Singing Hinnies: What Is The English Dish And How Was It Named?

The United Kingdom has no shortage of strange yet fun food names. Whether digging into some freshly made toad in the hole, a large Yorkshire pudding embedded with juicy sausages, or rumbledethumps, a comforting pot of cheesy mashed potato and cabbage, you're likely curious about the namesake behind most of these unique dishes.

Some foods, like the infamous British pudding, spotted dick, are named for their appearances. This tasty pudding likely gets its name from its notable raisin-made spots all over. Others are named after one-of-a-kind sounds they make while cooking. For example, bubble and squeak is said to be named after the noise that emerges from the pan as all the ingredients bake together. Another dish of a similar namesake, singing hinnies, can be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert.

This type of griddle cake is very similar to the Welsh variety and others, with a few differences. Aside from its ingredient list, this scone-like treat stands out because of its given name.

History of singing hinnies

These humble griddle cakes originated in the Northumberland region of England, and it was likely a popular dish for working-class families in the 19th century, as its ingredients were simple and cost-effective to source. The cakes are typically associated with pitmen, and it is speculated to be a dish made by the wives of Northumberland miners; however, the exact historical roots are unknown. While similar griddle cakes have been made in several cultures around the globe, not all come with a cute name. And luckily, their name has a backstory that can be pieced together quite simply.

The singing part of the name comes from the high-pitched sizzling sounds the cakes often make as they cook in a buttered hot pan. However, this namesake noise is not always prevalent in the cooking process. The second part of the name comes from how "honey," a classic term of endearment, is pronounced in the cake's region of origin, Northeastern England.

Ingredients in singing hinnies

The ingredients in this dish are basic and simple to find, making it perfect for a leisurely Sunday breakfast or last-minute dinner party dessert. In fact, you probably have almost everything you need in your pantry: all-purpose flour, baking powder, milk, salt, lard, and butter. These ingredients are responsible for making the dough. 

Some lemon zest can also be optionally grated into the mixture to bring out some other layers of flavor and enhance the dish. This lineup of ingredients is very similar to Welsh griddle cakes, but there is no need to add sugar to the dough unless you want an extra-sweet kick. However, singing hinnies usually rely on their fruit for natural sweetness.

What makes this griddle cake especially unique is the addition of dried fruit to the batter. Any type can work, from raisins and craisins to blueberries and cherries, but adding dried currants is the most traditional choice. A few generous pats of butter and a dusting of sugar are a great way to top this dish before diving in. 

How singing hinnies are made and eaten

It takes less than an hour to whip up these griddle cakes from scratch — all you need to do is pull out your biggest bowl and start mixing. Once you source and measure out all your ingredients, the dry ingredients can get tossed into the mixing bowl and combined. Then, small chunks of the hardened and cold butter and lard are added and rubbed into the mixture. The final result should be a very dry dough. At this point, the fruit and zest can be tossed in as well.

Slowly, milk should get poured in incrementally until the loose dough starts to transform into a cohesive, kneadable texture. The dough then gets rolled out and cut into thick circles with a cookie cutter. Then, the hinnies get placed onto a hot, buttered pan and cooked on both sides until golden. Once topped with butter and sugar, they're ready to be devoured. But be careful — after a few bites, they're going to have you singing for more already.