Today we are revisiting Scotland’s culinary heritage again. This is a recipe sent to me by my friend Sarah (who previously very kindly shared a family recipe for Belgian Loaf). It has come via her family located north of Inverness, so on at least one measure, it is probably about the most Scottish thing I’ve made for quite some time. So…presenting the “Smiddy Dumpling”.
The name Smiddy Dumpling is a bit of a misnomer though – it’s actually a simple fruit loaf. It’s similar to the famous Clootie Dumpling, which got its name from the fact that it was cooked (boiled) in a cloth – called a “cloot” in Scotland. Smiddy Dumpling is more like a traditional teacake, baked in the oven and served by the slice. It’s crammed with fruit (sultanas, raisins and whatever else you like) and has grated carrot in it to add moisture and some additional sweetness. It’s great with a cup of tea (what else would you drink in Scotland?) spread with a little butter and maybe honey or jam. It is equally good as a comforting pudding with a good glug of custard and/or a scoop of ice cream.
However, maybe we Scottish people approach these sort of recipes with the fond, fuzzy memories of childhood when eating it. We tried it on a German – he just point blank refused to eat what he called “another of those funny little Scottish recipes“.
The method is simplicity itself. It’s the same idea as Belgian Loaf – everything apart from the eggs and flour is put into a saucepan and brought to the boil. This ensures that the sugar and liquid are well-mixed and that the dried fruit has a chance to soften before baking. Once it has been left to cool, you mix in the flour and eggs and pop the cake into the oven. Cook slowly and wait for the final result. One things that I would caution – I am not sure that this will work so well if you try to make it using a muffin tray. It needs a long time in a slow oven for the raising agent (baking soda) to work its magic. Putting the batter into small muffin pans means less cooking time, which might leave a bit of a funny taste from the soda. If you are nevertheless a believer that small is beautiful, I would swap the baking soda for baking powder, and add it with the flour rather than when you boil the mixture. Just a thought.
The resulting cake is similar to Christmas cake. Well, actually, it is better than Christmas cake, as I actually cannot stand the traditional British festive cake. The Smiddy Dumpling has very moist fruit (given that it’s been boiled up with water and sugar) and the “cake bit” holding it all together is very light and soft. You can play around with any spices – keep it plain, add things like cinnamon, ground cloves or allspice, or be creative (for example, you could add festive German Lebkuchengewürz mixed spice like I did).
As a fruity teatime treat, this is easy and pretty hard to beat. Sarah’s sister made this for work and had several colleagues after the recipe – now, that sounds like a pretty good endorsement of this recipe to me!
And finally – you’ll see that the recipe is in cups and ounces – this is how it came to me, and that is how it is staying. If you need to convert, go by volume, not weight, at a rate of 1 cup = 240ml.
To make Smiddy Dumpling (makes a 2lb loaf):
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 1/2 cups fruit (sultanas, raisins…)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate)
• 4oz (100g) butter
• 1 cup grated carrot
• 1 teaspoon mixed spice
Put all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for two minutes. Allow to cool.
In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
• 1 cup plain flour
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 2 eggs well beaten
Add the flour and eggs to the cooled mixture and stir well. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours. The loaf should roughly double in size.
Worth making? If you like dried fruit, this really is an excellent fruit loaf, and probably one of the best that I have had in a while. It’s neither too sweet nor too heavy, but has enough good stuff in there so that you don’t feel you are being cheated in any way. Definitely a winner from my perspective!