By Keighley’s Mike Armstrong, an award-winning master baker with a big passion for baking...

WHEN did you last make a suet pudding?

Despite the recent revival of interest in traditional British home-baking, this iconic roly-poly pudding has not really caught on.

Some people might agree that this is truly a seasonal pudding as it makes good use of summer fruit jam.

But being hot, filling and sweet it is just the perfect comfort food for the cold winter evenings that lie ahead of us.

Roly-poly pudding is a steamed or baked Swiss roll shape of suet dough filled with jam.

It was also known as shirt-sleeve pudding after the article of old clothing in which the steamed version was cooked and cut into thick slices to expose a spiral of jam.

Roly-poly was a weekly treat for most children in the 1960s and 1970s, before the health police and Jamie Oliver moved in, served with custard from big metal jugs with half an inch of skin on top and nicknamed dead man's leg at my school!

The baked version, which I prefer, does have the advantage of a golden crust; the steamed version is often moist – pure sweet stodge, in which the satisfying swirl of red jam tends to keep its shape better, as it is tightly bandaged in muslin as it cooks.

Cheap food keeps its long shelf-life by means of sugar. Struggling families have reduced choice because they cannot afford for their children to turn anything down, and the inexorable rise in food bank demand has seen many with no choice at all.

A jam roly-poly pudding with custard is not a problem – puddings and cake have been at the centre of primary school social life for as long as anyone can remember, as it's the only thing everybody can make that everyone also likes! It may be cold and miserable outside with rain running down the windows, but in the school canteens around our town, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the smell of fresh homemade food drifts in the air down the corridors. Jam roly-poly used to be a staple part of the school dinner, along with cornflake tart – nowadays it's considered a bit more nostalgic and definitely in the comfort food category. Stodge and comfort, the perfect double act we increasingly yearn for, provides a nostalgic or sentimental value. Let's get it back on the school dinner menu!



Serves 4 generous portions


225g/8oz self-raising flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

50g/2oz caster sugar

100g/3 1/2oz vegetable suet

10 tablespoons cold water

200g/7oz seeded raspberry jam

3 tablespoons caster sugar to sprinkle


1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6 and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt, sugar and suet and mix well, then add the cold water to crate a soft dough.

3. Lightly knead with a little flour and roll out the dough to a large rectangle 12’’ x 8’’ and lightly wash the borders with milk.

4. Spoon over the jam, leaving the border, then loosely fold over to make a Swiss roll shape, folding the ends under.

5. Place onto the baking tray and brush with milk and sprinkle over the sugar.

6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before slicing up and serving with a good dollop of custard.