Mr T is Scottish- well, he was born in a place called Falkirk; it’s near Stirling – but he can’t even fake an “auch aye” these days. Nor does he like whisky. I know…it’s tough to imagine such a thing. Thankfully I’m happy to contribute to the profits of Scotland’s distilleries on his behalf.
There are some things from his heritage that remain constant – one of these is potato or tattie scones. (In Ireland, they’re known as “fadge” or “farls”.)
To refer to these as “scones” is, however, a misnomer. They don’t look anything like what you’d have at tea with jam and cream. For a start, they’re flat. They’re a little like a pikelet or a blini but rather than the batter being dropped into the pan, the dough is rolled flat – like a flatbread – and cut into “bannocks” (round plate-sized circle) and then “farls” (triangle-like segments). The farls are then cooked on a griddle – or “girdle” – or a pan.
Traditionally these would have been made with leftover potato. In her book Recipes from Scotland (1947), F. Marian McNeill explains: “In cottage homes, these scones are usually made just after the midday meal when the left-over potatoes are still warm.”
It’s actually important that the potato is still warm but not too hot – hot potatoes can absorb too much flour. Warm potatoes give you a light and floppy scone. Yesterday’s cold leftover potato results in an entirely different texture to the end result – something more like the ones that you buy in the supermarkets in England and Scotland. Still good, but different.
The type of potato you use is important too – the more floury the better. A waxy potato can result in a gluey, sticky dough.
If you’re cooking your potatoes from scratch, after they’re cooked and drained, let them sit in the pan for a little while to steam so they’re as dry as it’s possible for them to be before you start working with them.
So, how do you eat them?
I can only imagine how much a treat these must have been on a cold Scottish afternoon – spread with butter and jam and eaten with a cup of strong tea by a fireplace…preferably a fireplace that had a dog lying in front of it. We eat them like that – minus the cold Scottish afternoon and the fireplace, of course.
In Scotland they’re commonly served as an essential part of a proper cooked brekky – they fold beautifully to mop up runny egg and bacon fat. Yes, that came out loud. Unfortunately, they tend not to last long enough for cooked breakfasts in our house – despite our best intentions.
They’re a Christmas tradition for us and making them is hubby’s Christmas Eve ritual. We have them with smoked salmon, sour cream and a little dill or red onion for breakfast while we’re unwrapping presents – accompanied by champagne, of course.Oh, and for those of you who’ve read Wish You Were Here, I lent Max the recipe – she prepares some of these in Chapter 2.
With apologies to gluten-free readers, here’s how it’s done.
Just 3 things:
About 250g of well-mashed potato – hubby puts them through a potato ricer, but this isn’t essential.
1 tablespoon butter, about 25g I suppose
about ½ cup of plain flour
…oh, and some salt and pepper…
While the spuds are slightly cooled (really hot potatoes will absorb too much flour and give you a doughy result), stir in the butter, and the seasoning.
Work in as much flour as the potato will take to become a pliable dough. I do this with my hands, but hubby doesn’t like getting his dirty… It’s best to start with half the flour and then add a little more until you get the right consistency. Too little flour and they won’t roll, and too much and you’ll get a raw, floury taste rather than a light potatoey taste.
Divide the dough into smaller balls and roll each out thinly. If you want to, use a plate to cut into a round bannock. As you can see from the pic below, we tend to take a more free-form approach. Cut into farls and prick the surface with a fork.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan, brush the surface with a little oil – although traditionally you wouldn’t have needed any fat on the girdle. Is it just me or does that sound very wrong? They should take about 3-4 minutes on each side – or until golden.
Once cooked, cool in a clean tea-towel…
or eat immediately with lots of butter…