Serves 4-6

The south of England seems to have been the centre of suet pudding creation. That's my theory, anyway, as this, another of my favourites, comes from the county next door to the Sussex pond pudding. Old English recipes would have asked for a boiling fowl for this recipe. They're hard to come by these days ­ imagine boiling fowl on the supermarket shelves, where prime cuts and image are everything. The best easily available alternative is the good old chicken thigh, which withstands long cooking without going dry. You can vary the mushrooms in this recipe from oysters to girolles, which would give a great colour and flavour to the finished sauce.

You will need a 2 litre pudding basin and some string to make the pudding.

750g boned and skinned chicken thighs, cut in half
3tbsp flour
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
100g rindless smoked streaky bacon, cut into rough 2cm squares
250g button mushrooms, cleaned, halved or quartered, depending on the size
50g butter
350ml chicken stock
2tbsp chopped parsley
60ml white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the suet pastry
275g self-raising flour, plus some for dusting
140g suet
½tsp salt

To make the pastry mix the flour and suet together in a bowl and add half a teaspoon of salt, then mix into a dough with some cold water (approx 100ml). The dough should be soft but firm enough to roll out into a circle large enough to line the pudding basin. Cut a quarter section out of the circle to make lining the bowl easier, and to set aside for the lid. Butter a pudding basin well and drop the pastry circle into it, drawing together the edges where the quarter was removed so it fits snugly inside. Trim the top edges.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lightly flour them. Melt 20g of the butter in a large frying pan and cook them for a couple of minutes on each side without colouring. You may need to do this in two lots. Remove them from the pan and put to one side. In the same pan melt the rest of the butter and gently cook the onions and bacon until soft, add the mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring well until they soften. Add the flour, stir well, then slowly stir in the white wine and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Mix the sauce with the chicken thighs and parsley. Transfer the mixture into the lined pudding basin. Remould the pastry for the top and roll it out to the correct size. Lay it on top of the filling and press the edges together so that the filling is sealed in and trim the pastry where necessary. Cut a piece of foil big enough to fit over the basin with at least 5cm overlap round the edges, and make a pleat down the middle. Tie it in place round the top edge with string, making a string handle so it can be lifted in and out of the saucepan when topping up with water.

Half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Lower the pudding into it, making sure the water is still boiling and comes about halfway up the side of the basin.

Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 4 hours. If the water gets low lift the basin and top up with more boiling water.