Food History, Retro Recipes, Vintage Recipes

The Recipe Book of Atora: The Good Beef Suet (1932)

1932 Atora Recipe Book

It is now 38 years since “Atora” was introduced, and housewives in increasing numbers, year after year, over all the world as well as in this country, use it because they find it good and pure. Before the days of “Atora” our mothers bought raw suet. They had the trouble of chopping it with flour and picking out the skin and waste tissue. Even so, some of the indigestible skin, tissue, and all the impurities went into the pudding. The remainder of the suet was placed in flour till next time came; but when the next time came it had become sour, tallowy and rancid, and quite unfit for use. “Atora” has changed all that.

“Atora” is the finest beef suet that money can buy. All skin, waste tissue, moisture, and the impurities always present in raw suet, are removed, in our process. The clarified “Atora” is then cleanly shredded and a little of the best rice flour obtainable is blown by fans on to the shreds as they are formed. The rice flour keeps the shreds apart, but it also has the effect of protecting the suet from the air and keeping it fresh and sweet. A packet of “Atora” can be put on the shelf till needed again, when it will be found as fresh as ever.

Every mother and housewife should use “Atora” – it is an invaluable aid to convenience in the kitchen. The regular use of good beef suet, moreover, ensures the sturdy growth of children and is also helpful for adults. There is no food more satisfying and nourishing for children than a good suet pudding with treacle or golden syrup.

(The Recipe Book of Atora: The Good Beef Suet, 1932 edition, pp.2-3)

I am delighted to share with you one of my latest vintage finds, a 1932 recipe book for popular brand ‘Atora’ beef suet. The history of Atora is fascinating. At the end of the nineteenth century Gabriel Hugon, a French engraver living in Manchester, noticed that his wife was having difficulty cutting-up blocks of suet in the kitchen. He came up with the idea that if suet was shredded it would be easier for the cook to work with and that is what he set about trying to achieve on an industrial level. He sold his engraving business and in 1893  set-up his manufactory for ready shredded suet at Ogden Lane, Openshaw, Manchester, Hugon & Co Ltd. The Openshaw factory was the largest of its type in the world.

The Openshaw Factory.
Hugon & Co Ltd’s factory at Ogden Lane, Openshaw, Manchester. At the time it was the largest factory of his type in the world.

The brand name ‘Atora’ is thought to have derived from the Spanish word for bull, ‘toro’. Hugon maximised the marketing opportunities that linking his brand to a hyper masculine bovine could bring. Until the start of World War II Atora was distributed throughout the country in painted wagons pulled by pairs of Hereford bulls.  The wagons were eventually sold to Chipperfield Circus and thereinafter formed part of their parade.

Atora is a very hardy product which has a long shelf-life. Because of these qualities it became part of the food rations taken by Scott on his first expedition to the Antarctic (1901-1904). Upon his return unused packets of Atora were sent back to Hugon & Co Ltd and astonishingly most of their contents were still intact. Future Polar Expeditions continued to use Atora and I found the following endorsement by British Polar Expedition leader Mr J. M. Stagg on an advertisement for the brand from the late 1930’s:

At the Main Base, there was no boiled pudding without ‘Atora’ suet, and it was added for increased nourishment value to milk puddings as well.

During the twentieth century, the British Armed Forces were also important customers and Hugon & Co Ltd supplied the Navy and Army with Atora from 1912.

The brand is still going strong today. Production ceased at the Openshaw factory in 1974 and subsequently moved to Greatham, Hartlepool. In 1963, the brand was purchased by Rank Hovis McDougall who then became part of Premier Foods in March 2007. In 2008, 2,300 tons of suet were sold in Britain and Atora can be found in the cooking fats section of most supermarkets isles . The brand has expanded over the years and now includes a vegetable suet, a herby dumpling mix and a suet pudding mix.

Here are my favourite recipes from Atora’s 1932 recipe booklet:

Atora Pudding

Ingredients: 1/4 lb flour, 2oz sugar, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoonful of baking powder, 2 tablespoonfuls milk, 3 tablespoonfuls of jam or marmalade, or golden syrup. 2oz shredded Atora. Method: Mix dry ingredients together with milk, put jam at bottom of greased basin, put in the mixture (which must be stiff) and steam for 1 1/2 hours. The plain mixture if served with chocolate sauce makes a nice variation. Sufficient for 4 persons.

Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients: 6 oz flour, 2 oz sugar, 1 oz cocoa, pinch of salt, large teaspoonful of baking powder, 3 oz shredded Atora, 1/2 pint milk. Method: Mix cocoa, salt, sugar and baking powder well with the flour, add Suet, then stir in milk gradually. Pour into greased basin, cover with greased paper, and steam for 2  1/2 hours. Serve with custard sauce.

Bachelor’s Pudding

Ingredients: 3 oz flour, 3 oz breadcrumbs, 3 oz shredded Atora, 3 oz sugar, 4 oz stoned raisins, 1 1/2 teaspoonfuls baking powder, pinch of salt, 1 egg, 1/4 pint milk. Method: Mix dry ingredients together, add egg, well beaten, and milk. Beat up mixture well, bake in greased pie-dish in a moderate oven or about 1 hour. Turn out of dish before serving.

Dorset Pudding

Ingredients: 4 oz breadcrumbs, 3 oz shredded Atora, 2 oz currants, 2 oz sugar, 4 oz apples peeled and finely chopped. Grated rind and juice of sweet orange, 1 egg, 1/4 pint milk, pinch of salt. Method: Mix dry ingredients together, moisten with egg beaten up with orange juice and milk. Pour into greased pie-dish and bake in a slow oven for about 1 hour.

Beef Steak Pudding (Rich)

Ingredients: 6 oz shredded Atora, 12 oz flour, pinch of salt, water, mix suet, flour, and salt together and make into a rather stiff dough with water. Filling-in for pudding: 1lb steak (rump preferred), cut in thin pieces, 4 sheep’s kidneys or 6 oz ox kidney (cut up thinly), 2 or 3 oz mushrooms, 12 sauce oysters (bearded), little chopped onion and parsley. Pepper and salt, water. Method: Line out a greased basin with the suet paste, put in the above ingredients in layers, sprinkle onion, parsley, pepper and salt, between each layer, moisten with water, and cover with suet paste, tie a cloth over and steam for 4 or 5 hours. When cooked remove cloth and serve pudding in the basin. Add the liquor of the oysters to some stock and serve for gravy.

Advertisement for Atora from 1915.
Advertisement for Atora from 1915.