Spotted Dog

19 Mar 2013

marmaladenarrow

…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).

spotteddogcloseup

Teacups

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.

gorsenarrow

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

Peggy’s Spotted Dog

Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredients

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 

 Method

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.

overhead

Slan Abhaile,
Imen

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

 

 

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Perhaps the most traditional of Irish baked goods would be soda bread. Despite this obvious fact, I had never ventured down the magnificent road of soda bread-making until now. After a few {gentle} requests, I decided to get my feet wet this week with a beautiful and simple Avoca recipe…a traditional, bare-bones plain soda bread, which turned out wonderfully, and begged me to make more.

Because this bread can literally be made in minutes, I decided I would experiment by adding in a savoury ingredient or two as well as trying my mother-in-law’s favourite “spotted dog” variety. For the blog, I settled on this combination of wild garlic and flax seed, whose flavours (and health benefits) speak nicely together and are just strong enough to contend with the heavy texture of the soda bread itself.

First, we needed to go down to the wood to forage for wild garlic, which grows madly in our few acres of mossy damp soil that lies untouched on the River Shannon. This wild herb has long lush leaves similar to the Lily of the Valley, but has a distinctive garlic or chive scent. After cultivating a few handfuls of fresh stems, we made a quick trip to the local natural food store to replenish our store of flax seed in our pantry.

I’m a colossal fan of flax. It is considered a superfood and has tremendous benefits because it is loaded with omega-3’s and antioxidants. Some even say it is one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. All I know is that it tastes kinda nutty (love a nutty) and if it can make us healthier, why not add it to an already well-appointed soda bread?

As we ambled through the woodland acreage, we spotted the wild garlic making its home next to tree roots, ferns and ivy…

We gathered the bright green leaves and brought them home for a wash and a fine chop

Then it was time to mix up all the ingredients, pat it into a round and cut a deep cross on it

(to keep the fairies out!)

 

I find it is best fresh out of the oven slathered with our farmhouse honey butter, but any butter will do…in fact, it really doesn’t need anything….just break a piece off and enjoy.

Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Sonia Mulford Chaverri.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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