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, however, 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. You can still have them with jam and cream or, as I prefer, butter and jam, but you’d roll them up to eat them.
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.
What you need…
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…
What you do with it…
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…