Thursday, 20 August 2015

Afternoon Tea ..... at the Library!

It was time for Tea and Cakes on a summer’s afternoon at Armthorpe Community Library  when Volunteers and staff organised a celebration of the Great British Tradition of Afternoon Tea.
 What made it very special were the fantastic efforts of the Volunteers who have been running the community library for over a year now with the support of local council staff. They’d prepared a wonderful scene of tables laid with the best china, pretty tablecloths and carefully folded napkins all set for the afternoon tea festivities.
I was delighted to do my presentation on  'The History of Afternoon Tea' all about the characters in history who helped to make it popular, the key elements and the ‘rules’ involved with lots of questions to keep me on my toes.

And then fully briefed on the etiquette of this quintessential British ceremony, we started on the tea and cakes, including Grandma’s traditional baking recipes. These were amongst the favourites :  
Family Fruit Loaf
Feedback from everyone was tremendous with pleas for more events like this one and suggestions to roll out the format in other localities. A huge thank you to DMBC staff Shirley and Helen for making this glorious event possible but, most of all, to the amazingly talented team of Volunteers who are really making this Library so highly valued and playing such a vital role in the community.  

Have you been involved in an Afternoon Tea event? Tell us more about it... which part do you like best? 

Monday, 3 August 2015

Uncovering the past with Coconut Haystacks

This recipe was a firm favourite with coconut fans at the Life on the Home Front Doncaster 1914-18 at Cusworth Hall Museum and Park where visitors were invited to explore what life was like in Doncaster in 1915. 
 
We baked 6 recipes from the First World War era including this one for 'Cocoanut Haystacks' from this old recipe book. Published in 1907, it was a prized book in Grandma’s collection of 850 practical and tried recipes and household hints for 6d! 
 Coconut Haystacks
Two cupfuls of desiccated coconut
One cupful of sugar
Half a cupful of flour
2oz (50g) of butter
1 egg
N.B. 1 cup = approx 4oz/110g

Mix the coconut, sugar and flour together and rub in the butter well. Beat the egg and mix in with the other ingredients. Make into cones and bake in a hot oven (400F, Mark6, 200C) till they are slightly browned, which will be in about 10 minutes.
Meryl's tip : You can use an egg cup to make a really smooth cone.

Take a look at the other recipes I baked for the Life on the Home Front event :
and Yorkshire Parkin recipes

Which one is your favourite? 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Uncovering the past with Trench Cake

Here’s another recipe from the World War 1 period which I baked at the Life on the Home Front Doncaster 1914-18 event at Cusworth Hall Museum and Park. It’s the official recipe released by the government in 2014 so everyone can try their hand at baking a traditional cake sent to soldiers in the trenches during the First World War. Although its name doesn’t sound too appetizing, visitors were highly impressed when they tried a piece!
Trench Cake
8oz/225g plain flour
4oz/110g margarine or butter
3oz/75g brown sugar
3oz/75g cleaned currants
2 tsps cocoa
½ tsp baking soda/powder
1 tsp vinegar
¼ pint/150ml milk
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grease a 1lb/450g loaf tin. Rub the margarine or butter into the flour in a basin. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the soda dissolved in vinegar and milk. Beat well. Turn into the loaf tin. Bake in a moderate oven (350F, Mark 4,180C) for about 45 minutes.

This recipe adapted from Francis Quinn’s Trench cake for the Department for Culture Media & Sport. We reduced the time of the baking to approximately 45 minutes to an hour as the 2 hours given in the recipe seemed to make the cake too dry and it had baked well in less time.

Although rationing in World War 1 didn’t start until 1917, some traditional cake ingredients were hard to come by. There were no eggs in this recipe; they were replaced with milk and margarine, lard or butter and vinegar was used to react with the baking soda to help the cake rise. It’s quite a dense cake but once packaged up, it would travel well and arrive at the front in reasonable condition.  
Here are more recipes I baked over the Life on the Home Front weekend

Many of the visitors to the Life on the Home Front Doncaster 1914-18  had someone in their family who went to the front line. I remember Grandma’s Abson’s brother Frederick Henry Cave who sadly died alongside many others in the Somme battlefields in July 1916. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Uncovering the past with Imperial/Empire Biscuits


Imperial/Empire Biscuits
I found this recipe for these biscuits in my copy of The Glasgow School of Cookery published in 1910, a real treasured possession as it has some of the recipes which Grandma baked too. The Glasgow School alongside similar schools in Liverpool and Leeds was at the forefront of developing classes in cookery for women and girls of all social backgrounds.The recipe for Imperial or Empire biscuits is still popular today in tearooms across Scotland. 

Imperial/Empire Biscuits
¼ lb (110g) butter
¼ lb (110g) sugar
½ lb (225g) flour
1 teaspoonful cinnamon
½ teaspoonful baking powder
1 small egg (beaten)
Raspberry jam
Water icing and cherries

Cream the butter and sugar; add the flour, cinnamon and baking powder, also the egg by degrees. Work smoothly. Set aside to become stiff. Roll thinly and cut into biscuits. Bake 15-20 minutes in a moderate oven (350F, Mark 4,180C). Spread half the biscuits with jam, place the others on top. Then decorate with water icing and a small piece of cherry on top. 
N.B.  To make water icing, mix 5oz/150g icing sugar, 2 tbs water and 1 tsp lemon juice.


I made these biscuits as one of several recipes from the 1900s as part of the Life on the Home Front weekend event at Cusworth Hall Museum and Park on 18- 19 July 2015. It was an amazing weekend with lots of visitors and activities to remind us of the events of 100 years ago.
 Here are Anzac Biscuits
and Yorkshire Parkin recipes
More #ww1 recipes coming soon ....

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Make a date with Matrimony Cake

This glorious traditional recipe which makes a sort of date sandwich originates in Canada where it’s called Matrimonial Cake.  It has been brought to Yorkshire by Anne and her family in Huddersfield. I met Anne when I was signing Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking books in a well known national chain bookshop in Bradford. It’s a firm favourite in Anne’s family and another of those old fashioned recipes which are easy to weigh out with a cup of this and that.

Matrimony Cake
450g/1lb chopped dates
4 tbsps lemon juice or water 
2 large cups of oats (I used 225g/8oz)
1 large cup plain flour (I used 110g /4oz)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar      
110g/4oz butter
3 tbsps golden syrup

Warm the dates in the lemon juice or water in a pan for around 10 minutes until soft and thickened. Leave to cool slightly. Put the oats, flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and sugar into a large bowl and mix together. Melt the butter and golden syrup in a pan. Then add this to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Grease or line a flat tin approx 25 x 18 cms /10 x 7 inches. Spread half the mixture from the bowl on the bottom of the tin and then spread the date filling on top. Put the other half of the mixture to cover it all. Bake in a preheated oven 190C, 375F, Gas Mark 5 for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Cut into bars or squares when cool.

Meryl’s tip : Anne had used black treacle to the mixture which gives more flavour but I preferred the recipe with golden syrup – but either will make a great treat.

Canadian Tradition says that the original Matrimonial Cake was so called because the two layers of the cake which the dates bring together symbolise the marriage bond. Whatever the custom, they are a tasty treat so thanks to Anne for creating her Yorkshire version!

Let me know if you have you got a family favourite recipe to share?

Monday, 1 June 2015

Make the most of a bargain bag of Mangoes

 Mango & Apple Chutney
Spotting a bag of over ripe mangoes this weekend on the market, I set about making Mango and Apple Chutney. It’s a favourite of mine and is adapted from one of Grandma’s easy Chutney recipes. These amounts make about 3 small jars. It’s certainly a ‘Waste not, want recipe’!
2 apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
3 mangoes (stones removed, peeled and chopped)
2 onions (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
200g demerara sugar
125ml white wine vinegar
3 tbsps root ginger (grated)
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt

Combine the chopped apples, mangoes, onions, garlic, demerara sugar, vinegar and grated ginger in a large pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Allow to simmer uncovered for about an hour until the fruit is tender. Add lemon juice, mustard powder, spices and salt. Continue to simmer for 5 to 10 more minutes until the chutney leaves a clear trail when a spoon is drawn across. Allow to cool and then spoon into clean jars.

Meryl’s tip : You can eat this Chutney straightaway. It doesn’t need a long time to mature but keeps well for a couple of months in the fridge because of the high acidity content.


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Buen Camino to Santiago

 Pastel de Santiago
 Sharing a meal with pilgrims on their way to Santiago has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of a recent holiday in Northern rural Spain and even better when there was a new cake to discover. Here's Rocio's recipe for a wonderful Santiago Cake called 'Pastel de Santiago' in Spanish. 

Pastel de Santiago
250g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
1 tps cinnamon
5 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Mark 4. Mix the sugar with the ground almonds and cinnamon. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating them into the mixture. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 23cm/9 inch flan dish or cake tin. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a cooling rack. Place a Santiago cross or cut-out (see photo below) in the centre to act as a stencil. Then sprinkle with sieved icing sugar and remove the stencil to leave an outline of the Santiago cross.


 Rocio runs the beautiful Hotel Rural las Aguedas  in a small village called Ventosa in the region of La Rioja, on one of the Caminos de Santiago (traditional pilgrimage pathways to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela - St. James). On our last evening, we were in the company of 3 pilgrims who were walking to Santiago, Klaus from Munich, Pierre from Poitiers and Sunny, originally from Korea but now living in Los Angeles. Since it was Sunny's birthday, Rocio had made the special Santiago Cake for us all to share. It is a scrumptious cake which needs no adornment and was the perfect end to a glorious meal with our new friends. We all sang 'Happy Birthday' and wished her 'Buen Camino'. 
Santiago de Compostela

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

I've always loved Millionaires’ Shortbread as a special treat but didn't have a good recipe until Sheila in Derby gave me her family one. The name refers to the richness of the ingredients and the recipe is said to originate in Australia. Sheila’s family come from Scotland and they also call it Toffee Cake. It has 3 easy steps. 
  
Sheila’s Millionaires’ Shortbread
Preheat the oven to 160C/Mark 3.  Line a 11 x 8 inch/28 x 20 cms) Swiss roll tin with baking paper.
 Shortbread base
4oz/110g butter
2oz/50g caster sugar
6oz/175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the flour and baking powder. Knead the mixture until it forms a dough then press into the lined tin. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.
Caramel filling
4oz/110g butter
4oz/110g caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 small tin condensed milk
Put the ingredients into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time for about 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Allow to cool slightly then pour over the cooled shortbread. Allow to cool completely.

Chocolate topping
4 oz chocolate
Melt the chocolate slowly over a pan of hot water. Pour over the caramel and allow to set.  You can cut into squares or bars as you wish.

Enjoy being a millionaire for a moment with this easy recipe. I made this for the Young Enterprise team recently to boost their efforts. It never fails to please! 

Send me your favourite recipes to share and we’ll reach a million!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Wake up the taste buds with Lemon and Ginger Loaf

Lemon and Ginger Loaf
Here’s a recipe from Grandma’s collection of traditional baking which has a brilliant flavour combination. Both lemon and ginger are well known old fashioned remedies to uplift your mood and banish the winter blues. So, here’s a recipe to put a spring in our steps. It’s a perfect companion to an afternoon pot of tea or coffee and goes down superbly with a Lemon and Ginger tea infusion!

Lemon and Ginger Loaf
110g/4 oz butter
175g/6 oz caster sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs (beaten)
175g/6 oz self raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
Milk to mix
Crystallised ginger
25g/1 oz granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Pre heat the oven to Mark 4, 350F, 180C. Grease a 1kg/2lb loaf tin.  Cream the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Mix in the flour and the ginger. Add a little milk to soften the mixture so it drops off the spoon.  Put the mixture in the loaf tin and smooth the top. Decorate the top with pieces of Crystallised ginger. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes until risen and firm on top.

Prepare the lemon syrup by heating the lemon juice and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Once the cake is out of the oven, pierce the top with a cake skewer and pour over the lemon syrup. Leave the cake in the tin until cool.

Meryl’s tip :  Wrap the remaining lemon in Clingfilm and it will keep in the fridge for a few days to use in cooking or baking. Or squeeze the lemon juice and freeze until required.


Monday, 16 February 2015

‘Ello to Yorkshire Brack


Yorkshire Brack
We’re very proud of our Yorkshire heritage, especially where food is concerned. When I went to talk to a local group about Grandma’s baking, Barrie proudly showed me his Brack tea loaf on his smart phone. Although I am a Yorkshire lass, I hadn’t come across his Yorkshire Brack recipe before. I’ve amended Barrie’s recipe slightly by reducing the amount of sugar and adding a little lemon juice to the mixture. There’s no fat in this loaf and it keeps well for a few days – that’s if you can resist it!

Yorkshire Brack
150 ml/¼ pint hot tea (preferably Yorkshire Tea *)
225g/8oz sultanas
110g/4 oz raisins
110g/4 oz currants
50g/mixed peel
75g/3 oz demerara sugar
1 egg
225g/8oz self raising flour
 1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together the dried fruit and sugar and soak in the hot tea. Cover and leave overnight so the fruit becomes plump. Add the egg to the mixture and beat well. Stir in the flour. Line a ½ kg/1lb loaf tin. Put the mixture into the tin and bake in a preheated oven 160 C, 325 F, Mark 3 for about 1½ to 1¾ hours. 

Meryl says : *To make this loaf, it does taste best when the fruit is soaked in Yorkshire Tea of course but you can get a different flavour if you use Assam or Earl Grey teas.
Barrie told me that his wife had sadly died a couple of years previously and that she was a great cook. He’d decided to start baking. He had picked up his wife’s Bero recipe book and was working his way through it! But his favourite recipe is Brack, which can be described as a tea bread. I’ve now found Ginger Brack where you add a tsp of ginger and a tablespoon of black treacle to the mixture.
Many thanks to Barrie for sharing his recipe – have you got a recipe to share? If so, please send it to grandmaabson@gmail.com

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Valentine Biscuits for your Heart’s desire

 I've been using Grandma’s popular Shortbread recipe to bake Valentine biscuits for the Recipe of the Month at Tim & Jane’s Tasty Flavours in our local Indoor Market. Tim loves glacĂ© cherries so I popped a cherry on each biscuit but you could use crystallised ginger pieces or almonds instead. 

 All you need is a Valentine shaped cutter 
Here’s the recipe : 
Valentine Shortbread biscuits
10 oz/ 275g  butter
1 lb / 450g plain flour
6 oz / 175g caster sugar
2 yolks of eggs
Glace cherries to decorate

Rub the butter into the flour and add the sugar. Then add the egg yolks and work into the flour as quickly as possible, making a dry dough. Chill for around 15 minutes then roll out to about ½ inch/1 cm thick and cut into Valentine shapes. Put a cherry on top. Bake for 25 minutes in a slow oven. (300F, Mark 2, 150C). Makes about 30 biscuits.   

Some more ideas for Valentine baking
 Check out these Valentine Gingerbread biscuits  
or Oat Ginger biscuits from Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking
or bake a heart shaped cake like this Valentine Cake.  

Your Valentine won’t be able to resist the appeal of home baking straight out of the oven!

Tell me about a favourite recipe you’re baking for your Valentine? 

I’m supporting BHF’s wear red http://wearitbeatit.bhf.org.uk/ this month.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Clementine and Ginger Cake

 It’s always good to start off the New Year with a healthy recipe and this year I’ve created a cake with 5 clementines. I’ve based it on Grandma’s very popular Marmalade Spice Cake  which always gets a great shout out whenever I take it to talks and demonstrations of Grandma’s baking. I softened the peeled slices of clementines in sugar syrup and placed them at the base of the cake tin before putting the mixture on top so it’s really an upside down cake. It’s a scrumptious cake to start off 2015 and the ginger gives it an extra kick!

Clementine and Ginger Cake
Some of the ingredients 
5 clementines (sliced thinly and horizontally)
4 oz/100g granulated sugar
250 ml boiling water
8 oz/225g self raising flour
3 oz/75g butter
5 oz/150g marmalade
6 oz/175g golden syrup
2 tsps ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsps hot water
1 egg (beaten) 

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a large flat pan (e.g. skillet or frying pan) until it forms a syrup. Add the sliced clementines and simmer until tender (about 5 minutes).  Allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 170 C (150C Fan), 325F, Mark 3. Grease and line an 8 inch/ 20cms cake tin. Arrange the clementine slices on the bottom of the tin. Melt the butter in the golden syrup in another pan. Mix the flour, ginger and cinnamon. Add the liquid from the pan gradually. Add the marmalade and beaten egg and stir in the hot water. Bake in a warm oven for about 50-55 minutes.

Meryl’s tip :  This is a naturally moist cake so use a cake tester to check the cake is fully baked as Grandma says in her book.
Have a very Happy New Year #baking with Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking!  There'll be lots more recipes in 2015 so let me know if you have a recipe to share and what you think about Clementine and Ginger Cake.