My choice of recipe for the letter X is a bit of a cheat, since of course Exeter doesn't start with that letter. I have also had to more or less abandon my original idea of doing recipes named after places I've been to or those with some significance or importance to me. I've not actually been to Exeter - the nearest I've been is driving past on the motorway.
I originally found the Exeter Pudding in the ever useful Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery. I had brioche crumbs in the freezer (which has to be a candidate for one of the most middle class things I've written) so I used those for breadcrumbs. I didn't have any rum or lemon rind so I added some limoncello to the breadcrumb-custard mixture.
Last night I made a couple of small sponge cakes, using the simple but reliable equal weights recipe. Tonight I assembled the pudding and baked it:
- 2 eggs (about 120g)
- 120g butter
- 120g self raising flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 150ml double cream
- 150g breadcrumbs (from a chocolate chip brioche I made earlier in the year)
- 75g unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- a couple of tablespoons of limoncello with milk added to 150ml
- Ratafia Biscuits
I buttered a pyrex dish, sprinkled a handful of breadcrumbs over the base then covered with a layer of ratafia biscuits. I melted the rest of the butter and mixed it with the rest of the 'wet' ingredients. I poured a thin layer of this over the ratafia then added a layer of sponge cake, which I had spread with raspberry jam.
I poured some more mixture over, added more ratafia biscuits, more mixture, a final layer of sponge cake then the rest of the mixture. I covered the dish with foil and baked for about an hour at gas mark 4.
The pudding was a bit sweet but the flavours were good, possibly thanks to the ingredients which went in - you can't really go wrong when a pudding contains cream, brioche and a rich sponge cake.
I'm not sure which of the many Uptons this recipe came from. There are several in England, including two near where I grew up (Upton-by-Chester and Upton on the Wirral). The only mentions of an Upton Pudding I can find on-line all refer to a pudding shop in Upton upon Severn but nowhere gives a recipe or even a vague description.
The recipe I followed came from Cassells Dictionary of Cookery. Some of the quantities were vague (volume of a teacup? size of a pie dish?) but the cooking instructions were fairly clear.
I bought a packet of 'sago' from the market this morning but when I looked closer, the contents were described as 'tapioca'. There does seem to be a lot of confusion over the two ingredients and they appear to be used interchangeably. It looks like a lot of so-called sago is now made from cassava so is actually tapioca.
My version was made using a measuring cup of sago/tapioca, a mixture of milk and water, a teaspoon of orange zest and three small apples, cored peeled and sliced. I baked it at gas mark 5 for a couple of hours, adding some extra water part way through when it had absorbed everything but the sago was still crunchy.
The flavour and texture were a bit unusual. The orange flavour was fairly prominent but probably needed a bit more sweetness because it didn't quite taste right to me.
When I tried the pudding last night it was still warm. I put the rest in the fridge overnight and tried some more today. The texture hadn't improved and to be honest, I couldn't eat the rest of the bowl. This definitely isn't a recipe to try again. Once was probably too many times.
I hadn't realised that Tunbridge (or Tonbridge) Cakes were almost the same as Goosnargh Cakes until this was brought to my attention by Glyn from the Foods of England website. There are several different versions of the recipe around and I decided to try one from a 1822 book called 'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton. This recipe differs from normal shortbread by having eggs in addition to butter, sugar and flour.
Rub six ounces of butter quite fine into a pound of flour; then mix six ounces of sugar, beat and strain two eggs, and make the whole into a paste. Roll it very thin, and cut it with the top of a glass. Prick the cakes with a fork, and cover them with carraways; or wash them with the white of an egg and dust a little white sugar over.
I followed the recipe fairly closely, keeping the quantites the same. I made some with caraway seeds on top and the rest I sprinkled with caster sugar. I baked them for around 12-15 minutes at gas mark 5.
The plain sugared biscuits were good, very similar to a shortbread but not quite as rich and buttery tasting. The ones with caraway seeds tasted too bitter for my liking. They were better after I had scraped most of the seeds off.
This recipe came from The Country Housewife and Lady's Director', written by R. Bradley (who was Professor of Botany at Cambridge University) and published in 1728.
The 'same' in the recipe above refers to a Mrs. M.N. who provided several recipes for the book.
Take the Yolks of Eggs well beaten, put to them some Mace finely powder'd, with a few spoonfuls of Wine, a little Salt, and as much Sugar as you please; then add as much Flour as is necessary, and a small quantity of Ale-Yeast, and work your Dough pretty stiff; then add some fresh Butter, broken in little bits, and work it in till all the Paste has partaken of it, and the Dough becomes as stiff as at first. Make your Cakes then, and bake them. They will keep some time.
I was unable to find out anything of the history of the Penzance Cake or whether it was traditionally associated with an event or festival. I found one website (Three Hearth House - Chi Teyr Oles, Simple living in West Cornwall) which discussed the Harvest Festival but didn't give any concrete history.
I decided to make two versions of the cake, with and without currants (or more precisely sultanas), so some would be close to the original book recipe and some would be more like the version from the website above (which didn't actually give the recipe they used).
The original recipe was wonderfully vague, as was the fashion at the time, failing to mention any quantities or times. It didn't even mention any need to prove the dough but I took that as an oversight and left mine to rise.
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 2 tbs wine, infused overnight with 2 cloves and a pinch of nutmeg.
- ¼tsp each of ginger and mixed spice
- a pinch of salt
- 2tbs sugar
- 2 cups of flour (a mixture of plain and wholemeal)
- 1 tsp bread yeast
- 40g butter
- 2 tbs sultanas
Since I don't have any mace, I steeped some nutmeg and a few cloves in the wine first. I also added ginger and mixed spice to the cake. I mixed everything in the order given in Bradley, adding ¾ of the flour initially, mixing more in while I kneaded in the butter. I divided the dough into two and kneaded sultanas into one half and left the other half plain. I shaped the dough into bread rolls and left them to rise for a few hours.
The dough was quite dense and took a long time to rise. I baked them at gas mark 4 for about half an hour or so, until they looked done. The taste and texture was similar to a hot cross bun.
This is another recipe where there are several different things with the same name. The traditional version (from at least the 18th century) which has biscuit crumbs, raisins, fat, sugar and egg mixed together then fried. There is a modern version which is completely different and has apricots and meringue on a puff pastry base.
Since I usually try to make the more authentic or historic version of a recipe, I had a go at the biscuit version.
Oxford Pudding, 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy', Hannah Glasse (1747)
A quarter of a pound of biscuit grated, a quarter of a pound of currants clean washed and picked, a quarter of a pound of suet shred small, half a large spoonful of powder-sugar, a very little salt, and some grated nutmeg; mix all well together, then take two yolks of eggs, and make it up in balls as big as a turkey's egg. Fry them in fresh butter of a fine light brown; for sauce have melted butter and sugar, with a little sack or white wine. You must mind to keep the pan shaking about, that they may be all of a fine light brown.
Along with Pope Lady Cakes and Isle of Wight Cracknells, this was another old recipe where I couldn't find any images of the food itself. At least it meant I didn't need to worry too much if mine came out looking a bit untidy or irregular.
I followed the above recipe fairly closely, using a generous heaped teaspoon of mixed spice instead of the nutmeg. The mixture was quite soft and the balls of 'pudding' collaposed slightly in the pan.
I let them cool for a couple of minutes before trying one. They were a bit like a bread and butter pudding bite, surprisingly soft despite the biscuits being quite hard. Since the recipe didn't mention the type of biscuits required, I used a mixture of spare/broken biscuits including oat cookies and shortbread.
After I had made my version, I found another recipe:
Oxford Dumplings, The Art Of Cookery (Mollard 1836)
Mix together a quarter of a pound of grated stale bread crumbs, a few currants, a little moist sugar, and a quarter of a pound of beef suet chopped fine, with two eggs, a little salt, and half a gill of cream. Divide the mixture into several parts and boil.
This version is much closer to a bread and butter pudding, using bread instead of biscuit and using a custard to bind everything together.
|Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /|
I was hoping to try to cook the Northumberland Threshing Day Barley Bread recipe for the letter N but I couldn't find any barley flour in the shops. I've found a source of it on-line but the delivery cost makes it quite expensive so I've put that recipe to one side and I'll try it when I manage to track down some affordable flour.
Instead I've decided to try a Nottingham Pudding, which is a batter pudding with spiced baked apple inside. The traditional method appears to be to cook the apple whole in the batter. I thought about slicing the apple and frying it first, which might make it easier to eat, but I decided to stick to the original recipe.
Of course there's usually no such thing as a single original recipe so I looked at a few sources, including modern websites and Cassell's Dictionary of Cooking, which I have consulted for many of these recipes. Most recipes seem to resemble the two versions from Cassell's so I decided to follow the first one, which includes butter.
I made a general purpose pancake batter using equal volumes of egg, flour and milk, along with a pinch of salt. I peeled and cored an apple, mixed together butter, sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice and put it in the middle of the apples. The apple was studded with a few cloves then placed in a buttered dish, the batter was poured around and the whole lot was baked for about 45 minutes at gas mark 6.
I didn't really expect much from this but it came out well and I think it was nicer than I was expecting. This might have been partly because I was quite hungry when I tried it, fresh out of the oven.
|Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /|
Althoug I lived in Manchester for 3 years, I only remember Manchester Tarts from school dinners. The version we used to have was similar to the one given here, with a pastry base topped with jam and set custard, with coconut sprinkled on top.
I have decided to go further back in time and cook a Manchester Pudding which appears to be an older version of the dish. A lot of old recipes (such as the one from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery and Mrs Beaton) use puff pastry then jam and custard. Most modern variants have the custard on the bottom then jam then meringue, which is what I have done here.
Warm ½ pint of milk with 25g of sugar, 25g of butter and a few drops of vanilla essence. Add 50g of breadcrumbs and simmer for a couple of minutes. Beat in 2 egg yolks and pour into ramekins or a pyrex dish. If using ramekins, put them in a tray with some hot water in the bottom. Bake at gas mark 4 for around 30 minutes (or 45 if doing a single dish).
The tradtional way is to let the custard cool then spread jam over the top. We had half a jar of cherry coulis so I stirred in a teaspoon of arrowroot to thicken it then poured it over the custard.
I whisked the 2 egg whites along with 100g of icing sugar and a pinch of cream of tarter, until the whites had increased in volume and gone thick enough to form peaks without collapsing.
I spooned the meringue over the fruit layer then baked at gas mark 8 for 10 minutes.
The flash had made the meringue look like it has some kind of gold glitter on top. The custard layer at the bottom was a bit soft: maybe an extra egg or more breadcrumbs might have helped. Apart from that the taste and texture were pretty good.
When I began this A to Z of regional baking, I started to look for recipes named after places I knew or had been to. When I was looking for recipes for the letter L I found this and Lincolnshire Gingerbread. The latter is a recipe from Grantham, which we visited last year on our way to Skegness, but since I grew up on The Wirral and we would occasionally go shopping to Liverpool, I thought the more local recipe might be a better choice.
When I found this recipe, I thought I should give it a go. It's not as well known as the Manchester Tart - apparently the recipe was recently rediscovered in a hand-written recipe book.
The original version of the recipe was published in a village newsletter (orignal web page no longer available but is archived here and is reproduced below).
From a family cookbook dating back to the 1790s
- ½lb moist sugar (use a dark brown sugar)
- 2oz butter
- 1 egg
- 1 lemon
Put the butter and sugar into a moderate oven to melt. When melted, let it cool. Boil your lemon whole very slowly (or it will break) until quite soft. Mince it whole as it is, saving the juice as much as possible and taking out the pips. Mince very fine. Beat the egg well. Mix all well together. Line a flat open tart dish with good paste [ie. pastry] and pour in the mixture to one uniform thickness (about ½ an inch), cross bar over and bake. Serve hot or cold.
The version of the recipe I followed came from the link at the top of the page. I made a quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry and while it was cooling down in the fridge I made the filling:
- One lemon with (most) of the pips remove - see below.
- 8 oz brown sugar
- 2 oz butter
- 1 egg (beaten)
I melted the butter, stirred in the sugar, blitzed the lemon in the food processor, then when the butter/sugar mixture had cooled a bit I mixed everything together.
I didn't blind-bake the pastry but poured the mixture in before cooking at gas mark 5 for 22-25 minutes.
The resulting tart is a bit like a softer version of a treacle tart. The filling was a bit sticky with a few crunchy bits: the lemon had lots of pips. I chopped it up before liquidizing it, and there were were several pips in each piece.
There is an interesting discussion on the history of the Liverpool Tart in the PDF available from www.gerryjones.me.uk. Apparently several bakers in and around the city have started producing them.
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.
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.
|Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /|
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.
|Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /|
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 Goosnargh. 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 Goosnargh 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).
|Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /|
I struggled to find a recipe for the letter F but eventually found the Felton Spice Loaf, which is a quick and easy spiced fruit cake.
Felton is a village in Northumberland, just off the A1 between Morpeth and Alnwick. Many years ago I had a long weekend in Northumberland, which started off with a stay in a hotel in Alnwick. I stopped at a cafe in Morpeth on the way, so while I haven't been to Felton itself and the place has no significance for me, at least I know I have driven past it.
The recipe is another simple 'pound cake', with equal weights of self raising flour, butter, sugar and eggs, with added ground almonds, sultanas and chopped mixed peel. Since I usually find that spiced cake recipes don't have enough spice for my liking, I added the given quantity of mixed spice and then an extra teaspoon of cinnamon.
The cake takes about half an hour to cook at gas mark 5 and is delicious when still warm and spread with a bit of butter. The sugar and dried fruit meant that the cake was a bit sweet so if I make it again I will reduce the amount of sugar slightly, probably to 3/4 of the original amount.
In Victoria Wood's TV series dinnerladies she described Scotland as somewhere where everywhere was spelt Ecclefechan but pronounced Kirkcudbright. I've never been to Ecclefechan but I have been to Kirkcudbright so that's enough of a tenuous link for this recipe
The Ecclefechan tart is a version of the Border Tart, with a filling of dried fruit and chopped nuts. Most of the recipes for the former seem to be walnut based with the latter being almond based although there is some overlap in the recipes.
The version I made was based on this recipe. I made a cross between the two, using chopped mixed nuts and ground almonds. We usually have several bags of dried fruit in the kitchen which we dip into regularly for snacking so I had sultanas, cranberries, apricots and cherries available.
I recently discovered a hot milk pastry, which is similar to the hot water pastry traditionally used in pork pies but with milk instead of water and butter instead of lard. It's easy to mix but needs to cool down slightly before rolling out or pressing into a pie tin.
To make the pastry you'll need:
- 2 cups/450g of flour
- ½ a cup/120ml of milk
- 125g of butter
Bake the pastry blind for 10 minutes
For the filling:
- 125g of butter
- 200g light brown sugar (or 100g each of white and dark brown)
- 2 eggs
- 50g chopped mixed nuts
- 300g mixed fruit
- 1tbs wine vinegar
Bake at gas mark 5 for 25-30 minutes. The filling will look cooked on top but still be a bit soft. It will firm up when it cools.