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Stories and Stovies
Hamely Fair - Tea Time Treats

Our little Tina, aged 5 then, when we went to Scotland in 1974
Our little Tina, aged 5 then, when we went to Scotland in 1974

Tea time is a special time, as I told you earlier in this book. Now, I’m not talking high tea here, but the simple repast of "Tea." Not the "Come in and get your tea," which from times immemorial I’m sure Dundee mothers yelled from their pletties to their children playing in the backies below. But, what follows is the "Do come in and have some tea." We’re talking the best dishes, the tablecloth, maybe even the lace tablecloth with the paisley pattern or the embroidered thistles that covers the plates and cups – and saucers, too, this time – and the wonderland of cakes and biscuits hidden from view beneath. I’m referring to birthday parties, or as in our case one friend able to come over "for tea", and company coming over, and the holy of holies, Hogmanay. The best "cheenie" tea set and the best behaviors to match. Dressing up and going out and entertaining in are all part of "Tea."

Black Bun

This is the traditional Hogmanay cake - it's baked and served in a kind of a pie shell.


3 cups flour
1/2 teasp salt
1/2 teasp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 egg

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse meal. Beat egg and add to mixture. If necessary, add a few drops cold water to make dough. Role out on floured board.

Line large greased loaf pans with pastry. Save enough dough to make "lids."


4 cups flour
2 cups currants
2 cups raisins
1 cup blanched chopped almonds
1 cup mixed chopped peel
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp soda
1 cup milk
2 tbsp brandy or sherry

Sift flour into large bowl. Mix in other ingredients except brandy and milk. Blend brandy and milk. Turn mixture into pastry-lined pans. Flatten surface. Put on a "lid" of pastry. Crimp edges together. Poke 4 holes with a skewer to the bottom of the pan. Prick the surface all over with a fork. Brush the crust with a beaten egg.

Bake at 350 degrees for three hours if one large cake. Baking will take less time for smaller ones. Test with skewer for doneness. Keep at least 10 days, but up to 10 weeks if possible before serving.

Polly, put the kettle on!

Polly, put the kettle on!
Polly, put the kettle on!
Polly, put the kettle on,
We’ll all have tea.

Sukie, take it off again!
Sukie, take it off again!
Sukie, take it off again,
They’ve all gone away!


In the past, shortbread was eaten particularly at Hogmanay or Christmas. It is directly descended from the old Yule bannock, notched around the edges to signify the rays of the sun - which I don't remember seeing too much of in Scotland. (In fact, we called our frequent rain "liquid sunshine.")

1 cup plain flour - to give it guts
1/2 cup rice flour - to keep it light
1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar

(The rice flour is the secret ingredient!)

Sieve the flours together.

Add the sugar and butter and mix together until the mixture resembles the consistency of plain pastry.

Form into a round cake and cut into triangles, or petticoat tails. Pinch the edges and prick all over with a fork.

Bake in a steady oven of 325 degrees until beginning to brown, then lower the heat and bake for a further 45-60 minutes.

Cool on a cooling rack.

And don't even think about ever adding chocolate chips to good Scottish shortbread!

I brought a nice round wooden shortbread mold with me from Scotland, but lent it to a PBS Channel 8 organizer for a special they were producing for Burns' Nicht. I never got it back and I miss that mold because it is a nice piece of Scotland to bake your shortbread on a wooden mold instead of on a cookie sheet.

Treacle Scones

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup hot water

Grease the bottom of a 8" square pan. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine sugar and butter until well blended. Mix molasses with water and oatmeal. Mix eggs and extra egg yolks with sugar and butter. Add molasses mixture and dry ingredients, alternating. Bake 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Serve warm topped with whipped cream.

Oven Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1:1/2 tsp baking powder
5 tsp butter
3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup currants optional

Sift flour, sugar, and baking powder together. Cut in the shortening. Mix soda and buttermilk, and add to first mixture, mixing with a fork. Roll in three rounds and cut each round into four wedges, (see my Grannie's recipe for another way to do this).

Bake on greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned. And don't forget, they're pronounced "scone" as in "gone" not "scone" as in "bone." Only the E------ call them "scone."

Another little tea time treat – Johnny in Dundee, aged 6, in 1974
Another little tea time treat – Johnny in Dundee, aged 6, in 1974

A Taste of Scotland's Girdle Scones
or Griddle if you're American

This is one of the first things we learned to cook in our "Domestic Science" class in Senior Secondary - this means home ec at High School in America.

4 cups self raising flour
2 tablespoon Lyle's Golden Syrup(
available at better supermarkets or British import shops in a beautiful green tin)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup approx milk or buttermilk
3 heaped tablespoon sugar
2 eggs

Mix flour, sugar, salt, and warmed syrup then add the milk and beaten eggs until the mix forms a thick dropping consistency like thick cream.

Heat the very lightly greased griddle and drop by tablespoons in rounds, making sure they do not overlap and are even. Turn over when little bubbles appear on top and bottom is golden brown. Cook both sides.

Serve warm or cold with butter, heather honey, or jam. Makes about 24 scones.

This little verse is for Nan, or Adriana, my 14 year old now here in Phoenix, since "Nan" is a Scottish dimunitive for so many different girls’ names:

"Let’s off to bed,"
Says Sleepyhead.
"Tarry a while,"
Says Mo.
"Put on the pan,"
Says little Nan,
"We’ll sup before we go."

Charlotte's Granny's Scones

Granny sent this recipe along with the clootie dumpling. Her scones were delicious, too. I remember these as a wonderful Sunday treat.

When I was about 10 or 11, I couldn't stand not having a dog any longer. So I asked a lady I met quite a ways up Hill Street if I could take her Border Collie, Laddie, for walks on Sundays. She was an old lady, I think as old as my Granny which would have made her about 67 (which now that I'm 51 doesn't seem old at all) and she was more than glad to have me take Laddie out. So, for at least 2 or 3 years I would go get Laddie on Sundays and take him to the country for walks.

My mother would come with me. Oh, gosh, I think I wore that dog out sometimes. I know he knew when he saw me what was coming. The best walks we had were down to the Sidlaws or over to the Blackness. We would be gone for hours.

We didn't have television until I was 16 and we were moved to Downfield so our old house at 7 Hill Street could be torn down for redevelopment. I remember taking Laddie back to his owners and thinking what a treat it was to watch their TV. "I Love Lucy" seems to have been on a lot when I took Laddie back.

Then I'd walk down the street to my own house, and often Granny would have made scones and they would be fresh from the oven. With the appetite I had from those walks, there was nothing better than Granny's hot scones, with real fresh unsalted creamery butter, and Robertson's raspberry jam!

Here are the scones, just as my granny wrote it down for me:

1 lb self raising flour
1 good sized cup of sugar
3 oz butter or margarine
1 egg Milk

Put flour in bowl. Add sugar. Mix with fingers lightly then cut up butter in small pieces. Drop in flour and mix lightly into flour and sugar. Break egg in cup but add milk into egg. Pour lightly into bowl until stiff mixture, not wet. Put some flour on your tins, not much, just sprinkle so as not to burn. Put some flour on your board, not much. After you have made up your mixture with milk, cut in small pieces. Put on trays in hot oven for 15-20 minutes. You reduce heat in your oven after about 10 minutes. It's very easy. I've just tried to explain it out for you.

I've done some really dumb things in my life. And one of them is writing over my Granny's hand written recipes and converting it into American sizes, correcting her spelling and grammar, etc. I certainly wish I had never done that. But at least I did keep her notes to me and I have some example of her copperplate writing.

This reminds me of other notes my Granny wrote that I didn't keep for a memory. My Granny loved the horses. No, not to pet or to ride, but to bet on. Betting was illegal when I was growing up in Scotland. And so, somebody had to run down to the bookie and hand them the money and the "lines" (this was the names of the horses, the races they were in, and how much she was betting and how she was betting they would be placed) and be able to do it without the bookie, the better, or the person making the delivery getting nabbed by the local bobby. I got this job fairly often.

Johnny Batchie (his name was Bachelor) was our bookie. I remember my Granny giving me her lines, usually wrapped tightly around a half crown or two (these were about the size of a silver dollar), and running down the street to find Johnny and give him the bet.

My mother tells me that on occassion, for the sake of looking good on paper, our local bobbies would apologetically go looking for Johnny to take him in. My mother tells me that often Johnny would run up our back stairs and hide out in our house. Mother says she and my Granny knew that I had seen Johnny come in and they were always afraid that I would tell the bobbies that Johnny had come to visit!

Speaking of bobbies, my Granny had a great story about a poacher. Seems somebody in our family - my Granny, or her Granny, or Auntie Chat - knew this poacher who was well known to everybody as a poacher, but he was so skilfull that the bobbies could never nab him. Well, one day, he was coming home from "work" with a bulging, wriggling sack on his back. The bobby saw him and asked to see what was in his bag. So the poacher put the bag down, opened it up, and out and away hopped this great beautiful hare. The poacher basically said at that point, "There's nothing in my bag," and there he was off the hook. My Granny thought that was a great story.

Which reminds me of a recipe I will not put in this book -- I made Hassenpfeffer once for John, in Germany, because he liked it, he asked me to, and his family history is German on both sides. Yes, indeed, it tasted "just like chicken" but I felt like I was eating Thumper -- never made it again, and never will, not even for my best lad since John died, Angus – my Skye terrier!

My granny and my son, John, Jr

My granny and my son, John, Jr., in our back yard at Downfield/St. Mary’s when John and I took a trip from Lutjenburg, West Germany, in 1969, when he was based there with the US Navy.

My Gran and her great grandson are certainly dressed for Tea, that Scottish Summer day. I wonder if Granny cast a thought back to her young womanhood when she, too, was in love with a handsome sailor, my grandfather from Llanelly, Wales, David James Thomas.

Oh, dear me, my Granny caught a flea.
She sa'ted and pepper'd it
And had it for her tea.
My Granny didna like it,
She gave it to her son.
Her son didna like it -
He threw it up the lum.
The hoose gave a shak,
The lum gave a crak,
And doon came Granny
Wi' her shirt a' black.

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