Friday 24 June 2011

A bit of a calamity

 A really sad cake plate
A few weeks ago, I had a bit of a calamity. When I was getting out Grandma's three tier cake stand, I broke one of the three matching plates. Like many things we all keep as family heirlooms, it isn’t worth a great deal in £ but it's the sentimental value which is the hardest to bear.

The plate is decorative pottery from the 1930s. I did a bit of research about the Parrott mark on the back and discovered that Arthur William Parrott and his brother Charles Henry Parrott operated the Albert Street Pottery in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent from c.1921 to the 1960s.  I love to see cakes, teabreads and biscuits on old fashioned patterned plates, perfect for afternoon tea so love putting up the stand with cakes just like Grandma did.

Grandma’s glorious 3-tiered cake stand 
Fortunately, I found a ceramic restorer who has experience of conserving items by invisible restoration so that they can be displayed and enjoyed again.
I never imagined that I would see the plate appear as if it had not been damaged but Doreena did a brilliant job. Here's Grandma’s plate with Paradise Cake in all its glory on the front cover of Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book. 

Friday 17 June 2011

Beside the seaside in Bridlington

Bridlington Cake
We didn’t go on holiday much in the 1950s but I do have a distant memory of day trips to Bridlington. Being a railway family, of course we always went there by train, pulled by a steam train engine, from Bolton on Dearne Railway station where we lived. 
Grandma Abson at Bolton on Dearne Railway Station 
It took around about 2 hours. Bridlington was certainly one of the popular places on the East Coast, alongside Scarborough and Filey and most Sundays in the summer, we would be busy at the station with excursions from the station. A couple of weeks before, I would go around the villages nearby with my father who was the stationmaster, pasting up handbills advertising the excursions on railway billboards. Then on the day, I would help out with handing out tickets for the journey and then collecting tickets when the passengers returned tired but happy after their trip to the seaside. Bridlington is still a popular resort with lots of things to offer with award winning beaches, the old Town and a famous spa which has just been revamped.

Meryl with Grandma Abson & (Great)Aunty Mabel  
I found this picture from a holiday we took in Bridlington in June 1952. It shows Grandma with one of her sisters, Mabel and me talking a stroll along the promenade. What do you think of my sun bonnet? And what's so intriguing in that brown paper parcel?

Bridlington Cake
Grandma had a recipe for Bridlington Cake amongst her collection. The cake takes its name from the railway excursions to Bridlington on the Yorkshire Coast. Grandma used to have this cake prepared for trips to the coast or for the arrival home. The cake has a summery lemon flavour. It was one of the most popular ones at Grandma's recipe book launchHave you got a favourite recipe named after a town or county?

Friday 10 June 2011

A splendid celebration of baking

Tea and cakes were the order of the day as we celebrated the launch of  Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking  book. Dearne Valley College  kindly hosted the event at College’s Training restaurant, The Griffin Restaurant, Wath on Dearne, Rotherham less than half a mile from where Grandma was in service. Catering and Hospitality students made up a delectable array of homemade baking treats from Grandma’s recipe collection for guests to savour. 
Bridlington cake
Banana Nut bread
Ginger snaps
Marmalade Spice cake
Raspberry buns
Victoria sandwich
My good friend, John Foster MBE, Managing Director at Fosters Bakery, also spoke about how Grandma’s recipes not only celebrate our baking heritage, but are highly relevant for all of us today and in the future, with food shortages and increased in the prices of foodstuffs. John has always encouraged and supported me and given me fantastic advice about this project.
It was a great day for me to revive Grandma’s legacy of baking, and once again I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who made it possible : students and staff at Dearne Valley College for their delectable baking, Mark and his team at FCD for combining design flair with meticulous attention to detail, Cathi at YPD for her generous advice and expertise in taking me through the publishing process and numerous family and friends, in particular our children, Katherine, Kate and Patrick and my chief quality control expert husband who have all supported me brilliantly in testing out the recipes, proof reading and myriad suggestions. Let the #baking begin!

Saturday 4 June 2011

The heavenly taste of Paradise Cake

Just under one week to go to Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book launch and the tension is mounting. I never realised how much energy and effort goes into getting a book and ebook into the marketplace. The process was so different thirty years ago when I produced a booklet of Grandma Abson’s Yorkshire recipes.

Putting Grandma's collection of recipes together has been a real labour of love. I love baking and, better still, my family and friends love consuming what I bake. Although we are driven by new technology, there’s a distinct culinary nostalgia to look back to times past. In Grandma’s recipe book, you’ll find out about traditional home baking as well as something of her life in the Edwardian period to the late 20th century.

I've chosen Paradise Cake to feature on the front cover of Grandma’s book. This cake fits perfectly in Grandma’s rich repertoire and her philosophy of simple, baking to delight our taste buds. It’s a very easy fruit cake recipe which is lighter than traditional fruit cakes and perfect for a summer’s afternoon tea with a hint of lemon.

Paradise Cake
9oz/250g flour
6oz/175g margarine or butter
6oz/175g sugar
2oz/50g nuts
8oz/225g raisins
2oz/50g mixed peel
2 oz cherries
3 eggs
Lemon extract
½ tsp baking powder

“Sieve the flour and baking powder. Beat the margarine or butter and sugar until white. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the mixture. Mix well and add the flour gradually, keeping out a little in which to mix the fruit and nuts. Add this and lastly the lemon essence. Bake for 1 – 1 ½ hours in a moderate oven.” (350F, Mark 4, 180 C)
I’m delighted that the launch of Grandma Abson’s book is at the Rockingham Training Centre, Dearne Valley College just a short distance from the street where Grandma was in service in Wath on Dearne in the early 1900s. The Catering & Hospitality students are busy selecting which of Grandma’s 200 recipes to make for the guests. I’m intrigued to find out which ones they’ll choose. I’m looking forward to a splendid celebration of traditional baking and I’m sure Grandma will be watching from her heavenly kitchen to make sure they bake to perfection!