While indeed it was always called Spotted Dog in some parts, Spotted Dick has been downgraded to its considerably more flaccid counterpart everywhere else. We are no longer allowed to mention its real name as it is deemed rude.
Because its real name inspires more than a little spark of merriment that inevitably makes me laugh every time, and then recount to whoever is staring weirdly at my guffaws this story (Strangely, no-one ever finds it *quite* as hilarious as I do. Hmmm):
Years ago, my mother, my sister and I were visiting my aunt. My mother and her sisters are outstanding bakers. The apple-tarts! Cakes! Scones! Breads! *faint*. It is no wonder that 93% of the conversations in our extended family revolve around food (a familial obsession).
This evening, as we were about to leave after an exceptional apple-tart-filled-visit, my aunt pointed to a long, oblong parcel on the worktop and said, ‘I have a Spotted Dick for you’.
Needless to say, we were hysterical (I regularly have bouts of Inappropriate Juvenile Hysterical Reaction Affliction, but this was unprecedented). I mean, we couldn’t breathe and had difficulty standing upright from our rolled up positions on the floor.
I thought I was dying.
We thought our aunt had gone completely mad.
I’m not sure how we got out of the house (all I know was it involved my mother swatting us and whispering, “Stop it! Stop it right now! You should be ashamed of yourselves! Get out! Out to the car! I’m ashamed of you both! Stop laughing!” (I also know, she was only just holding in her own hysterics. She won’t admit it, but I know)).
It is delicious. Similar to soda bread, but a sweeter and fruitier version, a decidedly middle-ground affair between bread and cake. It is also very simple. The traditional way to bake this is rolled into a log-like shape (!) but I’ve made it in a boring old loaf tin and also in a round with a deep cross cut into it, like traditional soda bread.
I have made this with both buttermilk and most recently, kefir (trying to get probiotics in, in all manner of sneaky ways). Both worked perfectly, and, like soda bread, is best eaten on the day it’s made; but we ate ours over the next few days, toasted, and it was just fine. Very fine.
(This loaf, above, was made with Wholemeal Spelt flour)
(or the limper Spotted Dog if there are children or Delicate People in the room)
450g (1 lb/ 3 ½ cups) plain flour (I have often used spelt)
100g (3 ½ oz/ ½ cup) dried fruit (raisins, sultanas or currants) (I often add more, up to 150g of dried fruit)
1 tablespoon of sugar (I use coconut sugar)
1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 egg (optional)
Up to 500 mls (1 pint/ 2 cups) of buttermilk
-(As I mentioned above, I have used kefir. Or! if you want to keep it dairy free, you could add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to every 250 mls (1/4 pint/ 1 cup) of plain non-dairy milk)
-Preheat the oven to 450ºF/230ºC.
-Sift/Mix the dry ingredients (I will be honest here: I rarely sift anything unless it is visibly lumpy apart from bread soda or baking powder. I’m baaaad, I know), including the dried fruit in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
-If you are using an egg, mix it with the buttermilk in a jug, and pour most of this into the dry ingredients.
-With your hand or fork, bring it together, only adding the rest of the buttermilk if it is too dry.
-You are looking to make a soft, but not sticky or wet dough.
-Do not knead!! (It will become heavy).
-Place it on a floured tray (making it in a round shape with a deep cross cut into it like traditional soda bread) or baking tin.
Or lightly shape it into a long oblong log (!).
-Bake in the preheated oven for about five minutes, then turn down the heat to 400ºF /200ºC, baking for another 25-30 minutes. Take it out and if hollow when knocked on the base, it is done, otherwise, put it back in for a little longer.
-Allow to cool. Actually, no, don’t. Enjoy it hot from the oven. With butter and/or jam (I like mine piled high with Blackberry Chia jam (I’ll post the recipe below). Tea is simply not optional, I’m sorry. Preferably made with loose tea leaves in a teapot.
Easy Blackberry Chia Jam.
So achingly easy and fruity delicious!! You CAN cook this, but really, why bother with the extra effort and dirty saucepan? Life is too short etc, etc)
250g Blackberries (or soft fruit)
3 tablespoons of chia seeds
1-2 tablespoons of honey/maple syrup/sugar (you may need more depending on sweetness of fruit and palate)
-Crush the fruit.
-Stir in the chia seeds and sweetener.
-Pour into a clean, sterilized jar.
-Allow stand for five-ten minutes to allow the chia seeds to absorb fruit juices and thicken to a jam-like consistency.
-Spoon onto your hot Spotted Dick and gorge.
(This post and recipes are in memory of my very-much-missed aunt Fidelma (Dell) who was the baker of that very first Spotted Dick. She comes into our lives several times a day in the guise of stories and memories and baking aspirations <3)