Ria’s Teashop Secrets: Baking for Burns Night

Scottish sore heads on sale at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom
Scottish sore heads on sale at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom

Ria Chambers from Ria’s Rosy Lee Tearoom in Wellingborough writes for the Telegraph.

Happy new year! Or should I say happy hogmanay as it is Scottish month here at the tearoom.

Black bun on sale at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom

Black bun on sale at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom

As Burns Night will be celebrated on January 25 I thought I’d honour my Gaelic ancestors by turning this month over to them.

It also gives me a chance to bake more of my Gran’s recipes for the tearoom so you will be seeing traditional Scottish fare such as black bun, ecclefechan tarts, shortbread, sore heads and Scottish tablet.

I am also determined to master clootie dumpling which so far I have been unable to perfect.

Clootie dumpling can best be described as a suet-based fruit cake, more firm than a traditional fruit pudding but more moist than a fruit cake.

The word cloot refers to the cloth the dumpling is wrapped in before boiling.

In Scotland clootie dumpling is made for special occasions such as New Year, Burns Night and birthdays.

Due to its size it is not always completely consumed on the day. Although it is suet based and initially served hot, it is just as good the next day cold.

In fact my great-grandfather Macrae would cut slices off it like a malt loaf to eat during his breaks while working down the mines.

Such reverence is put on a clootie dumpling I’ve been scared to make one.

Unfortunately I’ve waited too long to attempt one, which means I have missed the opportunity to be shown by my Gran before she passed on.

Instead I have her recipes which are akin to a Great British Bake Off technical challenge where key steps are missing.

A list of 10 ingredients with the word ‘Boil’ underneath does not a recipe make!

So instead of a nice round pudding shape my first clootie looked more like a cow pat – although my dad and his brothers, my chief testers, tell me it tastes the same as Gran’s so I’m halfway there.

Fortunately clootie dumpling was featured on the last series of Great British Bake Off, which helped fill the gaps, and thanks to some of my kind Scottish customers I have discovered the Highland version – which is where it originated – is more successful than the recipes which made their way into lower Scotland.

I have since unearthed another version of the recipe from my Gran, tucked away in the sleeve of one of her books, which may be a Highland recipe.

So armed with this information and a new muslin cloth I shall try again.

Whatever the result it will be in the tearoom on January 25 to celebrate Robert Burns.

If you would like to try a slice, maybe accompanied with a cup of Scottish breakfast tea which has been blended for me by Irvins tea merchants, we’ll raise a cup for Auld Lang Syne!