Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Lincolnshire Plum Loaf looks to its past

Lincolnshire Plum Loaf
There’s some confusion about ‘plums’ and ‘plumbs’. A ‘Lincolnshire lass’ (as she proudly described herself) gave me this recipe a few months ago. She asked me to share her Gran’s ‘Plumb Loaf’ as it was a treasured family recipe. She wasn’t sure why she had written ‘Plumb’ so we laughed when I said ‘plumb’ usually referred to lead weight whereas ‘plum’ was a traditional term for any type of dried fruit. However, she may have the last laugh as I found Elizabeth Raffald's recipe for ‘Plumb Loaf’ and ‘White Plumb Loaf’ when researching this Doncaster born cook. 
Elizabeth Raffald's Plumb Cake 
The recipes are similar but the quantities are much greater especially when it comes to eggs! 

Here’s what you need ...
Lincolnshire Plumb Loaf
2 cups/8oz/225g self raising flour
½ cup/2oz/50g butter
1 cup/4oz/110g sugar
2 cups/8oz/225g mixed fruit
2oz/50g ground almonds
2oz/50g glace cherries
1 egg (beaten)
a little milk
How to bake it ….
Preheat the oven 180C/350F/Gas 4 to Rub the butter into the flour well, add the mixed fruit, ground almonds and cherries with the sugar. Then add the egg and milk. The mixture needs to be stiff so don’t add too much milk. Put into a lined loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes approximately.

Meryl says : When checking up on ‘plums’ and ‘plumbs’ I discovered that ‘plumming’ was a term used in Victorian times to describe dried fruit as it expands. That’s why the Victorians called Christmas pudding ‘Plum Pudding’. Why not try my Great Aunt Emma’s Plum Pudding recipe.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Uncovering a Doncaster born Domestic Goddess

I enjoy doing research into Heritage baking and earlier this year, I was delighted that Doncaster Heritage Festival asked me to do some digging for a talk entitled ‘Uncovering Doncaster’s Food History’. There was a wealth of material to explore from the famous Doncaster Market  at the heart of the town since 1194 to the new Food Festival held in May. I discovered an amazing gem in the Central Library, where I poured over a copy of ‘The Experienced English Housekeeper’ by Elizabeth Raffald, originally published in 1769 and containing this tasty citrus biscuit. I've brought the recipe up to date for a modern oven.
Yorkshire Cracknels
What you need ….
8oz/225g flour
8oz/225g butter
3 eggs (yolks only)
5oz/150g sugar
2-3 tbsps water
1 lemon zest
Few drops orange extract
How to bake ….
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Rub the butter into the flour. Then add the egg yolks and sugar. Mix in the water, lemon zest and a few drops of orange extract. Form a ball with the mixture and leave to chill in a cool place for 30 minutes. Then roll out as thinly as you can. Cut rounds as large as you wish. Bake for 20 minutes in a slow oven.
More about Elizabeth Raffald ....
Elizabeth Raffald was born in Doncaster in 1733 but spent most of her adult life in Cheshire and Manchester where she has a blue plaque in her honour. She died aged 47 in 1781 but by that time she had become a true entrepreneur. She was firstly employed as a cook housekeeper by the Warburton family at Arley Hall where she honed her skills and acquired the knowledge to write her book. Together with her husband, John she moved into Manchester and there she ran a confectionery shop, a cookery school, a catering business, the first employment agency for servants, the first trade directory and a coaching inn. She created the modern version of the Eccles cake with flaky pastry and is reputed to be the first cook to design a Bride’s cake with almond paste and royal icing. 
Meryl says : Cracknells are known today more as a biscuit made with popular breakfast cereals and chocolate but I love Elizabeth Raffald’s citrus version. They make a real Heritage biscuit and a tribute to this truly domestic goddess of her time. 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Homemade Mango Chutney worth the wait

This tangy homemade Mango Chutney goes well with the usual Indian dishes but can spice up a variety of summer dishes, meats and even toasted sandwiches. I’ve made Mango & apple Chutney before from one of Grandma Abson’s Chutney recipes but this one is an easy Chutney recipe. These ingredients make about 4-5 small jars.
Mango Chutney
250g/9oz light brown sugar
600m/1 ptl white wine vinegar
4-5 mangoes (stones removed, peeled and chopped)
2 onions (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 red chilli
50g/2oz root ginger (grated)
2 tbsps lemon juice
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt
110g/4oz raisins (optional)

Boil the sugar in the vinegar in a large pan till dissolved. Chop the mangoes and onions and then add these together with the garlic, chilli and grated ginger to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Allow to simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour until the fruit is tender. Pound the seeds and cardamon in a pestle and mortar.  Add these spices, the turmeric and the lemon juice, mustard powder, and salt. Finally, add the raisins, if using. 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, sterilised jars.

Meryl’s tip : This chutney will be best eaten after a few months, when the flavours have started to combine – that’s if you can wait!

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Cook's in charge in the Great Kitchen

In Edwardian times, every large house had a Great Kitchen where the cook was in charge. At Cusworth Hall in 1901, the Great Kitchen was the domain of Eliza Haddrill, a 47 year old lady from Berkshire. She would meet her mistress, Lady Isabella every morning to decide the menus for the day and with the help of the kitchen maids, prepare meals for the family and servants.
On the recent Servants’ Day, I got dressed up as Eliza to bake some recipes for the visitors which the Servants might have eaten.  I made a Slab Cake. This is a light fruit cake which has no additional spices in the recipe so it retains a simplicity which the servants would have enjoyed. 
What you need to bake Slab Cake…
225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz sugar
5 eggs (beaten)
275g/10oz plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
110g/4oz ground almonds
225g/8oz sultanas
110g/4oz glace cherries
110g/4oz walnuts

How to bake …
Pre heat the oven Mark 2, 300F, 150C. Grease and line a 23 cm/9 inch square cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs gradually. Mix together the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, fruit and walnuts. Add these to the creamed mixture. Bake for 1½ - 2 hours.
Meryl says : This was one of Grandma Abson’s recipes which she would have made at Oakleigh when she was a cook in service in Edwardian times. This cake got the thumbs up with the visitors, alongside the Ground Rice CakeI hope you enjoy it too!

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Servants Day at Cusworth Hall

We know that at the beginning of the Edwardian era in 1901, Cusworth Hall was a grand establishment. There were 11 servants living in the Hall, including the housekeeper, butler, cook, kitchen maid, a scullery maid and 2 housemaids and many others were employed in the house and on the estate. The cook would need to provide food for all these employees as well the family and guests at the house. 

This year, Servants' Day included visits to the Servants Quarters and the Great Kitchen. I baked some of the recipes which the servants might have eaten during their daily routine. They would gather at 11.00 in the Servants Hall for morning tea and to receive instructions. The cakes the cook provided for them would have been plain, made with cheaper ingredients so I think Ground Rice Cake would have been a popular choice.
What you need …
4 eggs
225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz sugar
225g/8oz self-raising flour
225g/8oz ground rice
Few drops lemon extract or zest of 1 lemon

How to bake …
Preheat the oven to 325F, Mark 3, 170 C. Separate the egg whites and whisk well. Beat the yolks and butter to a cream with the sugar and then mix with the flour and ground rice. Fold in the egg whites. Add the lemon zest or extract. It may be flavoured with almond extract instead of lemon. Put the mixture in a lined loaf tin. Bake for approximately 1 hour.
Meryl says : Visitors to the Hall enjoyed trying out Ground Rice Cake. It reminded some of them of Ground Rice Pudding. Others liked the lemon taste and the distinct grainy texture of Ground Rice. Try it at home and see what you think. I'll be adding another recipe from Servants' Day soon so look out for Slab Cake! 

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Tutti Frutti Rhubarb Crumble goes ‘awopbopaloobop’

The young Rhubarb in the garden is starting to grow in abundance so I’m taking advantage to make one of my favourite Rhubarb recipes. We always think first of Rhubarb crumble but this recipe has a slight twist as you melt the butter for the crumble mixture rather than rub it into the flour. It also means there’s more of the fruit to enjoy and less of the topping.  

What you need
3½oz/90g wholemeal flour
2oz/50g rolled oats
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2oz/50g demerara sugar
4oz/110g butter
1lb/450g rhubarb
30g currants

How to bake …
Preheat the oven to 190C (170C Fan), 375F/Mark 5. Grease an 8 inch/21 cm baking dish. Melt the butter gently in a pan. Mix together the flour, oats, poppy seeds, and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and make up small patties from the mixture. Freeze these for 10 minutes.
Cut the rhubarb into chunks, place on a baking tray, sprinkle with demerara sugar and pre-cook in the oven for 15 minutes.  I added 2 tsps of ginger to the rhubarb while the crumble mixture freezes.

Remove the patties from the freezer and crumble in large and small pieces over the fruit. Bake for about 35 minutes until the top is golden. Allow to cool slightly. Serve with ice cream or crème fraiche. 

Meryl says : You can use this recipe with any mixed red fruits e.g. cherries, strawberries, plums, raspberries, redcurrants.  Mix 1 tbsp cornflour with 50 ml/2 fl oz water or red wine. Place the fruit in a bowl and add the cornflour mixture. Transfer the fruit to the prepared dish and continue as before with the crumble topping. You can be sure it’ll go “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!” 
Here are some more of Grandma Abson’s favourite recipes with Rhubarb and I’m busy devising a recipe for Rhubarb and Ginger Chutney – coming soon!

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Discovering a minted Yorkshire Recipe

Intrigued by an invitation to visit Queens Mill in Castleford, I was delighted to be taken a tour of the mill and site. They say that the mill’s history can be traced back to Norman times but there’s a hint that the Romans may have been grinding flour nearby.  It’s a mammoth task ahead to restore the mill and its gigantic waterwheel but it’s very clear that the ambitious vision to provide first-class community facilities is well under way and is to be highly commended.
I was privileged to be offered a bag of special Castleford Stoneground Wholemeal Flour but with the proviso that I should try out some traditional recipes! It was a challenge which I was thrilled to accept. The volunteers at Queens Mill have already put together a book of their favourite tried and tested recipes, using the unique Stoneground Wholewheat flour so I was keen to get baking.
Being a Yorkshire lass, I’m always drawn to Yorkshire recipes and discovered ‘Yorkshire Mint Pasties’ in the Heritage section of their book.  This turns out to be one of those old Yorkshire recipes which has been adapted over time as it gets passed down the generations. It can be made as a large Pasty as well as small individual Pasties. The combination of fresh mint from the garden, dried fruit and spices work surprisingly well.
Yorkshire Mint Pasties
Wholewheat Shortcrust Pastry
400g/1lb Castleford Wholewheat flour
110g/4oz butter (cut into small pieces)
110g/4oz lard
Water to mix
Rub the butter into the flour to the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Mix with water to form a ball. Leave to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.
50g/2oz butter
150g/5oz currants
150g/5oz raisins
50g/2oz candid peel
50g/2oz brown sugar
2 tbsps chopped fresh garden mint
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon water
Milk or beaten egg and caster sugar to glaze
Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Line or butter a large baking tray. Prepare the filling by melting the butter gently in a pan over a low heat and mixing in all the other ingredients. Roll out the pastry thinly. Cut out small 10cm/4 inch circles (I made about 14 small Pasties) or two large 25cm/10 inch circles for a large round Pasty.
For the small Pasties, spread the filling evenly over half the circle, and moisten the edge of the pastry with milk or beaten egg to seal the edges together. Then fold over the other half of the circle over the filling to make a crescent shape. Crimp the edges of the crescent to make a pattern. Place the Pasties on the baking tray, then brush the tops with the rest of the milk or beaten egg and sprinkle the caster sugar over them. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.

For a large Pasty, place the filling in the centre of one of the pastry circles and put the other circle on top.  Seal the edges in the same way as the small pasties. Prick all over the top with a fork, brush with milk or beaten egg, sprinkle with caster sugar and bake for 25 to 30 minutes till golden brown.
Why not give these traditional Yorkshire Mint Pasties a try and enjoy them with a cup of Yorkshire tea! Watch out for the activities at Queens Mill including special open days to visit and see how the fantastic work of the volunteers progresses.
And a huge thank you to everyone who made my visit a very enjoyable one. I can’t wait to try out some more Wholemeal baking!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

A Yorkshire Cook and her Portugal Cakes

Portugal cakes 
Elizabeth Moxon is believed to have been the first Yorkshire woman to write and publish a cookery book. Entitled ‘English Housewifry’ and dating back to 1741, the book received a well deserved blue plaque in Pontefract in March 2019 as part of the ‘ 'Forgotten Women of Wakefield' project, following the hard work of Dream Time Creative team and the support of the Pontefract Civic Society. Featuring several hundred recipes, it proved very popular and ran to several editions over the next hundred years. Elizabeth has been described as trailblazer in English culinary writing and her book is thought to have paved the way for contemporary cookery authors such as Hannah Glasse in 1747. 
Intrigued by this Georgian cookery writer, I couldn’t wait to try out her recipes for my talk on Popular Georgian baking in Wakefield Library earlier in the month. I chose Portugal cakes. They are quite like French madeleines and Queen cakes. I used half the ingredients she states and this made around 3 dozen small cakes. I've suggested temperatures and timings for a modern oven.
Portugal cakes
½ lb/450g butter
4 eggs (use 4 yolks and 2 whites)
½ lb/450g plain flour
½ lb/450g caster sugar
½ lb/450g currants
2 tsps nutmeg
Caraway seed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C degrees and line trays with bun cases. Melt the butter gently over a low heat. Remove from the heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs. Beat until frothy. Add the flour, sugar and currants and mix to form a batter. Spoon the batter into the bun cakes, filling them to two thirds. If you wish, sprinkle a few carraway seeds on top of each bun. Bake for around 14 to 16 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Let them cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Here’s Elizabeth’s original recipe from her book which has been on display in Pontefract Library :
Extract from English Housewifery by Elizabeth Moxon

246. _To make_ PORTUGAL CAKES.
Take a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of currans well cleaned, and a nutmeg grated; take half of the flour and mix it with sugar and nutmeg, melt the butter and put it into the yolks
of eight eggs very well beat, and only four of the whites, and as the froth rises put it into the flour, and do so till all is in; then beat it together, still strowing some of the other half of the flour, and then beat it till all the flour be in, then butter the pans and fill them, but do not bake them too much; you may ice them if you please, or you may strow carraway comfits of all sorts on them when they go into the oven. The currans must be plump'd in warm water, and dried before the fire, then put them into your cakes.
Guests at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque ceremony, tasted the delights of other Georgian baking from Elizabeth Moxon's book: Gingerbread, Cracknell biscuits and Seed cake. It was a great privilege to attend the commemorations for this enigmatic cookery writer.  

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Coffee time with a spicy Date biscuit

I tried this recipe from Sandra for Date and Spice biscuits out on some friends who came for coffee recently. Ginger is one of my favourite spices and it was a great way to use up the chopped dates I’d got in the cupboard.

Date and Spice Biscuits
5oz/150g chopped dates
2oz/50g brown sugar
2oz/50g treacle or golden syrup
4oz/110g butter
1 egg
6oz/175g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps ground ginger
A few sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to around 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. If the dates look dry, place them in a bowl and soak in boiling water for about 5 minutes and then drain. Beat the sugar, treacle (or golden syrup), butter and egg together in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ginger and mix well.  Add the dates and leave the mixture to chill for 20-30 minutes. Divide the mixture into about 20 biscuits (about the size of a walnut) and place on the baking tray. Press each one to flatten out. Bake for around 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.
Meryl says : To add a bit of interest, roll each biscuit in sesame seeds prior to baking.