It's been a while since I've written about eating out so I thought I'd mention a few places I've been to in Birmingham recently. The first one is Aunt Sally's Caribbean restaurant. I've been there a couple of times at lunchtime. The first time I had the jerk chicken (as you do). The second I tried the mutton curry. On both occasions I chose the larger size but I really struggled to finish the mutton. The prices may have gone up a bit recently but the food is good and the serving sizes are generous.
The second place worthy of a mention is Habaneros, the burrito van near the Cathedral. I decided to try the pulled pork burrito with all the trimmings (apart from guacamole since I'm not a big fan of avocado, but I might try that next time). They cram a lot of food inside a 12 inch burrito and it's another lunchtime venue worth visiting.
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When I started this exploration of regional foods, I wanted to mainly do British recipes but every now and again I have to look further afield for inspiration.
The Virginia Apple Pudding is a moist spiced apple cake and is very easy to make. I found several recipes, most of which were adapted from the same source. I made a smaller version, with more cinnamon and a mixture of apple and pear.
- 1 cup of apple/pear mixture, peeled and diced
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup of plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ granulated sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 4 tbs slightly salted butter, melted
- ½ cup of milk
- ½tsp vanilla extract
I followed the original recipe fairly closely: Beat together everything apart from the fruit and cinnamon. Put the last 2 ingredients in a bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes to soften the fruit. Pour the batter into a cake tin then spread the spiced fruit on top.
Bake in the bottom half of a pre-heated oven (gas mark 5) for about half an hour.
After last weeks sago fiasco, this was a lot more successful. The cake was moist, tasty and had just the right amount of spice (I may have mentioned before that I believe most cake recipes under-use cinnamon and tend to increase any quantities given).
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.
I had some spare bread dough left over after making pizza and I was trying to think of something to do with it. I noticed that I had this in my list of cakes to make so I adapted the recipe from Good Food magazine to make my own version.
I took the dough and kneaded in the butter and brown sugar. When that was smoothly mixed in I kneaded in the fruit, a bit at a time. After leaving it to rise, I baked it at gas mark 4 for nearly an hour.
My version didn't seem to have as much fruit as the original but since I was adding the fruit gradually, I put in as much as I could until it started to fall out when I kneaded the dough.
Quite a lot of the recipes I have done recently seem to be variations on fruit bread. Since the oldest recipes pre-date baking powder, a yeasted dough was probably the easiest way of making a cake and this type of recipe seems to work well when combined with fruit and spices.
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This is another recipe where the original version seems to come from a single source. I originally found this recipe in Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery (1894) and the only other version I could find on-line or in e-books was from a New Zealand newspaper from 1900 which repeated the Cassell's recipe almost verbatim. Sadly I don't have the resources to search through actual vintage cookbooks but I've amassed a reasonable collection of scanned-in or transcribed e-books which I have been regularly consulting.
I have no idea how genuine this recipe is, since Roseneath (or Rosneath) pudding doesn't seem to exist anywhere else but I liked the sound of it so I thought I'd give it a go. Since I intend to revisit some of the alphabet to do some recipes I've missed, I may try another for the letter R, if I can find one with a more authentic heritage.
Take 2 eggs and their weight in flour, butter and sugar. Beat the butter to cream, add the sugar, flour and eggs and any flavouring that may be preferred. Butter some small cups, three-parts fill them with the mixture and bake in a moderate oven. Serve cold, with almonds sliced and cut into strips stuck into the puddings. Time to bake, 15 to 20 minutes. Probable cost, 8d. Sufficient for 3 or 4 persons.
My version of the recipe
- 120g butter
- 120g sugar
- 120g plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
I baked them at gas mark 5 since I didn't know what temperature a 'moderate oven' should be. The two smaller puddings were cooked ok but the larger one was still a bit raw in the middle. A slightly longer time, with the puddings covered in foil to stop the tops burning, might be better.
(The original recipe claims to cost 8d (8 old pence, 8/240 of £1 or about 3p). 8d in 1894 is worth about £3.30 today, according to an online inflation calculator. The modern price for the ingredients comes to only £1.06)
The serving suggestion in the book (almonds sliced and cut into strips stuck into the puddings) is a bit vague. I didn't know if the strips of almonds should be poked in or laid flat. I decided to poke them in, giving the appearance of a standing stones on a hill.
The pudding itself was fairly dense (since it doesn't contain any baking powder and doesn't use any special techniques to lighten the batter). Served with custard, it was a fairly standard, but acceptable, sponge pudding.
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I have had to go a bit further afield for the letter Q. When I was trying to find a British recipe, the nearest I could find was something called a Summer Pudding Of The Quantocks. The source of this recipe appears to be a single website which no longer exists so I decided to find something else.
The recipe I followed was based on the one here but with the quantities halved:
- ½ a cup of demerara sugar
- 1/8 cup of maple syrup
- 200ml of double cream
- 1/8 cup of plain flour
I whisked together the first 3 ingredients then sifted the flour and whisked it into the mixture. I made my usual shortcrust pastry recipe, following the one on the BBC website (4oz plain flour, 2oz butter, a pinch of salt and enough water to bring it together).
The base was baked blind then the filling was poured in and returned to the oven, at gas mark 4, and baked until it was bubbling on top and started to look brown.
The tart was very good but could probably do with more maple flavour. If I try it again I might up the maple syrup content and slightly reduce the sugar. Alternatively I might follow a traditional English treacle tart recipe but use maple syrup to replace some of the golden syrup.
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 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.
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.
We had a roast chicken tonight and I decided to attempt some home made stuffing. Instead of a classic sage and onion breadcrumb based recipe I adapted a cheesy oat recipe.
The original version is a potato toppped cheese, onion and oats recipe, which we normally do with leeks to give extra flavour. It's made by frying the onion or leek, along with some garlic, in a mixture of oil and butter. It's then allowed to cool and then herbs, toasted oats, grated cheese and beaten eggs are added and mixed together. The base of a tin is lined with sliced potato and the mixture is spooned on top. It's baked for half an hour and then turned upside down to serve, so the potatoes are on top.
Tonight I started off with the same ingredients but added some home-made kale pesto which was leftover from yesterday. I formed the mixture into balls and added them to the roasting tin which already had roast potatoes cooking in it.
We liked the original oat bake but the potato topping is always a bit disappointing so doing a stuffing version means you get the flavor and a crunchy coating so I think it's an improvement and worth doing again.
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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 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.
I've taken advantage of being at home over Christmas and New Year and I've managed to try a few new recipes.
Sweet potato and cheese scones used up one of the sweet potatoes that have been sitting in the kitchen for a few weeks. They made a tasty lunch.
Spelt biscuits were made using spelt flour, bread flour, butter and fruit juice. I put some powdered ginger in to give them a bit more flavour.
I haven't had time to do much baking recently. A few months ago I started a new job in Birmingham and by the time I get home, have tea and wash up, it's either too late or I'm too tired to make anything fancy.
I have been making a 'no-knead' ciabatta style bread a lot since it's easy to make, only taking a few minutes to set up, then I can leave it to prove overnight.
The recipe is:
- approx ¾ cup of sourdough starter
- 3½ cups of flour
- 1½ cups of liquid (milk, water or a mixture or juice and water)
- a heaped teaspoon of salt
I use 3 plain flour, ½ of a heavy rye flour, any more rye and the texture comes out more like a regular bread (crumb-like) and less ciabatta-like (stretchy, full of holes).
Everything goes in the food mixer and the dough hook is used to mix it all together for 10 minutes or so. The dough will be very wet and if any rye flour was used, it might also be quite sticky. If I mix the dough in the morning, I then transfer it to a oiled bowl to prove for a few hours.
If the dough is very soft, it might need to be baked in a lined tin, otherwise it can go on a baking tray. In either case, I dust the tin with cornmeal. After transferring the dough to the tin I leave it to prove a bit more (sometimes overnight in the fridge).
Start baking at gas mark 7, then after 10 minutes turn the oven down to about gas mark 4-5 then bake for a further 30-45 minutes, depending on the shape of the loaf.
This is actually being uploaded the same day as the Nottingham Apple Pudding (5th February 2015) but is being back-dated. I found the photos of the funnel cake on my camera but didn't get around to copying them off at the time.
I had forgotten we had made them and when I saw the thumbnail images on the computer screen, I couldn't work out what they were until I zoomed in.
I think this is the recipe we followed, where the batter starts of a bit like a hot water pastry made with butter, then has eggs added to make it more pourable.
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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.