In all parts of the world and in every region there is a bread that comes to epitomise the location and invoke the pride of its people. The French baton, the Italian ciabatta, the Irish soda bread and the German Sonnenblumenbrot all spring to mind. Around our way it is the Stottie, a type of round flat bread but which is referred to as a cake, a stottie cake and there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. It is heavy and chewy and gives you a real sense of satisfaction when you bite into one. They are best eaten fresh when they are moist and have a pleasurable consistency and the doughy texture clags to your gums.
Apparently their name comes from the Geordie (a person who was born on the banks of the Tyne) word to bounce, to stott, as this is what will happen if you drop one on the ground. The mark of a true Geordie is their ability to pronounce stottie cake properly, with an audible ‘y’ between the ‘c’ and the ‘ake’.
If you are interested, they are round, about a foot across and a couple of inches deep, although they do not have to be regular in dimension. They are softly baked, with no hard crust and are usually lightly floured when sold. In addition they have a distinctive thumb hole in the middle presumably to stop them rising too much when being baked. Like pita bread, they split quite easily which makes them ideal for making a sandwich and they can be filled with almost anything: a bacon, sausage and fried egg stottie is a good hangover cure (especially with a hot mug of tea); a traditional ham and peas pudding; egg mayonnaise but this will squirt out of the sides and everyone’s favourite, the cheese savoury. You could even try them with salad but I’m not sure that this is advisable.
Many shops and outlets claim to sell stotties but they will often disappoint by being light and fluffy rather than filling, firm and sticky. The imitations resemble the true cake only in shape and size. For the real deal and true stottie experience nothing can surpass the Greggs, though they only sell them in their North Eastern locations. They are usually sold in pairs for just over one of your English pounds but they will split a bag for you if you smile and ask nicely. Alternatively you can buy a stottie already filled and ready to eat.
The stottie is one of the true icons of Newcastle and its surrounding area and I often take them as gifts, always gratefully received, to those ex-pats who are forced to live in less favourable climes. Next time you find yourself around our way you should make the effort to seek one out, it will be worth the trip on its own.