Friday 25 November 2011

Stir It Up for Christmas

Stir it up in the Great Kitchen at Cusworth Hall
Wishes were in the air at Cusworth Hall Doncaster last weekend. Stir Up Sunday (the last Sunday in the church year) is the day when everyone has a go at stirring the Christmas Pudding mixture and makes a wish. June, Hazel (alias Mary and Rose) and I put on freshly laundered aprons and caps worn by the former kitchen staff in the Hall and reenacted preparations for Stir Up Sunday in the kitchens at the Hall, just as in the 1900s.
Stir it up and make a wish   
We made the Plum Pudding recipe from Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking. The Victorians called raisins 'Plums' hence the traditional name for Christmas Pudding. Grandma generally made her own Christmas Puddings a few weeks before Christmas and tied them up with clean cloths such as muslin or cotton. The recipe comes from her elder sister, Emma. It makes 3 large puddings so I’ve cut it down here to make one for a 2 pint basin.

275g/10 oz currants
150g/5 0z sultanas
150g/5 0z stoned raisins
75g/3 oz mixed peel
150g/5 0z (vegetarian) suet
150g/5 0z breadcrumbs
150g/5 0z self raising flour
150g/5 0z  (soft brown) sugar
 25g/1 oz flaked almonds or chopped  nuts
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch  of salt
2 eggs (beaten)
1/3 small can stout
A little milk

Mix all the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, then the stout and milk. Mix all well. Cover with greaseproof paper. Steam or boil for 4 hours. Store in a cool place until Christmas Day. Then, steam for 2 hours prior to serving on the day.”
Steaming the Plum Pudding 
(see below to microwave it)
Meryl's tips for a perfect Plum Pudding
1.     If you don’t have a steamer, you can put the pudding basin in a large pan on an inverted saucer or small plate and pour water to about ¼ of the side of the basin.
2.    Keep topping the water up in the pan so it doesn’t boil dry.
3.    Always test with skewer – if the skewer comes out clean, then it’s fully cooked. If it still sticks to the skewer then cook for a minute or so longer.
4.    And just in case … You can do all this in a microwave and make a microwave Christmas Pudding. Cover the pudding in cling film and for the first stage, cook on medium power for around 20 minutes. Then leave to cool, recover with fresh cling film (or foil) and store in cool place as before. On Christmas Day, remove the foil and cover with cling film, reheat for 6-8 minutes on a moderate heat.
5.    Whatever the method for cooking, leave the pudding to stand  for a few minutes before serving and prepare Brandy Butter, Custard or cream – whatever you like best. We always have Rum Sauce.

Paul says : 'I’ll try a piece of cake too!

Friday 18 November 2011

Be enterprising and try something new

 Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco  
One of my favourite activities is as a volunteer Trustee and chair of the local Board for YoungEnterprise. This organisation is close to my heart as it’s all about promoting an entrepreneurial spirit amongst young people. I know Grandma would have approved of anyone rolling their sleeves up and getting involved.
Being a Yorkshire lass born and bred, ‘awesome’ is not a word which frequently forms part of my vocabulary but I would use it to describe the week I spent in San Francisco at the University of California, Berkeley Haas school of Business on behalf of Young Enterprise and as a guest of Intel. I was at the Global Entrepreneurship Leadership Symposium (GELS)    during Global Entrepreneurship week. The participants comprised over 60 academics and affiliates from all over the world. We visited Intel HQ at Santa Clara at the heart of the world’s exemplar cluster of innovation, the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley. Though coming from very different backgrounds and cultures, we all shared a common commitment to improving the world we live in by supporting and mentoring young budding entrepreneurs.
I didn't lose the chance to swap recipes too. This is from a Canadian Grandma who lives in Montreal. It's an awesome cake! 
 Honey Orange Cake
6oz  (175g) butter or margarine
6 level tbsps honey
2 tbsps castor sugar
Finely grated rind 2 oranges
3 eggs
8 oz (or 8 heaped tbsps) plain flour
3 level tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp orange juice

Cream the butter, honey and sugar thoroughly together. Add the rind. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little sieved flour with each egg. Fold in the remaining flour and orange juice. Put into a 6 inch (16cm) cake tin lined with greaseproof paper. Bake in a moderate oven Mark 3, 325F, 160-170C for 1 ¾ hours.

Don’t forget to send me any of your favourite baking recipes from far and wide. Be enterprising and try something new!

Friday 11 November 2011

Home on the Range

The Kitchen range at Cusworth Hall Doncaster
Grandma worked with coal, gas and electric ovens during her life. Her early years had been spent cooking on black-leaded Yorkshire ranges. Having a kitchen range was really a marvel for housewives from the nineteenth century when foundries began making good-quality cast iron. This followed on from the first design of kitchen ranges by Thomas Robinson in 1780. In Victorian times the Range was at the centre of family life, providing cooking facilities, hot water and heat to dry clothes.
As a young girl, Lizzie Cave (later Grandma Abson) lived in the small two up-two down terraced house which had a black leaded range. As second eldest in the family, she often said she had to knead half a stone of bread dough before she went to school. Later, working as Cook in charge in the kitchens at Oakleigh, a large imposing Victorian house in Wath on Dearne for her employer, Mrs Hick, gave her that mysterious knowledge of what was the “right temperature” for her baking.  As a result, she never was too explicit about cooking times and temperatures, with slow, moderate and quick as common descriptions. In Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking, I've included a cooking conversion table for different types of ovens and suggested times and oven temperatures.  Keep in mind that modern fan ovens should be at a cooler temperature than conventional ovens and may require slightly less cooking time.
Her reply to the question: “When will it be ready?”  was usually, “When it’s done”! She did, however, make regular use of a thin cake skewer or cake tester (rather like a thin knitting needle) to stick in the cake and check if the baking was thoroughly cooked. If it was cooked, there would be no trace of the mixture when the skewer was taken out, but if traces of the mixture remained on the skewer, then it needed further cooking time. I still have her skewer and use it for checking when baking cakes.
It’s great to see there are still ranges to admire around the country. There’s a range at Clifton Park Museum Rotherham, which was restored in 2005 to working order. You can go to visit and feel the warm glow of the range and reminisce about toasting teacakes by the fire. 
Many Yorkshire folk claim that Yorkshire Puddings can only be made properly in an old-fashioned kitchen range but don’t let that put you off making them in your oven at home. Just get the oven hot and the fat sizzling!

Friday 4 November 2011

Bonfire Night Parkin

Yorkshire Parkin for a Bonfire Night treat 
I love it when I see the striking fiery reds and golds of autumn leaves. It’s like a countryside shout out for Bonfire Night where the traditional blazing bonfire, sparkling fireworks and the guy reminds us of 5 November 1605 when Guy Fawkes was arrested in the Houses of Parliament in the famous gunpowder plot.
It’s time for a favourite traditional Yorkshire recipe  

Yorkshire Parkin

225g/8oz self raising flour

450g/1lb medium oatmeal

1 tsp ginger
Pinch of salt
110g/4oz butter
225g/8 oz treacle 
(or 110g/4oz black treacle & 110g/4 oz golden syrup)
110g/4oz demerara sugar
1 egg beaten
150ml/¼pint milk  
Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Melt the butter in a pan with the treacle and demerara sugar. Mix well with the dry ingredients. Add the egg and milk. Bake in a flat tin in a warm oven for ¾ to 1 hour. (300F, Mark 3, 150 C)  

Don’t let the mixture boil

Mix well
 Yorkshire Parkin ready for the oven

Grandma’s tips for perfect Yorkshire Parkin : 
Leave the mixture overnight to let the oatmeal fully soak into the treacle. 
It should be sticky and moist so don’t let the melting treacle, butter and sugar boil.
Parkin gets better i.e. stickier if you leave it a few days before eating. That's if you can wait until it’s cooled down out of the oven!

Enjoy Bonfire Night but be safe and take care with the fireworks!
Remember, remember the 5th of November