Saturday 28 January 2012

Desert Island baking

Afternoon Tea in London
When I’m in the kitchen, I'm always listening to the radio. BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs always produces some interesting choices. The interviewer asks the interviewee or ‘castaway’ to choose 8 pieces of music, a luxury item and a book to have with them on the desert island. Whilst I’d have to think hard about which music to choose, I’d have little hesitation in asking for an oven, a supply of baking ingredients and Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking book to keep me happy.
I’m going to be working with students from the University of Huddersfield  to produce some video clips of traditional baking techniques and a range of recipes, as part of my mission to keep Grandma’s baking legacy alive. I’m very excited about doing this with final year undergraduate media students who will be carrying out all the stages of planning, shooting and editing footage.
I want to find out which recipes will be the ones you want to see. I asked Milan, who’s in charge of the students, which recipes he would choose and he told me his favourite cake is Victoria Sandwich. I’m well impressed as he’s a skilled home chef who loves cooking regularly for family and friends.  
Over the next 4 weeks, I’ll be doing a poll on Grandma Abson's Facebook page to see which cakes, buns, teabreads, biscuits, puddings, jams and chutneys you’d like me to bake.
Take a look at what we made for Afternoon tea in London last summer. What would you choose for desert island baking?

Saturday 21 January 2012

A sweet treat for Burns Night

There's a Scottish welcome in January with Burns Night on 25 January celebrating the life, songs and poetry of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, born on 25 January 1759.

Haggis is the traditional dish to serve on Burns Night, accompanied by Tatties (mashed potato with a dash of nutmeg) and Neeps (mashed swede or turnip with a touch of ginger). But what do you serve up as dessert or pudding on Burns Night? My proud Scottish friend, Fiona,who is an amazing cook has a traditionally Scottish Prune and Whisky Tarte which she makes every year for her family and friends as well as her own Haggis!
Fiona’s Prune and Whisky Tarte

8 inch (21cm) flan tin
8oz (225g) shortcrust pastry
8oz (225g) dried prunes (those stoned ready to eat D’Agen prunes are best)
4floz (100ml) double cream
2 eggs
3oz (75g) caster sugar
2oz (50g) ground almonds
2 fl oz (50ml) malt whisky 
Zest of one orange finely grated
1oz (25g) butter

Line the flan tin with pastry, prick and leave in fridge to rest. Preheat the oven to 400F, Mark 6, 200c. Whisk the cream, eggs, sugar, almonds and zest in a large bowl. Melt the butter and add to the egg mixture and whisk again. Arrange the prunes on the bottom of the flan and pour the egg mixture over. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. When cooked, drizzle the whisky over the top and serve warm.

This recipe sounds quite decadent! Slainte Mhath! Happy Burns Night! Have you got a Scottish recipe to share?

Friday 13 January 2012

Celebrating New Year Welsh style

Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda
There is a small corner of Wales where they celebrate New Year on 13 January. People living in the Gwaun Valley in Pembrokeshire follow the ancient Julian calendar, which the rest of the UK stopped using in 1752 when it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar.  People celebrate 'Hen Galan’ with traditional songs to 'let in' the coming year and to wish everyone health and happiness. The children receive gifts of homemade biscuits or sweets. 

I love Wales and have lots of happy memories of many visits to Wales when my Uncle Albert lived there so this seems a good excuse to bake and join in the celebrations. 

Grandma Abson has lots of easy recipes to bake with children. Here's one with an orange and plain dark chocolate. 
Chocolate Orange Biscuits
5 oz/150g margarine or butter
3 oz/75g caster sugar
8 oz/225g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
3 oz/75g plain chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
Grated rind of an orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Pre heat the oven to 350F, mark 4, 180C. Beat the margarine or butter until it’s light and fluffy. Then sift the flour and baking powder straight onto the creamed mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and work the mixture together until you get a fairly stiff paste. Roll out into a floured working surface, about ¼ inch thick. Using a 2 inch plain cutter, cut out the biscuits and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them with a little extra caster sugar and bake for about 20 minutes or until the biscuits are a nice golden colour. Remove from the oven, leave to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack. Store in an airtight tin.
Sunny days in Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey, Wales 

Friday 6 January 2012

Start the year with ginger spice

Sticky Ginger Cake
Start the New Year with something new and Grandma’s baking is no exception. I love trying out new and old recipes which are easy and quick to make from simple ingredients. This recipe is a one passed on to me by my nephew, John who has inherited a huge collection of recipes from Nanan. It has the added bonus of my favourite ginger spice.

Sticky Ginger Cake
4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (100g) brown sugar
8 oz (225g) golden syrup and black treacle (I used half and half of each)
2 eggs
8 oz (225g) plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
2 oz (50g) walnuts chopped
2 oz (50g) sultanas
2 tbsp warm milk

Grease and line a square or loaf tin (I used a square 9 inch tin) with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup/black treacle in a pan but do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before adding the beaten eggs. Sift the flour and ginger together and stir in the sultanas and chopped walnuts. Pour the treacle mixture into the flour mixture and beat well together. Stir in the milk and the bicarbonate of soda. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 ½ hours at 325F, Mark 3, 170C for around 1 ½ hours. Reduce the heat if necessary after an hour. Allow to cool partially in the tin before turning it out onto a wire rack.

Meryl's tip : This cake keeps well for 4 to 5 days and improves over that time. So why not give it a try. It only takes under 10 minutes to prepare and then it’s in the oven so no excuse about finding time to bake a treat!

On 6 January in France they celebrate the Day of the Kings or Epiphany. If you want to make something special for this, have a look back at my post New Year baking for a wonderful Galette de Pommes.