Friday 29 July 2011

Yorkshire puddings at the ready

Here in Yorkshire, God’s own country, we celebrate Yorkshire Day on 1st August. The origins of Yorkshire Day allegedly go back to the Battle of Minden during the 7 years' war in Prussia where the English defeated the French army on 1st August 1759. It was said that the heroism of Yorkshiremen from the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry won the day. But it’s also the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves which was put into law in Parliament on this date in 1834, largely thanks to the efforts of Yorkshire M.P. William Wilberforce. A more recent revival of the day came in 1975 from the Yorkshire Ridings Society.
Yorkshire folk are proud to celebrate what’s good about our county and give a boost to all those Yorkshire folk who have to live in exile elsewhere. So we celebrate by eating the world famous Yorkshire Pudding. 
Hannah Glasse
There are lots of stories about the origins of Yorkshire Puddings too.  There’s even a story about an angel giving the recipe to a kindly woman. In the middle ages, they were called ‘dripping puddings’ but the modern recipe is said to come from Hannah Glass, a famous cook in the 18th century, in her book ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’. The most common explanation is that families used it as a filler to feed children when they couldn’t afford meat. Nowadays, Yorkshire Pudding is often served as a starter to a roast or an accompaniment to a roast beef.
Grandma Abson was an expert in making perfect Yorkshire Puddings. She usually served them with gravy made from the meat juices and Raspberry Vinegar.
Grandma Abson’s Yorkshire Pudding
5 tbsps plain flour (sieved and heaped)
2 eggs
Milk to mix
Fat or oil for cooking
“Mix the ingredients to the consistency of cream. Let it stand and stir occasionally. Lift a tablespoonful of the mixture to get air in. Heat the fat in Yorkshire Pudding tins in a very hot oven. Pour in enough mixture to cover each base. Cook in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes.”  (425F, Mark 7, 220C).

Grandma’s 10 tips for perfect Yorkshire puddings :
  1. Get the fat (or oil) sizzling
  2. Get the oven really hot
  3. Use Plain not Self raising flour
  4. Sift the flour
  5. Use a wooden spoon to mix
  6. The batter should be fairly runny like cream
  7. Best leave the batter to rest for half an hour before using
  8. Don’t fill the YP tin more than one third
  9. Don’t open the oven door during cooking
  10. Serve straightaway - Grandma used to have us sitting at the table waiting!
Meryl says : I use about 4½oz/125g flour and ½ pint/275ml milk. I also find my fan oven stops my Yorkshire Puddings from rising, so I switch to a conventional heat setting to ensure they come out light and airy like Grandma’s.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Life is just a bowl of cherries

I’ve had a request from a Grandma Abson fan in France about how to cope with gluts of cherries, which are growing in abundance in his garden in southern France. Grandma Abson always make good use of gluts of fruit and vegetables in season with her collection of recipes for jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and puddings.

Over the years, my French friends have given me some wonderful dessert recipes, including one of my favourite one which can be made with cherries.
Tarte aux cerises
Line a tin or flan dish with shortcrust pastry. Prick the bottom with a fork. Stone the cherries. Cover the pastry with a layer of cherries. Bake in a fairly hot oven (200C, Mark 6, 400F) for about 30 minutes. After about 15 minutes of cooking time, pour an egg and milk custard mixture (1 egg to ½ cup of milk) over the cherries and bake until set. Allow to cool and pour over a couple of warmed tablespoonfuls of red currant jelly to make a glaze.

When I lived in France in the 1970s as a student, I  bought a jar of Cerises a l’eau de vie (cherries in brandy) for Grandma's Christmas present. She loved spooning the cherries and brandy into a little glass to have as a digestif at the end of a meal or on the top of vanilla ice cream. It became one of her favourite treats when she was in her eighties! 
 Cerises à l’eau de vie
Here's how to do it : Fill a clean preserving jar with firm cherries with half the stalks still attached. Cover with sugared brandy (½ cup of sugar to 5 cups of liquid). Seal and leave for 6 months. 
A votre santé! 

Friday 15 July 2011

Good old fashioned Afternoon tea

Victoria Sandwich perfect for afternoon tea
Summer weekend afternoons are the perfect time to try out your baking skills with plates of cakes, teabreads and scones to tempt your guests. 
I’ve been doing some teatime research to find out the difference between afternoon tea and high tea. They are both considered to be small meals in themselves and have been popular social activities since the Victorians and in particular, the Duchess of Bedford took delight in serving up teatime treats in the 1840s. The interest in them shows no sign of waning today.

Afternoon tea is generally considered to be served at 4 oclock and consists of a pot of tea, small finer sandwiches (often with cucumber and the crusts removed), scones, teabreads and cakes. These are usually cut into small portions such as squares or diamond shapes.
High tea is altogether a more substantial meal generally around 6 o’clock with a savoury to start such as ham and eggs, crumpets, cold meat, cheese or poached eggs on toast followed by scones and cake as before.
We’re planning a good old fashioned afternoon tea just like Grandma used to serve to the Edwardian family when she was in service. I’ve been making a list of my favourite recipes from Grandma’s book. It has to include Victoria Sandwich, Scones, Almond fingers, Coffee Cake and Bridlington Cake which went down exceedingly well at Grandma's baking book launch
Some of the cakes we’re going to make! 

What's your favourite cake for afternoon tea?

Friday 8 July 2011

Last minute Chocolate mini muffins

Chocolate Mini muffins 
Grandma Abson was always adept at rustling up something tempting when people dropped by unexpectedly. She had this ability to produce delicious homemade baking ‘at the drop of a hat’ from her time in service in the 1900s. At the ringing of a bell, she would be summoned to serve tea to visitors in the Edwardian House, Oakleigh, where she worked as a cook housekeeper. 

Grandma’s recipes generally take no time at all to prepare. So, when last Sunday, a friend, texted to say she and her partner were calling by, I followed in Grandma’s footsteps. My friend adores chocolate so this recipe for Chocolate Muffins is perfect with its double hit of chocolate!
Chocolate (Mini) Muffins
200g/7oz plain flour 
25g/1oz cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
115g/4oz golden caster sugar 
185g/6 ½ oz white chocolate, broken into pieces 
2 eggs 
100ml/3 ½ fl oz sunflower oil 
225ml/8floz milk

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Line a 12 muffin tin with large muffin paper cases. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and 125g/4 ½ oz of the white chocolate.  Place the eggs and oil in a separate bowl and whisk until frothy, then gradually whisk in the milk. Stir into the dry ingredients until just blended.  Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, filling each three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins and cool on a wire rack. Melt the remaining white chocolate and spread over the muffins. Leave to set, then dust the tops with a little cocoa powder.

Meryl's tip : I did adapt the recipe as I didn’t have large muffin cases but so I made Chocolate ‘mini’ muffins in smaller cases and cut the oven time by around five minutes.My friend said they were the best chocolate muffins she had ever tasted. The muffins were ready in under thirty minutes.

Have you got a recipe for something quick to bake?

Friday 1 July 2011

Hitting the right spot with cream tea

View from The Bay Hotel in Coverack
I love holidaying in Cornwall. It’s a gorgeous place to visit. This time we stayed in the fabulous Bay Hotel in a small village called Coverack on the Lizard peninsula where you wake up every morning to see the sea gently lapping on the shore.

There is a vast number of places to visit with beautiful scenery, interesting tin mines, attractive gardens and historic castles and of course you have to sample the Cornish cream teas. This generally consists of a scone, butter, jam and clotted cream, washed down with a pot of tea. It’s the perfect afternoon teatime treat.
I’m baking some Scones to remind me of the glorious Cornish cream teas, using Grandma Abson’s trusted recipe. The sultanas keep the scones moist and the scones have a perfect texture.
Grandma’s perfect Afternoon Tea Scones