Every culture with a grain-based cuisine has its own version of a griddle (or girdle) cake. The difference is more in the naming than in the ingredients, and I take particular delight in these names. My favourite is ‘Singing Hinny’. The ‘hinny’ in the name is apparently a dialect (Scotland or North of England) version of ‘honey’, and is used as a term of affection as there is no actual honey in the recipe. The ‘singing’ is said to refer to the sizzling noise as the cake cooks on the griddle – a similar rationale to the naming of that other famous British dish, ‘Bubble and Squeak.’
Simple dishes requiring only one pan which could be used over the fire, such as bubble and squeak or griddle cakes, were the mainstay of the ordinary working family, who certainly did not have ovens in their homes. John Brockett in his Glossary of North Country Terms (1825) describes Singing Hinny as ‘a kneaded spice cake baked on the girdle; indispensable in a pitman’s family.’ Another nineteenth century source specifically associates them with the miners of Northumberland miners, and says they were served up ‘fizzing hot, with a glass of rum emptied over a dish of them.’ I am not convinced that rum would have been a regular cooking ingredient for miners’ wives back then, miners wages being what they were. And I suspect that miners were beer men. It sounds like a great serving suggestion though!
I give you a recipe from a contributor to The Times, in July, 1928.
Old Time Recipes.
The recipe for the now famous tea dainty the “Singing Hinny” is:-
Ingredients: 1 lb. flour, 1 pinch salt, 4 oz. lard, 4 oz. butter, 1 teaspoonful baking powder, sufficient milk to make a stiff paste, 6 oz. currants.
Method:- Rub the lard and butter into the flour, add salt, baking powder, and currants. Mix to a stiff paste with the milk. Roll into one large round cake about ½ in. thick: place on a girdle and cook slowly until the first side is well-browned; slip a cake turner under and turn on the other side and cook it also till browned. The girdle usually requires frequent turning round. After the second side is cooked, the cake should be again turned over and allowed to cook for a few further minutes. When cooked, place the cake on a pastry board, cut into squares, split and well-butter. Serve hot. – Mrs. F. Defty, 9, Beach-avenue, Whitley Bay.
Quotation of the Day.
Ah hinnies! About us the lasses did lowp,
Thick as cur’ns in a spice singin hinnie.
Song, Canny Newcassel.