As it's National Bread Week this week, we thought we'd share a recipe for one of our favourite breads here at Ballymaloe Cookery School - Traditional Spotted Dog. 

At times of the year when the men were working particularly hard in the fields, the farmer’s wife would go out of her way to reward them with a richer bread than usual for tea. According to her means she might throw in a fistful of currants or raisins, some sugar and an egg, if there was one to spare. The resulting bread, the traditional Irish ‘sweet cake’, had different names in different parts of the country – spotted dog, curnie cake, railway cake and so on. Currant bread was not just for haymaking and threshing, but was also a treat for Sundays and special occasions.


Makes 1 loaf


450g (1lb/4 cups) plain white flour

1–2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda), sieved

75–110g (3–4oz) sultanas, raisins or currants

300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) sour milk or buttermilk

1 egg, free-range if possible (optional – you may not need all the milk if you use the egg)


Preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients, add the fruit and mix well. Make a well in the centre and pour most of the milk in at once with the egg. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out on to a floured board and knead it lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep and cut a deep cross on it. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 and continue to cook for approximately 30 minutes. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom: if it is cooked, it will sound hollow.

Serve spotted dog freshly baked, cut into thick slices and generously slathered with butter. Simply delicious!



American Emigrant’s Soda Bread

Caraway seeds and sultanas were added to soda bread in Ireland long ago, but the tradition went by the wayside. Not so in America, where soda bread often has caraway seeds and sultanas in it. Usually when I go to the US I take Irishrecipes there, but I was delighted to bring this one back to Ireland! Simply add 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the Spotted Dog recipe and proceed as above.


20/08/2012 (RD) (15551) (Irish Traditional Cooking Revised Edition)