Spotted Dog

19 Mar 2013

…or Spotted Dick as my mother-in-law calls it. I can’t seem to refer to this wonderful tea bread as Spotted Dick without turning red and giggling like a teen girl, so I’ll stick with Spotted Dog. When Peggy creates this cake-like bread formed in a rectangular shape, it becomes Railway Cake, which is lovely as well…but doesn’t look as pretty as the round loaf to me. All three variations are essentially a sweet version of white Irish soda bread. In England, Spotted Dick is considered a steamed pudding with currants. In Peggy’s day, it was an absolute treat to be able to add currants or raisins to bread, something really special to savour. At the farm, here and now, we simply devour it before it gets cold. How times have changed. I love it smeared with fresh butter and marmalade (this one…. not mine).

Geoffrey and I went on a hunt for Gorse over the long weekend {St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland so it was a 4-day weekend} We have been using this lovely flower from a dangerously prickly bush to create natural dye for our eggs at Easter for the past two years. It casts a very subtle pale yellow on the eggs, but is still pleasingly pretty to the eye. An added bonus to using this plant to dye eggs is that when you harvest the flowers, your home will become filled with the fragrance of a sandy summer beach as they give off a scent reminiscent of vintage Coppertone sun cream, aka: JOY.

Gathering Gorse followed by Spotted Dog + milky tea = a recipe for smiles.

Peggy’s Spotted Dog

Makes 1 Loaf


450g (1lb) plain flour

1 level tsp caster sugar

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

100g (3½oz) sultanas, raisins or currants

350-425ml (12-15fl oz) fresh buttermilk 


Preheat the oven to 230°C (425°F)

Sift the dry ingredients (incl. currants etc) into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml/2fl oz in the measuring jug).

Using one hand, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary.

Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy.

The dough should be soft, but not too wet and sticky.

Turn onto a floured work surface.

Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (1½in) deep and cut a deep cross in it. 

Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C (400°F) and cook for 30 minutes more.

When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour.

Allow to cool on a wire rack, but not too long…it’s just perfect eaten warm with butter + marmalade or jam and a cup of milky tea.


Slan Abhaile,

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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16 Responses to “Spotted Dog”

  1. Eadaoin says:

    The thought of this beautiful bread, warm and spread with melting butter, accompanied by a cup of tea, is just heavenly! Another gorgeous post Imen, I do love visiting your blog, it’s such a soothing (and not to mention drool worthy) space 🙂

  2. Krista says:

    Saying Spotted Dick always makes me laugh too. 🙂 CANNOT say it with a straight face. Must come from growing up with all boys. 🙂 I love that you make dye from flowers. I’ve been researching medieval knitting and wool and once I learn how to use my spinning wheel, I want to start dyeing wool. I’m rather excited. 🙂

  3. Clotilde says:

    This looks scrumptious. Your photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Amelia says:

    That bread looks like a perfect breakfast, and those flowers are so pretty. You live in such a beautiful place! I can’t wait to try the recipe. I’m trying to make healthier choices in my cooking after reading a book called Health on Your Plate – I think I’ll try this with whole-grain flour and maybe serve it with some Greek yogurt. I hope mine turns out as good as yours looks!

  5. Nessa Robins says:

    Beautiful post Imen. The children and I are going to pick some gorse, later this week, after reading your post last year, I had it in mind. Each year we too decorate some eggs for Easter, but I’ve never used gorse as a dye before. We’re looking forward to trying it out.

  6. Alicia says:

    Mmmmmmmmm this is what I’m making next! Thank you 🙂

  7. Kate says:

    Great post Imen, love the photos, like to eat mine nice a warm and covered in butter and strawberry jam. Mmmmm the thought just makes me drool, think i might have to try your recipe out today!

  8. […] Have you ever made soda bread?  I want to try this. […]

  9. TheGlutton says:

    Beautiful picture Imen. I didn’t realise this was called Spotted Dick or Dog here – I grew up with the English version of steamed suet pudding always served with custard. Must say yours looks absolutely delicious and nothing beats warm soda with proper butter.

  10. Rachel says:

    I just took this out of the oven. My ‘it’s snowing and I refuse to drag 2 littles the grocery’ substitutions include chocolate chips instead of raisins and powdered buttermilk reconstituted with water.

    It smells kind of heavenly.

  11. Great post, Imen. I’ve seen quite a few recipes for soda bread and its derivatives over St. Patrick’s weekend and this is definitely my favourite. Love that you’ve remained true to the traditional ingredients. Love the photos, too – we don’t appreciate our beautiful gorse in Ireland. A friend of mine makes wine from it – must try that some day! All the best, June.

  12. Angela says:

    It’s something unusual in your blog. Your photos are always full of serenity and nostalgia. Beautiful.

  13. Sheila says:

    Lovely! So happy to have stumbled upon your site. Looking forward to more beautiful posts!

  14. Kristin says:

    The gorse always reminds me of the Hawaiian Tropic oil I used to slather on when I was a teenager (probably uselessly, I’m sure it had an SPF of 2 or something). I agree with you – there are few better combinations then warm soda bread slathered with butter and served with a cup of tea.

  15. Tina says:

    Imen, this bread looks delicious! Over the weekend I had some Irish soda bread at a friends, it reminded me just how much I love soda breads. I am so excited to try out the spotted dog!

  16. As always, your posts inspire me, Imen. Lovely food, lovely writing, and lovely photos! The only problem is, everytime I read one, I have a longing to travel back to Ireland! 😉 CC

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