“Sod the purists!” is fast becoming our mantra here at Munching Matilda and, frankly, why not? There’s always room to have fun with a few classics and, dare we say it, even improve them with a few twists and flourishes. This week, the purists we may well be offending are those from the north-east for whom stotties will always be a plain disc of bread-like substance.
Still, I am pushing on regardless with my variation on stotties in which I use potato to help the dough along – and add carrot, cheese and rosemary for extra flavour. In short, I had some carrots I needed to get rid of before they became flaccid and depressing. It’s all part of our war on food waste here at Munching Matilda – there is almost always something you can do with the stuff you find in the fridge that will beat throwing it away. I’ve started taking this to the next level by saving my vegetable scraps for vegetable stock, which is going really well. I got seven freezer bags of stock from my last stock cooking jamboree, I currently have three bags left and I should run out just in time to make another giant batch.
But I digress. I’m here to show you how to make stotties with a twist. I first tried stotties at the famous Centurion bar at Newcastle Central station. It is a magnificent bar of tiled magnificence and if you’re ever in the Toon, I urge you to visit, even if it’s just for a pre-train coffee. I was served with a very satisfying stottie indeed – warm, crusty on the outside and soft in the middle. I’d been meaning to teach myself to make them for years. My husband regaled me with tales of his grandmother’s stotties, so the pressure was on to meet the stottie standard of the late, great Betty McMillan. I’m not sure what she would have made of my carrot, cheese and rosemary additions, but I still hope I did her proud.
A tip via Betty that my husband passed on to me was to watch the cooking time very closely. And he was right – stotties can very quickly go from a squishy ball of dough in the oven to a cremation. It is the bread equivalent of cooking with sugar on a hot stove. One distraction and it could end in tragedy. As my Terrible Oven generally cooks unevenly and runs too hot, I found 15 minutes was enough time in the oven, but most recipes recommend 20 minutes. All I can advise is to not stray too far from the oven during the cooking time and hopefully you too can enjoy stottie success. I served these with a creamy celery and pea soup, which made for a hearty Saturday dinner – even my usually soup-averse husband agreed.
500g breadmaking flour
1 teaspoon salt
25g rosemary (I finely chopped fresh rosemary from the garden, but dried rosemary works just as well)
75g grated cheese (I used a mild cheddar, but any hard cheese will work)
150g mashed potato
150g mashed carrot
7g sachet of dried active fast action yeast
300ml warm water
Oil for the proofing bowl and the baking tray (I used olive oil but any cooking oil, such as sunflower oil, peanut oil or groundnut oil, will work)
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, rosemary and grated cheese and make a well in the middle.
- Combine the potato, carrot and yeast with the water and using a whisk and add to the well in the middle of the flour.
- Mix well using your hand, a dough scraper, a table knife or the dough hook on a mixer, until you have a soft, sticky dough.
- Knead the dough into a smooth, round ball. Clean the bowl (the dough gets everywhere!), brush the bowl with the oil (I use a pastry brush but it can be done with a paper towel), return the dough ball to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm spot for an hour to rise.
- Divide the risen dough into four portions – I used a table knife for this – and shape into discs about half an inch high and about 15cm across, give or take. Don’t get too obsessive about the measurements. I find putting flour all over my hands helps the process and minimises the dough that needs to be washed off hands at the end.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper, oil and flour the surface. Put the four stotties on the tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 45-60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (or consider dropping this to 180 degrees Celsius if your oven runs hot).
- Sift flour over the risen stotties and bake for around 20 minutes – you may need more or less time depending on your oven. Now is not the time to put the telly on and lose yourself in an episode of A Place In The Sun (or is that just me?). Keep a damn eye on them!
- When they’re nice and crusty on the outside, remove from oven and allow to cool. If you serve them straight out of the oven, they will likely be a little doughy in the middle – although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.