The Heritage Open Weekend is here again. The weekend actually started yesterday but we normally only go anywhere on the Saturday or Sunday. This time we actually went somewhere on the Friday.
Astley Castle near Nuneaton has recently been renovated and turned into an expensive holiday home. The open weekend would probably be the only chance we would get to see inside so we thought we'd be silly to miss out.
Click on the thumbnail to view the image
One problem with still using the fairly ancient Blosxom blogging software for my website is that it receives practically no updates any more and most of the plugins aren't being updated either.
Although everything still works, it would sometimes be good to have a more modern, better supported system, I have been staying with Blosxom because it would be a pain to transfer everything to a new format. One of the main problems would be the photo galleries which use ImageGallery, where the images and captions are all stored in different files, in different folders. I would need to find a way of converting the data to a new format. If I stick with Blosxom (and ImageGallery) then I would have to put up with the whole page being reloaded when a new image is selected.
Since there doesn't seem to be anything better at the moment I decided to update the plugin to use JQuery which lets you easily change document elements and load files from the server.
My new version, ImageGalleryJQ is a drop in replacement for ImageGallery but loads the images and descriptions without reloading the entire page. To use, simply rename the file to imagegallery and copy to the plugins folder. The JQuery library needs to be loaded by including something like
to the head section of the webpage.
All of the gallery pages in a website will automatically use the new plugin.
This recipe is a bit of an odd one out since the Kentish Huffkin is a bread roll and not a cake but since it is traditionally served with fruit and sometimes cream, I treated it as a dessert item and decided it could count as one of my regional cakes.
While I was looking for recipes for this I came across a book called A Slice of Britain which covers more or less the same ground as I'm doing here. (A friend has since bought it and reported back that it's disappointing but that's not important here since I used the recipe as inspiration instead of following it slavishly). I found another recipe in The Telegraph which used milk and water instead of just water.
- 2 cups of Bread Flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- approx 3/4 cup of milk+water mixture
- 20g of butter
First thing in the morning I mixed everything except the butter and left it to rise. At lunchtime I kneaded the dough, and added a bit more flour since the dough was a bit sticky. I dotted the dough with the butter and folded it in followed by more kneading to mix it thoroughly.
The amounts I used were enough to make 4 buns. I left them to rise before poking my thumb in to make the dent. I baked them for 20 minutes at gas mark 7, turning them over half way though. They then needed to be left to cool under a cloth, to keep the crust nice and soft.
We tried the huffkins with some jam and butter. They were ok but to be honest they were just bread rolls. Quite nice bread rolls, and the recipe was easy to do if I needed to make rolls again, but they weren't anything special.
Despite this recipe being named after Bakewell, this is nothing to do with my A-Z of Cakes since the cake is really named after the Bakewell Tart and not the town itself. The 'genuine article' is the Bakewell Pudding, not the pastry based tart you can get in the shops everywhere else.
We first cooked this cake a few years ago, following a recipe we cut from a newspaper. An almost identical recipe features on the Good Food magazine site but uses more raspberries than the one we followed.
Our main change was to use diced marzipan in the middle layer and also on top instead of flaked almonds.
The resulting cake is soft, moist and delicious.
This is a recipe we've been thinking about doing for a while, ever since we first read about it. It's a similar idea to the picnic loaves which are a cross between a sandwich and a stuffed loaf.
The first step is to make the pasta sauce. We often do a 'meat sauce' in the pressure cooker, simply putting chopped vegetables (such as onion, pepper, courgette, leek, garlic) in the pan along with a tin or two of tomatoes, some herbs and seasoning and a packet of mince. The lid goes on the pressure cooker and the sauce is cooked for an hour or so.
The next step is to make the dough. For this I used my normal 'mostly white' loaf, using milk instead of water, and making the dough slightly softer than normal.
Roll out the dough and sprinkle some cornmeal in the centre (this helps stop the bottom going soggy during cooking).
Mix the cooked spaghetti with the sauce and spread over the dough.
Dot the pasta with diced mozzarella.
Cut slits in the dough, going outwards from the pile of pasta. Fold the slits over to approximate a 'plait'. There was spare dough at the edges which we used to make doughballs. Brush the loaf with melted butter and cover with grated cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino).
Bake at gas mark 4 (180C) for half an hour. I assembled the loaf on some baking parchment and transferred it to a pizza stone to cook. The loaf came out well, with no sign of a soggy bottom.
I was surprised by how straightforward this was to make. The 'meat sauce' is something we regularly make and often have in the fridge or freezer. The bread dough is quick to make and just needs to be left to prove for a few hours.
This has spurred me on to try other stuffed loaves. A couple of years ago I made a macaroni cheese pie (inspired by a pie we bought while out at a country show) so I think a macaroni loaf would work well. The cheese sauce would have to be quite thick but I can't see why it wouldn't be as good as the spaghetti loaf.
I struggled a bit finding a suitable recipe for the letter J but found something called Jersey Pudding. This was a sponge pudding with dark sugar and raisins and sounded a bit like a christmas pudding but with a bit less fruit. Since I'm not a huge christmas pudding fan I used a mixture of dark and white sugar and changed the raisins for apricots.
The inspiration for the recipe came from the Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery book. I scaled it down a bit so I could cook it in the microwave in our smaller pyrex jug. It took about 6-7 minutes on medium in an 800W microwave.
It was my first attempt at a sponge pudding (as far as I can remember) and it came out ok. It tasted very rich and buttery but it should, since there was 40g per serving in there.
My version of the pudding is very different to the original so it shouldn't really be called a Jersey Pudding. Since I didn't have rice flour I whizzed some oats in the food processor.
- Flour 20g
- Ground Oats 40g
- Sugar 40g
- Pinch of Salt
- Butter 80g
- Dried Apricots 40g
- Lemon Juice 1 tbs
- Eggs 2
- Milk, 1 and a bit tbs
Work the dry ingredients into the butter then add fruit and lemon juice followed by egg and milk.
Pour into a buttered dish and cook in the microwave on medium for 6-7 minutes.
We bought a Kenwood Chef food processor at the weekend, to replace our old hand-held mixer which has developed a slightly dodgy switch.
We tried it out last night, making our fluffy pancakes using the beater attachment. This afternoon I made a bread dough to try out the bread hook. The recipe which came with it used 3lb of flour which is rather a lot so I tried half that, using my usual 1/3 wholemeal, 2/3 white bread flour mixture.
The dough hook seems to need a large amount of dough to work properly, the amount I made was probably the bare minimum, so if I used it to make a pizza base I would either need to make a loaf at the same time or make several weeks of dough and freeze batches of it.
The bread was more or less the same as my usual hand-made bread but took much less effort. I only had to do a small amount of kneading at the end to shape the loaf before its final proving.
I've been doing some work in Leicester for a few months. I had to test out a new camera which has been bought for a project which needs images taken at regular intervals.
I decided to take the camera for a bit of a walk at lunchtime, along with a fisheye lens, and took some photos in the Leicester Castle area.
One of the towers at the approach to the Castle.
St Mary De Castro Church
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It has been quite a long time since I did one of the regional recipes. I haven't forgotten about them but I have been very busy recently. My new job keeps me out of the house for 12 hours a day during the week so I have very little time in the evenings. Yesterday I finally managed to make the Isle of Wight Cracknels. They take quite a long time but most of that was between the boiling and baking steps when they were left to dry.
I decided to make Isle of Wight Cracknels because I've never made a traditional biscuit before (i.e. a 'twice cooked' one, which is where the word biscuit actually comes from). There are a lot of historical mentions of the biscuit and a few published recipes but I couldn't find any pictures, so I had no idea what 'form into cracknels' actually means. I decided to just roll them out and cut them into a variety of shapes.
Extract from The Isle of Wight Tourist, and Companion at Cowes by R. Moir, published in 1830.
A mention of Cracknels from a newspaper: New Zealand Colonist and Port Nicholson Advertiser from 1st August 1843.
To make the biscuits, I mixed together: 400g of flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp mixed spice and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. I mixed in 200g of softened butter and beat in one egg to form a stiff paste. I rolled out the paste, cut out the biscuits and dropped them a few at a time into a pan of simmering water. When they began to float I fished them out and put them into a bowl of cold water. After they had all been boiled and cooled, I put them on cooling racks to dry out. (As I mention below, I sprinkled sugar and seeds on some of them) When they had dried out I baked them at gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes, turning them over half way through.
The Cracknel recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery.
The biscuits came out more like pastry disks which, now I look more closely at the ingredients, shouldn't be a surprise really.
Since the recipe I followed doesn't include any sugar, and I didn't want to add any since I was trying to stay faithful to the old 1883 recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, I didn't add any to the mixture but I did split the mix into three parts and sprinkle sugar on one set, some sugared fennel seeds (leftover from the Bath Buns) on another set and left the final set plain.
(I had found an almost identical recipe in a book called The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery which includes an unspecified amount of sugar but I had forgotten about it until I came to write this up today)
Cracknel recipe from The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery.
Some of the biscuits had puffed up while others had stayed flat. While this didn't affect the taste at all, the puffed up ones had a softer texture and were nicer to eat.
I tried a couple of the biscuits last night, before they had cooled down fully, and the mixed spice flavour came through quite well but the biscuits could do with being a bit sweeter. Even the ones which I sprinkled sugar on didn't really have much of a sweet taste. One of the newer variations, which include quite a lot of sugar, might be more suitable for the modern palate.
Last month we went on a short break to Lincolnshire and brought back some locally made flavoured cheeses (the Lymm Bank cheeses we often get from the Living Heritage country shows we go to).
We have just got back from a week in France and brought back a range of different foods, including some smoked horsemeat sausages. I've probably accidentally eaten horsemeat, especially given how widespread the food contamination problem was last year but this is the first time I have knowingly eaten it.
The pizza has slices of the sausage topped with slices of horserasish cheese so I felt that it should be called a '2 Horse Pizza'.
This post also appears on the Pizza Blog.
We have been making a lot of pancakes recently, mostly variations on the extra-fluffy pancake recipe I discovered a few weeks ago. I went back to the original recipe, which used plain flour instead of self-raising:
- 2 1/2 cups of plain flour
- 1/2 tbs baking powder
- 1/2 tbs sodium bicarbonate
- 2 tbs sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups of milk with a few splashes of lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks
The egg whites are whisked first until they become white and fluffy but I realised that it's possible to over-whisk them. If they become too firm and almost meringue-like, they won't mix into the rest of the batter properly.
The rest of the ingredients are mixed together then the egg whites are folded in. I find it easier to cook the pancakes using two frying pans: start them off in a small pan then lift them onto a plastic turner and flip them over into the larger pan to cook the other side.
My most recent pancake experiment was to make crepes. The recipe was based on one by Nigel Slater:
- 50g butter
- 100g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 2 medium eggs
- 350ml milk
Melt the butter then leave it to cool slightly. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, add the eggs then gradually whisk in the milk. Finally mix in the melted butter.
It took a couple of goes to get the technique right. For the first pancake I tried to turn it over in the same pan but it tore and folded over. Eventually I managed to find a way which worked for me, which uses two pans a bit like above.
Put half a ladle of batter into a small 7-8 inch pan, give the pan a gentle swirl so the batter covers the pan. After a minute or so, when the batter has started to set, loosen the edges of the pancake so it moves freely. Hold the second pan over the top then turn the pans over so the crepe falls into the second pan, uncooked side down.
For a first attempt, we were very happy with the results. We had them as sweet pancakes but next time we might do some with a savoury filling, possibly covered with sauce or melted cheese and baked for a few minutes in the oven.
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I can't remember where I first came across this cake but while doing some research I kept finding two different versions of the recipe. One uses egg whites and is baked in a loaf tin whereas the other is a yeast cake and is formed into 'lady' shaped buns.
I started by following the latter recipe but it came out as a very sticky batter instead of the expected dough.
After leaving it to rise overnight I put half in a loaf tin then worked in extra flour until it was a bit easier to handle. I then shaped into the lady shapes as described in the recipe. Unfortunately none of the recipes on the Internet had photos so I don't know if mine looked anything like the originals. One of the cakes looked more like an Owl.
They were probably more like Two Fat Lady Cakes. We tried one and it was a fairly decent light bun with a hint of spice. When we tried a slice from the loaf version. It was light and crumbly and would make a good sponge cake.
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbs oil or melted butter
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 2 eggs
- between 3-4 cups of flour
Mix everything together and leave to rise overnight. Knock it back then make into buns.
This version of the recipe from the same site as above has a drier dough and gives better instructions on shaping the cakes:
Divide into 12 equal balls about 2 1/2 inches across. Cut each ball in half. Flatten one of the halves and shape into an oval for the body. Divide the other half of dough in two; make a round ball for head. With remaining dough make pencillike ropes 4 inches long. Cut in half for 2 arms. Press head and arms to body. (There are no legs.) Press raisins or currants deeply in place for the eyes and nose.
I could not find any pictures of the final cakes anywhere so I don't know how authentic mine look. Some web pages have recipes taken from books and refer to illustrations which aren't reproduced on-line.
Update: I've just been sent another version of the recipe which is very similar to the one I followed but mentions crossing over the arms. Like the others, the page contains a history of the cakes copied from a book and again, there is no picture of the finished cakes.
Many years ago, on the way home from a holiday Up North, we stopped at the village of Goosnarg. I think we mainly went there because of the unusual name. I remember that we took a photos in and around the churchyard but don't remember anything of the village itself.
The Goosnarg cake is another variation on the shortbread recipe. At first I thought it was the same as Aberffraw Biscuits with the addition of caraway seeds but upon a closer look the recipes use different proportions of butter, sugar and flour (2:3:6 sugar, butter, flour, whereas the Aberffraw biscuits are the easier to remember 1:2:3).
These biscuits came out crunchier and a bit darker. I may have slightly over-baked them but the colour may have been down to the mixture of regular and dark sugar I used (since one of the recipes I found called for golder caster sugar).
I occasionally have a go at making fluffy american-style pancakes and while they are usually good, they never come out as thick and fluffy as shop bought ones. I decided to look into how to make them softer and thicker and the secret seems to be egg white.
The recipe starts off similar to our old pancake recipe:
- 2 1/2 cups of self raising flour
- 2 tbs sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups of milk
- 2 egg yolks
Mix everything together then take the egg whites and whisk them until they increase in volume and start to become meringue-like. Gently fold the egg white into the batter mix.
The mix made quite a lot of batter so I had enough to try different ways of cooking the pancakes. First I poured some into yorkshire pudding tins and cooked them in the oven at gas mark 4. The pancakes came out a very soft, very fluffy but a bit pale. My next attempt was also in the oven but at a higher temperature. The pancakes had a better colour but they also had a slightly hard crust. Next I tried cooking them in the traditional way, in a frying pan. These came out looking much better, but was slower since I could only cook one at a time.
The next step is to probably try some flavoured pancakes. Chocolate or fruit will probably work well.
This recipe was Emma's idea. She suggested that a chicken Thai green curry might work well in a pie. I made a hot milk pastry, cooked a leek and a red pepper, opened a packet of sauce and chopped up some roast chicken.
It was a very good pie.