Category Archives: British

Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake – pt 1

Before I get chastised for writing a C*&^%$£~s post in October the organised amongst you will be beginning to prep for festive baking time. While Stir-up Sunday, when you traditionally make Christmas Pudding, isn’t until 20thNovember, now is the time to start on the cake to give it sufficient feeding time. A Christmas Cake that hasn’t been stuffed to the gills with alcohol is deemed as substandard in this house. This is the recipe I’ve used for years, and after many request to stop keeping the recipe close to my chest here it is. It’s from a 2005 edition of Prima magazine and produces a lovely moist fruit cake. Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Harvest Festival Sheaf

Harvest festival in Primary School always has strong memories for me as both a pupil and member of staff. People still donate random tins of food perilously close to their best by date that the poor old dear wouldn’t have a clue about using (even I would struggle to make something tasty with tinned sprouts). The usual hymns of Who Put the Colours in the Rainbow are still sung with gumption including my personal favourite Paintbox and the new addition of Harvest Rock & Roll that usually includes the kids bopping along with actions.

 ‘Cauliflowers fluffy & cabbages green, strawberries sweeter than any I’ve seen, beetroot purple and onions white, all grow steadily day and night. The apples are ripe, and the plums are red, broadbeans and sleeping in their blankety beds’ – Paint Box  Read the rest of this entry

Stirring up for Sunday – Whisky Pudding

The tradition to begin Christmas food preparation, inparticular the Christmas Pudding, begins on Stir up Sunday which is the last Sunday before advent. This year falls it falls on 21st November. The term Stir-up Sunday comes from the first verse of the collect for the day and has been adopted by the Anglican church.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Usually I follow this tradition, but this year due to a hectic diary I made my Christmas Pudding a week early. Of all the traditional festive foods the Christmas Pudding is my favourite, it easily wins over Christmas Cake. Even after being full of a traditional Christmas dinner I can always make way for pudding. I can still remember as  child my dad walking in to the dining room with the pudding all alight.

Many people have traditions when making their puddings from stirring from east to west to represent the 3 kings, having a wish when stirring it and placing a silver coin in the pudding mix. In my case the traditions seem to be how much alcohol I can get in the pudding along with praying it will come out of the mould.

One of the main reasons I make my own pudding (and mincemeat for that matter) is that I’m quite a fussy being when it comes to festive fayre. I’m not a big fan of suet being used it in sweet dishes but use grated butter which works just as well. If it says there is alcohol in it I want to be able to taste it and it must be jam packed with fruit. I also like to experiment with flavours and making these foods heralds the beginning of the festive season for me.

Thanks to my lack of Whisky knowledge, sorry Hubs, this may be one of the most expensive Christmas puddings I’ve ever made. Previous years the fruit has been soaked in Guinness. This year I wanted to use whisky as I though Hubs had quite a collection and we could do with using some of it. I picked up the closest bottle to hand, sloshed a generous amount over the fruit then decided to read the bottle. I had only gone and picked up some of Hubs’ expensive whisky and used £15 of it in the pudding. I then had a sip of it and had used a peaty whisky. I will admit this does dominate the flavour of the pudding, but by the time it is served in December the intensity of the whisky should hopefully mellow a bit and the spices become more dominant. If you didn’t want to be so extravagant with the alcohol replace some or all with orange juice.

Since making my own Christmas pudding I’ve always wanted to try a spherical mould for curoisity and nostalgic reasons. Bizarrely it looks a bit like a cyberman. I now know from experience why these moulds have gone out of fashion. Eventhough I had buttered the mould I had a few tense moments getting the pudding out of the mould and did wonder if we were going to get two crumbled hemispheres. Due to the pudding being a sphere we also had a few hairy moments when the newly released pudding started to roll on the worktop, cue flashbacks of On Top of Spaghetti.  This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use the mould again. It would work really well for other steamed pudding along with desserts like icecream bombe. The coking instruction below are for making it in a pudding basin rather than a mould.

Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in… Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol

Whisky Christmas Pudding
makes 1x 2lb pudding

500g luxury mixed fruit
100g dates, chopped
250ml whisky
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 medium bramley apple, peeled and grated
100g cold butter, grated, plus extra for the basin
100g dark muscovado sugar, plus 2 tbsp
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs , beaten

1) In a large bowl soak the mixed fruit, dates, orange & lemon zest and apple in the whisky for 24-48 hours.

2) Butter a 2lb pudding bowl then lightly coat the butter in 2tbsp of muscovado sugar by slowly tipping and turning the bowl.

3) Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit that has been soaking. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the basin and level.

4) Take a sheet or foil and greaseproof and make a pleat in the middle (this allows for the expanding pudding). Place over the top of the pudding bowl, greasproof paper side down, and fix in place with string.

5) Sit the pudding bowl on top of an upturned heatproof saucer inside a saucepan. Pour boiling water half the way up the pudding. Cover and steam for 6 hours. Top water up as required.

6. Once the pudding is cooked cover with fresh greasproof paper and foil. Store in a cool dry place. To reheat either cook in the microwave (minus the foil), on medium, for 10 or steam for a further hour.

Chorley Cakes

Chorley Cakes have been on my Must Bake list for while. Recipes for these lesser known cakes are quite elusive, even my trusty collection of vintage cookbooks couldn’t provide me with a full recipe, however as a teenager growing up on the Merseyside/Lancashire border it wasn’t unknown for me to make these in Home Ec so these are my version from what I can remember.

They are very much known as being a cake where each household had their own version but still remaining as a frugal bake with less ingredients than it’s slightly fancier cousin the Eccles Cake. The Eccles Cake is sweeter than the Chorley Cake and is made with puff/flaky pastry plus another regional variation is the East Lancashire’s Sad Cake essentially being a giant Chorley Cake that is cut into slices like pizza. The best way to eat Chorley Cakes is very slightly warm with a thin layer of butter and a small piece of crumbly Lancashire cheese.

I may us the Chorley Cake method for making mince pies this year, similar to when I’ve made Eccles Mince Pies in the past. It’s also likely I will make these with my pupils in the near future as it is good practice at making shortcrust pastry. The addition of baking powder to the pastry helps make the pastry lighter. As with any pastry remember to use chilled ingredients to stop the fat melting and separating from the flour.

Chorley Cakes
Makes 12 cakes

For the pastry

225g plain flour

110g cold butter, cubed

Pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

cold water

for the filling

25g butter

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

small amount of grated nutmeg

50g currants, sultanas or rasins

1 egg, beaten

1) In a bowl sieve in flour, salt and baking powder. Rub in the butter until you have a breadcrumb consistency then add the chilled water 1 TBSP at a time until you have a nice dough. Press dough into a disk, cover in clingfilm and chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2) Melt the butter then stir in the sugar, nutmeg and currants.

3) Roll the dough out until 5mm thick. Cut out a disk approximately 8cm in diameter.

4) Place 1 tbsp of the mixture in the middle of the disk and fold in the edges so the mixture is covered. Flip over so the seal is facing the surface then roll until the currants are beginning to show through the pastry. Place on a lined baking tray.

5) Once all of the pastry has been used, brush all the cakes with beaten egg then bake for 10-15 at 200°c until golden.

Derbyshire Fidgety Pie

This pie has been in the planning for a while. To celebrate British Food Fortnight I knew I wanted to bake a traditional Derbyshire dish, ideally savory and with pasty. Inspiration came from the most random of places – the latest East Midlands National Trust newsletter. In the newsletter it mentioned the traditional Derbyshire Fidgety Pie. Not a pie I had heard of before, but gave me more of a challenge to try it. Another reason for wanting to use pastry was so I could use my Made in England rolling pin. I don’t use it as much as my wooden or marble rolling pin as it is quite delicate, but I love it!

Hubby’s family originate from South Derbyshire where this pie has its roots. There are various variations of this pie throughout the Midlands, where they are usually called Fidget Pie. Some with cider, some with ham, some with gammon along with some additional ingredients.

This pie is a traditional dish served to people working in the field through harvest. Essentially it is the Midland’s version of the Cornish Pasty as it is a portable, filling meal. It is thought to have got its name from the fact it traditionally was fitched (5-sided) in shape. The key vegetables in a fidgety pie is apples and onions which are plentiful during the harvest and of course these vegetables go well with pork. This version should have raisins in it, but I left them out as I don’t like them in savory dishes. Given this ingredient not being used it still made a surprisingly hearty & flavoursome dish.

Rather than baking a pie with both pastry on the top and bottom (trying to make it slightly kinder to the hips!) I baked it in aMason Cash pie dish (made in Derbyshire). In keeping with the South Derbyshire theme I also used smoked bacon from the best butchers around – Chantry Farm Shop in Kings Newton near Melbourne. If your ever near I beg you to pop in. Their meat is second to none and well worth the trip. Hubby & I really enjoyed the pie and I was surprised as to how tasty it was. Perfect for these Autumnal evenings.

Now, you can truly say that this pie has been Made in England.

Derbyshire Fidgety Pie
Makes 2 individual pies

225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g butter
cold water
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small/medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored and finely sliced
4 rashers of bacon
400ml beef stock
thyme
seasoning
1 egg

1) First get started on the pastry. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2) Add the chilled water a small amount at a time and mix with a knife until you have a good dough. Roll into a ball, cover in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 min.

3) Preheat oven to 190oc. Fry off the bacon. At the bottom of each individual pie dish line with a layer of half of the sliced potatoes, then all the onions and apple. Sprinkle with black pepper and thyme then layer with the bacon and the rest of the potato. Pour over the beef stock (200ml per pie dish).

4) Roll out the pastry until around 5mm thick. Top the pie with pastry and trim to fit. Make 2 slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape then brush with egg.

5) Bake for 20min until pastry is golden and filling is cooked. Traditionally it is served on its own, but would go well with a side of vegetables.

Queen of Tarts

There is something simple, comforting and nostalgic about the humble Jam Tart. For many people it was probably the first thing they cooked with their Mum or Grandma. Making Jam Tarts always reminds me of Home Ec in Secondary School and many of those said tarts didn’t make it home as I would have scoffed them before home time. Back then though I was frankly rubbish at pastry, it would just crumble and fall apart. It put me off pastry for long time and it’s only recently have I got over my Fear of Pastry. I’ve just put Fear of Pastry into good old google and it sent me to a World of Warcraft page?!?…ok I digressed.

The reason behind these tarts is that I’m planning to cook them with my pupils during British Food Fortnight as you can’t get more British Afternoon Teaish than a dainty Jam Tart, plus I have have a set of fantastic 10 year old budding pastry making boys in my class. The kids are aware that they are making Jam Tarts in a few weeks and bless them, they are already excited and talking about it. After baking a Bakewell Tart last year I’ll be baking another traditional Derbyshire dish with pastry for British Food Fortnight this year. If I pull it off I’ll blog about it during the fortnight.

I did experiment with using marmalade in a few of the tarts, but they just don’t work as well and have an amazing ability, akin to superglue, to weld themselves to the bun tin. Given the fact I’ve now mastered pastry I can’t for the life of me make a Jam Tart look refined, I think the best way to describe them would be “rustic”. Anyway since when has a humble Jam Tart been anything but charmingly simple?

Jam Tarts
Makes 12 small tarts

225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g butter
cold water
around 12 tsp jam

1) First get started on the pastry. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2) Add the chilled water a small amount at a time and mix with a knife until you have a good dough. Roll into a ball, cover in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 min.

3) Roll out the pastry until around 5mm thick. Using a 3 inch cutter, cut rounds and press gently into a bun tin. Place a generous teaspoonful of jam in the center of each round.

4) Bake at 200oc for 10 min, or until well risen and golden. Allow to cool for 5 min before transferring to a wire rack.

Welsh Cheesecakes

As I’ve mentioned before I have a bit of a thing for kitchenalia. Trust me, if I had a big farmhouse kitchen nailed to all the beams would be random pans and Victorian jelly moulds. At moment my collection is very much orientated around vintage cookbooks. I love looking at the recipes and ingredients. The one thing great about a lot of old cookbooks is that they are plain and simple. They don’t beat around the bush and unsurprisingly the recipes often work really well. They are also the kind of book that tells you how to be a good wife and look after your servants. I think Hubby is still wishing I would follow some of the advice in the books.

Stuffed in the back of one of the books given to me by Grandma was a catalogue from one of the local grocers. Unfortunately the grocer is no longer but some googling shows it was an important and well known place within the local community. Within the catalogue is adverts for long-gone products, apart from the Rowentrees Cocoa. The Rowentree advert means I can date the catalogue to around 1910, so Grandma must have been given this cookbook by her mother. I love looking at the claims the various products make. I don’t think you would get away with it now! By clicking on the pics you can see the adverts in more detail.

Yesterday I had the craving to make Jam Tarts and while flicking through a copy of a Good Housekeeping book called The Home Book, from around 1920’s-1930’s, I stumbled across a recipe for Welsh Cheesecakes. One thing about old cookbooks, they often don’t have pictures, however they sometimes tell you how to present the dish. Even with the basic presentation instructions I still wasn’t 100% what they were meant to look like, let alone taste like. To be honest I’m not sure why these are called a cheesecake as there is no cheese in them. Some research suggests that the term “cheesecake” in olde English may mean just a tart, but I’m not sure.

A few years ago I did have a bit of a pastry phobia and have tried many shortcrust recipes over the year, but always come back to this recipe as it always works perfectly. These cakes are essentially jam tarts with a basic sponge topping. The pastry worked out at the perfect short texture and the buttery sponge helped offset the sweet jam. It’s very difficult to just eat just 1 of these little dainty cakes with my morning cup of tea. Tonight we may have a few warm with some Cherry Beer Ice Cream. mmmmm… As this is a 80 or so year old recipe I’ve kept it in old style ounces rather than grams.

Welsh Cheesecakes
Makes 12 individual cakes

Shortcrust pastry
8 oz plain flour
4 oz unsalted butter, cold from the fridge and cubed
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
cold water (you’ll need no more than 1/4 pint)

Filling
Raspberry jam
2 oz plain flour
2 oz unsalted butter
2 oz caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder

1) First get started on the pastry. Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2) Add the chilled water a small amount at a time and mix with a knife until you have a good dough. Roll into a ball, cover in cling film and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

3) Cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the egg. Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder until you have a smooth cake batter.

4) Roll out the pastry until around 5mm thick. Using a 3 inch cutter, cut rounds and press gently into a bun tin. Place a small amount of jam on top of the pastry then top with 1 tsp of the cake batter. Using the scraps place a cross of pastry on top of the batter.

5) Bake at 200oc for 10 min, or until well risen and golden.

Bara Brith & Butter Pudding

This particular loaf of Bara Brith had been hanging around for a week or two after I made it for my Welsh mother when she visited a few weeks back. To be honest I think we forgot about it in the cake tin as it is a very rare occurrence for cake to be left for a long time in this house. Now I did originally plan to accompany this blog post with a delightful photo of me aged 8 in traditional Welsh dress, but decided my credibility would go down the pan if I did, so you’ll just have to do with a pic of the pudding.

I’m not one to throw perfectly good food away and the nature of Bara Brith means it doesn’t go off very quickly, however it does begin to dry out making it perfect for a bread & butter style pudding. As much as I love feeding the fluffy fledglings with crumbs of cake I wasn’t sacrificing all of this Bara Brith to our feathered friends. I was really pleased how they turned out, with the Bara Brith giving more depth to the pudding than usual bread would. I would be interested to try it with other dry cakes that have gone past their best. We had the puddings with lashings to custard. In my eyes the only way this type of pudding can be served.

Promise I will blog something savory soon!

Bara Brith & Butter Pudding
makes 2 indiviual puddings

6 slices of bara brith (or similar fruit loaf)
75ml milk
40g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
1 egg

1) In a small saucepan mix milk, sugar and vanilla and gently heat until sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to infuse for 15 min, then remove vanilla pod.

2) Using a circular cutter, cut rounds of the bara brith. Butter both sides and pile into a ramekin. Once the milk has finished infusing whisk in the egg. Pour the custard over the bara brith and leave for 30 to allow the cake to soak up some of the custard. Cover ramekins with buttered foil.

3) Preheat oven to 170oc. Place ramekins in a deep baking pan then pour boiling water into the pan so it is half way up the ramekins. Place in the oven and bake for 40 min. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5 min to brown the top.

Cherry Bakewell Biscuits

With a hectic and stressful week in work I wanted to do some stress relieving baking and a recipe I found on a forum I lurk on, ticked all the right boxes. The recipe is based on Smitten Kitchen’s slice & bake cookie palette. I’ve never made a biscuit like this before, but I think I now may be hooked. It is such an easy technique and it was nice coming home from work with some fresh dough in the fridge knowing I was less than 15 min away from freshly baked biscuits. These are also the first biscuits (I think) that I’ve made in my KitchenAid. I did a half batch as quite frankly my hips are turning more Nigellaesque by the day.

While looking through my baking cupboard for biscuit fillings I found some glace cherries that really needed to be used. Along with my almond extract the idea hit me. Biscuits inspired by my favourite cake, a Bakewell tart and so it was born – Cherry Bakewell Biscuits.

They are incredibly moreish and Hubby & I are trying not to eat them all in one sitting, and yes they do taste like the hallowed Bakewell. The primary reason for making them is for a treat in our lunchboxes as if I know I’ve got a little homemade treat in my box I’m less inclined to raid the staffroom biscuit tin. I’ve already started to think about other variations of this biscuit – dark chocolate & sour cherry, lemon & poppyseed, apricot & almond…

Cherry Bakewell Biscuits
Based on Smitten Kitchen’s slice & bake cookie palette
Makes 25

115g unsalted butter, room temperature
40g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp almond extract
140 plain flour
100g glace cherries, chopped

1) Beat together butter and sugar until you have a buttercream, then beat in yolk and extract.

2) Add cherries and flour then beat again until ingredients are well combined. Flatted dough into a disk, cover in clingfilm and chill for 30 min.

3) Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out into a long log with a diameter of around 3cm. Wrap back up in the cling film and chill for a further 2 hours (minimum). If the dough isn’t chilled sufficiently it will begin to misshape when it is sliced ready for baking.

4) Preheat oven to 180oc. Cut the dough log into rounds about 1cm thick and place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 12-14 min until they are cooked. Once cooked transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Time for tea

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I don’t do earl grey, chamomile or any of the fruity tea bags. To me chamomile smells of a rabbit hutch and fruity tea never tastes as good as it smells. I’m more of a PG tips/Tetley type of woman with a splash of milk and no sugar; or if I’m feeling a bit fancy, a cup of refreshing rooibos. Saying that I do have a pack of blooming flower tea waiting to be immersed, but they look so pretty I don’t want to use them.

There is something therapeutic about the humble cuppa. A cup of tea can solve a multitude of problems. Last year when floodwaters were lapping at the doors along the row of cottages all of us neighbors still managed to drink tea…made on next door’s gas BBQ. We weren’t going to let a torrent of murky water stop the important institution that is tea.

I only really started to drink tea since I started work in education. Not only is it a refreshment it’s also has a social element. If you drink tea you belong to the hot drinker clique. It also has a role of warming me up. School is cold at the best of time, to put it frank I’m nesh. No matter how busy the day is we will always make time for a cuppa, even if we have to decant it into a spill proof cup to take into class.

I’ll be drinking a lot of tea over the next week as I’ve been offered an interview for the amazing job I applied for a few weeks back. I’ve got to do a presentation for my chosen lesson subject along with preparing resources so I may go quiet, yet again, for a week. There are some implications if I’m offered the post, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Well, back to the interview prep with a cuppa and Tunnocks caramel log for fuel.

%d bloggers like this: