scots eat Christmas pudding? ›

For dessert, the most traditional is the Christmas pudding, usually served with brandy sauce cream. Bakewell's, fruit mince pies, shortbread and the Scottish Iced Christmas cake are other sweets also served during Christmas Day.

How long can you keep clootie dumpling? ›

All our fresh, vacuum packed Clootie Dumplings have a shelf life of 3 to 5 months from the date of production. Store in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight. Store in an airtight container after opening and place in the refrigerator. Freeze on day of purchase for up to 12 months.

What political party is the clootie dumpling? ›

"Clootie dumpling" has also been used as a nickname for the logo of the Scottish National Party.

What do British call dumplings? ›

In British cuisine, dumplings are typically called "suet dumplings" or "beef suet dumplings." Suet is a type of solid fat derived from beef or mutton, and it is a key ingredient in British dumplings. The use of suet gives the dumplings a rich and hearty texture.

Why is it called a clootie dumpling? ›

The name “clootie” or “cloot” comes from the old Scots word for “cloth”, which refers to the thin, muslin material that the dumpling is cooked in. Did you know, originally they would have used a pillowcase as their “cloot” as they were more readily available throughout the household!

Can you eat clootie dumpling cold? ›

You can eat your clootie dumpling cold however the texture may feel a little dense due to the vegetable suet for the best results we suggest warming in the microwave or oven.

Do you eat dumplings hot or cold? ›

They're good for lunch or dinner or breakfast. They're good steaming hot just out of the boiling pot, they're good cold, eaten standing in front of the fridge. Between the filling and the wrapper, a dumpling covers at least three food groups.

What is the origin of the word clootie? ›

Clootie (n.)

also Clutie, "the devil," 1785, Scottish, literally "hoofed," from cloot "hoof, division of a hoof" (1725), which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from a dialectal survival of Old Norse klo "claw" (see claw (n.)).

What are the clootie trees in Scotland? ›

In Scots, a "clootie" or "cloot" is a strip of cloth or rag. Clootie wells are wells or springs, almost always with a tree growing beside them, with an assortment of garments or rags left, often tied to the branches of the trees surrounding the well.

What is the story behind the Clootie well? ›

Clootie wells and rag trees can be traced back to pagan and early Christian practices around healing. The belief is a person will recover from an illness as the rag, dipped in a nearby holy well, disintegrates.

What is Scottish for darling? ›

m' ulaidh ort! my darling/dear!

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