Thursday, 19 November 2015

Savourez Tante Liliane’s Petits Fours biscuits

 Just like Grandma, I love coming across a traditional family recipe. Elisabeth, who together with her husband, Jean-Michel, runs la Tour de Giry, a comfortable Chambre d’Hote in Burgundy, not far from the Parc Regional du Morvan gave me a copy of a fabulously easy recipe for Petits Fours biscuits. She is a superb cook and loves to use local food in season which they often grow in their large garden. They also keep ducks and hens so have a constant supply of fresh eggs.
The Petits Fours biscuit recipe comes from family member, Tante Liliane who lives in the Auvergne region. Liliane is 82 years old and still bakes the biscuits today.  As you see, the recipe was handwritten in French, so I’ve translated it into English.

Petits Fours
 2 eggs
150g/5 oz caster sugar
125g/4½ oz melted butter
2 dsps cream ( I used crème fraiche)
1 sachet of baking powder
450g/1 lb plain flour

Beat the eggs with the sugar and add the cream, the melted butter and then the flour with the baking powder. Chill for 20 minutes. Roll out to 0.5cm thick and put into small rounds (Elisabeth suggested a small wineglass) and put onto baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes at 200C, Mark 6.

Meryl says : These biscuits are perfect at any time of year. The mixture freezes well uncooked so you can bake a smaller quantity.  It’s very versatile recipe too. I’ve baked them adding the zest and juice of a lemon, or 1 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp cocoa to the mixture for a different set of flavours. There's plenty of scope for baking imagination! 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Grandma Abson’s traditional Christmas Cake

Grandma Abson's Christmas Cake
Grandmas always know best about baking and this is a simple recipe from Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking book which I bake every year. I can guarantee there’s never a piece left by Twelfth Night!

To make Grandma's Christmas Cake you will need: 
8oz /225g brown sugar
8oz /225g butter
1 tbsp black treacle (slightly warmed for 5 minutes in the oven)
1 tbsp golden syrup (slightly warmed for 5 minutes in the oven)
5 eggs (beaten)
9oz /250g self raising flour (sifted)
3-4oz / 75-100g glace cherries (washed and dried and cut into quarters)
4oz /100g mixed peel
10oz / 275g each of sultanas, raisins, currants
1 tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
2oz /50g chopped nuts +1oz / 25g ground almonds or 3oz / 75g ground almonds
1/6 pint / 100ml stout 

Heat the oven 325F, Mark 3, 170C. Line an 8 inch/21cms cake tin (round or square) with baking paper or use a cake liner. Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. You can do this in a food mixer.  Mix in the warmed treacle and golden syrup. Add the beaten eggs gradually and half of the flour and spices (cinnamon and mixed spice). Stir in the nuts/almonds and cherries, the rest of the flour, dried fruit, mixed peel and stout. Put the mixture into the cake tin and smooth over the top, making a slight indent in the middle. This stops the cake from rising too much in the middle and cracking. Bake for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Start with the oven fairly warm for 30 minutes and gradually reduce the oven temperature to finish in a slow oven at 250F, Mark ½, 130C.  

Grandma’s Tips :    
  • Wrap several layers of brown paper or newspaper around the cake tin and tie it with string before putting the cake into the oven to prevent it burning.
  • Use a thin cake tester to check if the cake is thoroughly baked. If it’s baked, there’ll be no trace of the mixture on the tester. If there are still traces of the mixture, then the cake needs further cooking time.
  • Once cooled, prick the cake all over the top and pour a tablespoonful of brandy over it. You can do this two or three times up to Christmas before decorating it. 
The Final Touches
1. To make Almond Paste 
8oz/ 225g ground almonds
4oz/ 110g caster sugar
4oz/110g icing sugar
A few tablespoons of lemon juice or water
2-3 tbsps Apricot Jam

Mix the almonds and sugars together. Add sufficient lemon juice and/or water to make a stiff paste. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes. Spread a thin layer of Apricot Jam over the cake. Roll out the Almond Paste to 3/8 inch /1 cm thick and place on the top (and sides if you wish).
2. Choose your decoration
You can use Ready to Roll Icing to spread over the cake or make your own.
For Royal Icing you will need
1 lb /450g icing sugar
2 whites of eggs
A little lemon juice
A tsp glycerine (optional)

Sieve the icing sugar and add the whites of the eggs and a little lemon juice. Beat until the mixture stands in stiff peaks. You can add glycerine to stop the icing drying out. Spread over the cake. Use a fork to make peaks in the icing to create a snow scene or for a smooth finish use a palette knife.
3. For a topping with Glazed Fruits
Fold dried fruit (e.g. raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries) and mixed nuts in a redcurrant jelly and apricot jam glaze and spread over the almond paste to make a jewel of a topping. 
And here’s the best thank you! 
Happy Christmas everyone! 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Joke’s Spicy Tomato Soup

I love bringing back memories of wonderful holidays and this year was no exception. We stayed at a wonderful place called Les Sarilles just 10 minutes from Cluny and with amazing views over the rolling countryside of Southern Burgundy in France.

Our Dutch hosts, Jan and Yoke Boekhoven, are a very interesting couple who have travelled all over the world and collected some wonderful recipes to serve their guests. Joke kindly sent me her recipe for Asian Tomato Soup. She suggests making the soup one day ahead.
 For 4 servings:
1 kilo fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
0.5 ltr water
2 parts of chicken stock
30g fresh ginger
30g sugar
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 or two small tins of tomato puree
3 tbsps of ginger sirop (We used 3 pieces of preserved stem ginger and 2 tbsps of the syrup)
Cumin, paprika powder, cardamom, pepper and anise to your taste.  (We crushed cumin seed, cardamom pods, black peppercorns and half a piece of star anise in a pestle and mortar)

Peel the tomatoes by slightly heating them in water, but don’t boil them. Bring the water to the boil and simmer the tomatoes, onions and the chicken stock for 20 minutes. Add the garlic and fresh ginger in the last five minutes. Then add the tomato puree. Use a blender/liquidiser to mix all ingredients to a smooth soup. Add the sugar and spices to your taste. The following day, push the soup through a sieve and, if necessary, add extra spices, sugar and ginger sirop.

In any language this is a fantastic recipe so Selamat makan!! Bon appétit! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Marmalade Flapjack is a real baking gem

Marmalade Flapjack 
Marmalade Flapjack is a real gem of a recipe.  I got it from a friend in the Lake District and of course she uses homemade marmalade in her recipe just like Grandma. It’s an easy recipe to bake with children too! 

8oz/225g butter
4 oz/110g soft brown sugar
2 tbsps golden syrup
5oz/150g marmalade
Zest of 2 oranges
12oz/350g porridge oats
6 oz /175g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180C(160C Fan), 350F/Mark 4. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup slowly in a pan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest and marmalade. Stir in the porridge oats and raisins. Put the mixture into a lined tin (approx 10 inch/23 cms square). Press it down so it is level. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and firm at the edges. Remove from the oven and cut into bars while still warm.
Meryl says : I’ve made this recipe with chopped apricots instead of raisins. I've also tried  it with 1 tbsp black treacle and 1 tbsp golden syrup which gives it a slightly richer flavour. Just the thing for a morning coffee treat. Enjoy! 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Celebrating our rich tradition of British Baking

Richmond Maids of Honour

Our British baking tradition is rich in history and I've been reminded of this English baked tartlet which is said to date back to the time of Henry VIII. Apparently, he found Anne Boleyn and her Maids of Honour eating these little delicacies. It is rumoured that Henry liked them so much that he took the recipe and insisted that it was locked in a box at Richmond Palace in London. There's a lovely shop in Kew called The Original Maids of Honour which serves these little cakes today and is well worth a visit. Whatever the story, Richmond Maids of Honour are still a delight today. Grandma had a version of the recipe in her recipe collection which is really easy to make. 

Richmond Maids of Honour
8oz/225g Puff Pastry or Shortcrust Pastry
8oz/225g curd cheese
2 eggs
1oz /25g caster sugar
1 lemon g rated zest and juice
1 oz ground almonds
1 tbsp currants
A little apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 400F, Mark 6, 200C. Roll out the pastry thinly and with a 3 ½ inch cutter cut out little circles and place in a tartlet tins. Chill for 15 minutes. Combine the curd cheese, caster sugar, lemon rind, ground almonds and currants in a bowl. Beat the egg and egg yolk together and add this to the mixture. Mix thoroughly until everything is well blended. Smooth a small amount of the jam into each pastry case and then fill each about 2/3rds full of the cheese mixture. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes. The mixture should puff up and turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool, you can decorate with a light dusting of icing sugar. This recipe makes approximately 24 tartlets.

Meryl’s tip : You can get curd cheese in many of the large supermarkets as well as some local cheese shops. 

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.