Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Bring on the Green Tomatoes


With more of us interested in growing our own produce, September also brings the age-old problem of what to do with gluts of fruit and vegetables. Grandma Abson’s mantra was ‘Waste not want not’ and when this happened, nothing ever went to waste.  She made chutneys and pickles to last through the winter as a perfect side dish with hot and cold dishes.

So, armed with a load of green tomatoes when the sun didn’t shine and were about to succumb to blight, I consulted one of Grandma’s collection of cookery book for a suitable recipe. Home-made chutneys are very easy to make and this recipe is based on her 1930s baking splattered copy of ‘Modern Cookery Illustrated’.

Green Tomato Chutney

2 lb/approx 1 kg green tomatoes

2lbs/approx. 1 kg apples

1 lb/450g demerera sugar

1 lb/450g shallots

2 oz/50g garlic

1/2lb/450g sultanas

2 tbsps of ginger (chopped finely) or ground ginger

6 red chillis (chopped finely)

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp mustard seed

1 pint/ml vinegar (cider or white wine vinegar)

Quarter the tomatoes. Peel and core the apples and cut into pieces; peel the shallots and garlic. Mix together. Place in a large pan and add the other ingredients. Bring slowly to the boil, then simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring until the ingredients are thick and soft. Allow to cool. Spoon into clean jars and cover securely.

Grandma Abson’s tips : Chop the tomatoes and onions finely or put them through a mincer if you want the final consistency of the chutney to be smooth. To test if the chutney is ready, draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. If it’s ready, the chutney must not flow back into the gap left behind by the spoon. If not, then check every 5 minutes or so until the gap is clear. Chutney needs to cool slowly so the spices infuse and flavour the fruit. You can add more ginger and other spices such as mustard seed, coriander or cumin to make it even spicier. 

Check out more of Grandma Abson’s Chutney recipes

Apple Chutney

Cranberry & Apple Chutney

Mango & Apple Chutney

Mango Chutney

Rhubarb & Ginger Chutney

Friday, 13 August 2021

The perfect Afternoon Tea


I always enjoy doing my Heritage Baking talk about the History of Afternoon Tea. There are key components to consider as well as some historical characters who shaped the story and make it the tradition we so much enjoy today. We’ve certainly missed having the experience of Afternoon Tea over the past eighteen months or so, whether it be for a birthday, anniversary, wedding or many other celebrations with family and friends.

According to some, there aren't any rules but Mrs Beeton did leave a mountain of instructions about how to serve Afternoon tea in her book entitled ‘Household Management’. She stipulated that when a Victorian hostess invited guests to partake of this experience at their home “Afternoon tea should be provided, fresh supplies, with thin bread-and-butter, fancy pastries, cakes, etc., being brought in as guests arrive.” And when it comes to the order of the food on the famous 3 tiered cake stand, it should comprise a bottom tier of sandwiches with crusts cut off, a middle tier of scones or teabreads and a top tier of exquisite cakes, pastries, petits fours or biscuits.

The historical characters in the story include Catherine of Braganza, whom it is alleged brought a chest of tea as a dowry when she married Charles II; the Earl of Sandwich who spent much of his time at the gambling table so didn’t have time to eat a proper meal; and Anna Maria, Duchess of Bedford who had a ‘sinking feeling’ about 5 o’clock one afternoon and called for something to assuage her pangs of hunger. Hence the tradition started which we recognise today.

I’ve delivered this talk so many times now and have had so much fun telling the anecdotes about it all. The talks have often been linked to fundraising events so I have very fond memories of some amazing people who set them up. Since March 2020, I’ve also put on my posh frock, hat and gloves and done this talk on Zoom to the delight of even more groups. I really hope it’s not too long before I can do it ‘live’ again, Covid safety regulations permitting.

This week in mid-August is Afternoon Tea week so I hope you can enjoy your version of Afternoon tea during August and if you can join one of the fundraising campaigns that would be perfect. Stay safe!

Friday, 16 July 2021

A cheerful summer Apricot bake

I’m always very pleased to receive an old cookery book and this one came from a friend’s mum. Entitled ‘Teatime Cookery’ and published in the 1970s, it’s a treasure trove of easy tasty bakes and old family favourites. What I like about these recipes is the simple list of ingredients, most of which I have in my stock cupboard, so I can be quite spontaneous about what to bake. Glancing through the pages, I chanced upon ‘Aunt Emily’s Apricot Cake’. The ingredients were enough for a 15 cms/6 inch cake or a 450g/1lb loaf size but I wanted to make a larger version, so I adapted the amounts to do this. I added demerara sugar before baking to make a crunchy topping.

Aunt Emily’s Apricot Cake

300g self-raising flour

200g butter

200g caster sugar

50g mixed peel

300g dried apricots (chopped small)

3 eggs (beaten)

2 tbsps milk

2-3 tbsps demerara sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan)/Mark 4/350F. Line a 21 cm/8 inch cake tin or 1 kg/2lb loaf tin with baking paper. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, mixed peel and apricots. Mix in the eggs and milk. Put the mixture into the cake/loaf tin. Sprinkle demerara sugar on top. Bake in the oven for 60-70 minutes until a cake tester comes out clear. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes for about 10 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.


Meryl says : Apricots are one of my favourite summer fruits so I really love this recipe and it’s so quick to make. It’s a great summer recipe but with dried apricots, we can bake it at any time of year. Acknowledgements and thanks to Aunt Emily for her original recipe.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Bring on the summer with Honey & Almond Cake


We’re loving the warm rays of sunshine after the rainy days of May and the chance to sit and enjoy a pot of tea (or glass of wine) in the garden. So, here’s a summer cake recipe to serve as a perfect accompaniment. 

Honey and Almond Cake

What you need

300g/11oz butter

250g/9oz caster sugar

4 eggs

150g/5oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

150g/5oz ground almonds

50g/2oz flaked almonds

4 tbsps honey (runny)

How to bake …

Preheat the oven to 170C (160C Fan), 325F/Mark 3. Line a 21cm/8 inch cake tin with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time with a little flour. Add baking powder to the remaining flour. Fold in the flour and ground almonds into the mixture. Spoon this into the cake tin. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a cake skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and trickle the honey over the top of the cake, leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Meryl says : Bring on the summer with this glorious cake. I like to serve this one with a bowl of luscious summer fruits. It keeps well for a week in an airtight tin. 

And 10 years ago today, I launched Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking with the help and support of students at Dearne Valley College, John Foster of Fosters Bakery and of FCD design and marketing agency. What an amazing journey this has been! 

Monday, 3 May 2021

Taking up Captain Tom’s 100 Challenge

Last year, on 6 April 2020, the indomitable Captain Tom Moore set off to walk round his garden to thank our NHS heroes. One hundred laps later, he'd raised an incredible £38.9 million for the NHS Covid-19 appeal. Friday 30 April would have been his 101st birthday and to honour him and his amazing achievements, the Captain Tom Foundation asked everyone, of all ages and abilities, to take part in the Captain Tom 100 Challenge. The idea was to take on a challenge around the number 100 anytime and anywhere over his birthday weekend between Friday 30 April and Monday 3 May. 

So last weekend, my grandchildren and I responded to the Captain Tom 100 Challenge and for our weekend baking we made 100 buns and biscuits! We put our results on social media and were delighted at the response to our efforts. There still time to donate Captain Tom Foundation  or on our Just Giving Page.

We used Grandma Abson’s foolproof recipe which you can find here.

Where I come from in Yorkshire, we’ve always called these ‘buns’ but where I live now everyone calls them ‘cakes’. Grandma Abson would say that cakes are larger bakes such as Victoria Sandwich, Chocolate Cake and Fruit Cake but whatever you call them and however you decorate them, we loved baking them and were delighted to support the legacy which Captain Tom bequeathed. He left us all a simple message of hope, "Tomorrow will be a good day", inspired millions around the world and brought comfort and joy to so many during the pandemic.


Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Spring time for buns!

Daffodils and tulips are blooming in the garden so we definitely celebrate Spring with Spring time baking.  Here are some small cakes or buns which you can decorate however you wish – as long as they have a hint of Spring!

Spring time buns

What you need :

2oz/50g butter

2oz/50g caster sugar

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

3 oz/75g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

A little milk

How to bake :

Pre heat the oven to 350 F, Mark 4, 180 C. Cream the butter and sugar and add the vanilla extract and beaten egg. Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture using a little milk if necessary. Half fill bun cases with the mixture and bake in a moderate oven for 15 minutes. Makes 8-10 buns.

To decorate :

When cool, scoop out the top of each bun and fill the hole with butter cream. For this you need 2 oz/50g butter, *4 oz/110g icing sugar, a few drops *vanilla extract and 1-2 tbsps milk. Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix well. Replace the scooped-out sponge as a lid. Dust with icing sugar. We like to add some butterscotch pieces too. 

Or, make chocolate buns by adding 2 tbsps of cocoa to the mixture. We made these for Easter but you can bake some the next time there's a special occasion.  

Meryl says :  

During lockdown home schooling, I’ve been baking every Friday with my grandchildren. We made lots of tasty bakes and carried on after school from March. You can check out our bakes as we post our efforts on @GrandmaAbson Instagram  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Grandma’s homeschool baking


Rainbow Cake

During this last lockdown, I’ve been busy homeschooling my grandchildren. Every day we’ve been doing our best to do the lessons and keep our spirits up. We’ve had some fun and worked hard but by Friday afternoon, we were all getting a bit worn out, so we put our screens and writing away, put on our aprons and went into the kitchen to bake. Over the long winter months, when it was dark and gloomy by mid afternoon, we made lots of lovely treats for the weekend and cheered ourselves up. We posted photos and videos of our efforts on @GrandmaAbson Instagram  to delight and inspire others to bake.

This is our favourite cake (so far) and is also a thank you to all those heroes who keep us safe. We made Grandma’s recipe for a Victoria Sandwich in an 8 inch/ 20cms cake tin, to make a fabulous cake.

What you need

4 eggs and their weight in each of 

caster sugar

 self raising flour 

margarine or butter

Milk to mix. 

Raspberry Jam 

How to bake

Preheat the oven to Mark 5, 190 C. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Fold in the flour. Add the milk and mix in gently. Put into 2 x 7 inch (18cms) greased tins. Bake for 30 minutes. Check it’s done with a cake tester. Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack. 

Then make the butter cream and get the raspberry jam out to assemble and decorate the cake.

Butter Cream

110g/4 oz butter

225g/8 oz icing sugar

Few drops vanilla essence

1-2 tbsps tepid water or milk

Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the vanilla essence and water or milk to make a soft mixture. 

How to assemble and decorate

When cold, cut the cake into 2. Spread the butter cream on one half and raspberry jam on the other and sandwich together. Then turn on their sides to form a rainbow shape. Cover one side of the cake with butter cream then decorate with smarties or coloured sweets in the order of the rainbow colours.

Grandma Meryl says : Enjoy a slice to say thankyou. Back at school now but we're still carrying on our  #bakingwithGrandma so keep checking for our Friday bakes! 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Apple of my eye

Spicy Apple Cakes

I don’t often make cakes with fruit such as apples as I sometimes the wet mixture can make the final texture too heavy but there was nothing like that with this recipe for these little spicy apple cakes. 

50g/2oz butter

150g/5oz plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 egg

50g/2oz soft brown sugar

110gml/4fl oz milk

3 baking apples

Demerara sugar for topping

Pre heat the oven to 200C/Mark 6. Melt the butter in a pan and cool slightly. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk the egg, sugar, milk and the melted butter then fold in the flour mixture lightly without over beating it. Grate 2 of the apples and fold this in carefully without over stirring. Divide the mixture into 8-9 small cake or muffin cases in a baking tin or tray. Chop the remaining apple into small pieces and arrange on top of each small cake, sprinkling demerara sugar on top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Leave to cool.

Meryl says : This is a great recipe which can be adapted with the addition of other fruits such as blueberries. You could try it out with apricots too.  

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Hurrah for mincemeat leftovers

Apple and Mincemeat Pudding

It’s not surprising that with changing plans for Christmas, I made too much mincemeat. By 2 January I still had two jars left but, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. I had enough to try out a recipe which my friend Sarah gave me a few years ago. It was one that her mum used to make and the pudding became a family tradition for New Year.

What you need

2oz/50g + 2oz/50g (for topping) butter

2oz/50g sugar

60z/175g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 large egg

3 fl oz/100ml milk

10oz/285g mincemeat

2- 3 cooking apples (depending on size)

2oz/50g demerara sugar

How to bake

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Prepare a 25cm/10inch flan dish by rubbing it with butter. Beat the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and egg together until well combined. All the milk and continue to mix until a smooth consistency. Spread the mixture over the base of the dish and then spoon the mincemeat over it. Peel and core the apples, then slice thinly. Arrange these over the top of the mincemeat. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle demerara sugar on top.  Bake for about 30 minutes until the apples are cooked. Serve with custard, crème fraiche or ice cream as you wish.

Meryl says: It’s an easy dessert to make and proved a winner with us too. Grandma has a Mincemeat Cake which is another great recipe for leftover mincemeat. You can also freeze mincemeat too for around 6 to 8 months. 'Waste not want not' as she used to say!

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Get Christmassy with Oat Ginger Biscuits

Oat Ginger Biscuits

Christmas baking is all about the fragrant spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. The warmth, aroma and seductive flavour of ginger means this spice is one of the most popular to get us into the Christmas mood. Grandma’s recipe for Oat Ginger Biscuits my favourite biscuit and it’s an easy treat to make.

What you need :

110g/4oz butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

50g/2oz soft brown sugar

110g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

110g/4oz rolled oats

1 tsp ginger (or more to taste)

2 tbsps water

How to bake :

Pre heat the oven to 375F, Mark 5, 190C. Melt the butter with the golden syrup and sugar in a pan over a low heat. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, oats and ginger) and add to the melted mixture. Mix well and add the water. Form into a dough. Leave to chill for 30 minutes. Roll into rounds on a well-greased baking tray. Bake in a quick oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from the baking tray while warm. 

Meryl says : These delicious biscuits make fantastic Christmas presents. Dip in melted chocolate, drizzle water icing or decorate with silver balls. Let your Christmas creative spirit run wild. For decorations, make a small hole with a skewer in the top of each biscuits prior to baking at the top of each biscuit.

Monday, 5 October 2020

‘Please, good missus, a soul cake …’


Soul Cake

This was the song which children sang, as they went knocking on their neighbours’ doors in the hope of winning a Soul Cake. It was most likely an early trick or treat custom from medieval times onwards and the tradition exists today in some corners of Yorkshire. As a thank you for the Soul Cakes, the children made a promise to pray for the souls of deceased relatives on All Souls Day, which falls on the day after All Saints Day (1 November) and Halloween (31 October).

So, what are these ‘Soul Cakes?’ I was given one to try when I went to do a talk to a group in Sheffield during November last year. The ‘cakes’ are really like biscuits, baked with currants and spices and decorated with the mark of a cross to show they were alms. Here’s the recipe :

What you need to make 12 to 15 Soul Cakes

175g/7oz butter

175g/7oz caster sugar

3 egg yolks

450g/1lb self-raising flour

2 tsps mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg

110g/4oz currants

How to bake

Preheat the oven to 190C/Mark 5. Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one by one. Mix the flour and spices in a separate bowl and add the creamed mixture and currants, keeping enough back for decoration. Mix together and add the milk until it becomes a fairly stiff dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1 cm (just less than ½ inch) and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Make a cross on the top of each one and decorate the lines with a row of currants. Place the biscuits on a greased or lined baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

Meryl says : You can recite or sing the Soul Cakes song before you taste these scrumptious biscuits. It goes like this :

A soul, a soul, a soul cake,

Please, good missus, a soul cake,

An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,

Any good thing to make us a merry

One for Peter, two for Paul,

Three for Him that made us all.

I’ve got a little pocket, I can put a penny in.

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,

If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you.

I love finding these old traditions. In today's challenging times, Soul Cakes fit the bill perfectly for ‘any good thing to make us all merry.’ Enjoy!