A steak and kidney pudding is a British food item made by surrounding a large pile of meat and gravy with puff pastry or suet pastry. Types of meat used in a steak and kidney pudding include chopped beef or lamb steak, or lamb or pig's kidney. This dish is also commonly flavored with spices, oyster juice and wine. The meat is cooked first before it is wrapped in pastry and baked in a bowl.
Generally, the pastry made for a steak and kidney pudding is prepared with animal fat, usually pig fat, and is called suet pastry. This type of pastry is also known as suet pudding. Though suet pastry is the traditional pastry used to make steak and kidney pudding, many chefs substitute puff pastry. For a non-traditional steak and kidney pudding, puff pastry can be a better choice because it is easier to buy commercially than suet pastry, and it gives the dish more of a refined pastry texture.
Normally, the meat inside the pastry is cooked before it is wrapped in pastry, often simmered with onions and spices. It is usually diced, but it can also be ground. Flour is added to the simmering meat and onions to make a gravy before the meat is piled, packed and covered in pastry dough. Often, this dish is prepared by lining a bowl with pastry, piling the meat on, covering the meat with pastry, and baking. When the dish is done, the contents of the bowl are overturned onto a plate for serving.
The kidney is an organ that is shaped like a bean, and that is responsible for many functions within the bodies of animals and humans alike. Steak and kidney pudding is made with pig or lamb's kidney, and is not usually prepared with beef kidney. Since many people are not used to the flavor of kidney meat, often, steak and kidney pudding is made only of chopped steak, and does not contain any kidney.
Steak and kidney pudding has been known by a great number of names throughout its existence. For many years, it was known as John Bull pudding. Commonly, this dish is often called steak pudding, and less commonly, members of the British Armed Forces have been known to call it baby's head or baby's head pudding.