When I first came to the North East as a student I was introduced to the stottie cake. Hungry and between lectures I was searching for a sandwich. The shop sold a wide range of stotties, from ham and pease pudding to chicken salad. Unsure what a stottie cake was but having no other choice I tried one. I found the stottie cake is a disc of bread, rather like a large bap. Stotties have a distinctive taste, crusty and soft with a chewy texture.
Like many of the dishes from the North East, stotties were born from poverty. Food had to serve shipyard workers and miners and was often filling and made to prevent waste. Leek pudding, pan haggerty and singing hinnies are some examples of this. Stotties were made from left over dough at the end of a days baking. The dough was shaped into a round disc and then cooked on the sole or coolest part of the coal fired oven. Cooking at a low temperature means the yeast has longer to work and gives the bread its chewiness. In the twenties it was common to see stotties lining windowsills in order to cool. In those days it was common place to bake bread at home.
The name stottie comes from the Geordie word “stott” which means bounce. Legend has it that cooks would check the texture of the stottie was correct by stotting or bouncing it off the kitchen floor. If it bounced the texture was correct. I must admit I did not check my stotties to see if they bounced, I suspect the family would not have wanted to eat them if I had.
The stottie is perfect served warm with butter and jam or cold in a sandwich. The stottie is normally cut into four wedges to make sandwiches. Traditionally the stottie is served with ham and pease pudding, the pease pudding made from spilt peas cooked alongside the gammon.
Home made pease pudding is more tasty but shop bought will work just as well, bringing out the taste of the ham and the stottie cake. Real butter is a must to create a taste sensation. Other fillings will work just as well, cheese is ideal and often you will find stotties filled with cheese savoury. This is a mix of grated cheese, grated carrots, onion and mayonnaise which makes a simple and delicious filling.
Bread is not something I am good at making, but the stottie cake is actually quite easy to make. Unlike most breads there is only one rise needed, which limits the amount of kneading involved. It is definitely worth the effort, there is something homely about eating home made stotties