Sweet bonnie bannock o’ Selkirk

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The famous Selkirk Bannock stars in a new cookbook, A Slice of Britain: Around the Country by Cake, by Caroline Taggart.

The recipe book, which is touring Britain’s bakeries, places oor bannock in the pantheon of Scottish cakes, up there with black bun, Dundee cake, Aberdeen butteries, Ecclefechan tart, Border tart and shortbread.

On her travels the author, who wrote The Times’ bestseller, I Used To Know That, visited Grieve’s Snack Attack, The Home of the Selkirk Bannock, in Market Place, and she includes Sue Lawrence’s bannock recipe, as well as Dalgetty’s bannock bread and butter pudding.

The Wee Paper would love to hear from Souters how they like their Selkirk Bannock – whether just simply toasted and buttered, or, as we’ve heard, grandly baked in a sticky toffee pudding (with a toffee sauce made of brown sugar, butter and double cream).

The Selkirk Bannock was first baked in 1859 by Robbie Douglas in his bakery in Market Place, using local butter and Turkish currants. Selkirk Bannock is now made by Cameron’s in High Street, Lindsay Grieve in Market Place and Dalgetty’s bakery in Galashiels.

Famously, when Queen Victoria visited Sir Walter Scott’s granddaughter in 1867, the monarch declined the elegant repast laid before her for a piece of Selkirk Bannock and a cup of tea.

When Robert Burns described Scotland as the “Land o’ Cakes”, our national bard did not mean a country of sweet fancies, but of the flat, unleavened oatcake or bannock baked on a girdle or griddle: one of the oldest cooking utensils, common to all the Celtic countries, from Britanny to Ireland.

While Selkirk Bannock is oven-baked, originally in auld Scottish households fires on a central hearth simmered pots of broth or porridge hanging by a chain from the roof, or baked thin, crisp oatcakes and thick bannocks on a flat girdle suspended from the ceiling.

The word bannock is from the Gaelic bonnach – a cake or bannock.

Historically, specially-made bannocks were used in rituals marking the changing of the Gaelic seasons: St Bride’s bannock for spring (February 1), Bealtaine bannock for summer (May 1), Lughnasadh or Lammas bannock for autumn harvests (August 1) and Samhain bannock for winter (end of October).

Other special Scottish bannocks include beremeal bannock, bride’s bannock, cod liver bannock, cryin’ bannock, Fife bannock, Hogmanay bannock, Marymas bannock, mashlum bannock, Michaelmas bannock, Pitcaithly bannock, sautie bannock, St Columba’s bannock, teethin’ bannock, Yetholm bannock and Yule bannock.

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