Stottie cake - the taste of home

IT'S at its best still slightly warm from the oven, anointed with nothing more refined than good salty butter.

Of course, a rasher or two of crispy bacon, or a hot, fat, sizzling sausage, will also complement it beautifully.

But hardest to beat is thickly cut ham under a soft pillow of pease pudding.

Fill your stottie cake how you will. Few things on a plate – hell, who even needs a plate? – comes closer to defining 'home' for we North Easterners.

Thousands of stottie cakes are sold here on Tyneside every day.

But the holy grail for many devotees is the homemade one.

Among them is reader Gordon Wilson, an ex-Shields lad now in Essex, who says: "I have been living here now for some 40 years. I would love to have a recipe for stottie cake – the real thing, not the type that is mass-produced these days."

And, by the way, Gordon grew up probably knowing what 'real' stottie cake was.

His grandparents had a shop, Warden's, in Waterloo Vale in Shields.

Older folk in the town may still remember this bakery business, which had been a popular feature of The Vale since just after the end of the First World War.

So popular was it that when the old South Shields Corporation sought to demolish the premises under a clearance scheme in the late 1940s, a petition was raised to save it.

It survived for a few more years, eventually closing, I believe, in the early 1950s.

So what of homemade stottie?

Well, I anticipate a debate here, but I would say that there isn't really a 'recipe' specifically for stottie because, it has always been my understanding, the 'recipe' is simply that for ordinary household bread.

Stottie's secret lay in how it was originally baked, which you can easily reproduce yourself at home (I've done it and it works).

You see, no one really knows how stottie got its name but the most likely explanation is that it was bread that was got ready quickly, for a hungry family, while the main batch of bread underwent its second proving. It's this which gives stottie its distinctive texture.

It would be quickly rolled out and thrown, or 'stotted', on to the bottom of a hot coal-fired oven.