Wednesday 13 May 2020

Lost and found in lockdown

People ask me what I’ve been missing in #lockdown and I have to say that, of course the main things I miss are my family and friends. But I know I’m also missing being out and about visiting new places and especially looking at old kitchens in historic buildings. Last summer, on one of those carefree days, I went to Basildon Park, an amazing eighteenth Century Palladian Mansion. It was developed by East India Company nabob Sir Francis Sykes and passed through various owners until the first and second world wars when it was requisitioned for use by the government. 
After that, it was left derelict until the Illiffe family lovingly restored the mansion and estate to its former glory in the 1950s. This included the kitchen where I was amazed to see all sorts of old kitchen utensils and cookery books. I could have spent hours marvelling over the intriguing assortment of equipment and a cornucopia of books. 

So it set me thinking of what’s the most useful kitchen utensil in your kitchen? I couldn’t be without Grandma’s cake tester which helps decide whether a cake is ready to take out of the oven.  This is especially useful for a cake like this one.  

Date and walnut loaf 
½lb/225g dates (chopped)
1 cup boiling water
2 oz/50g margarine or butter
1 cup sugar (about 4oz/110g)
1 egg
2 cups plain flour (about 8oz/225g)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
2 oz/50g shelled walnuts
Cover the dates with the boiling water and leave until cool. Cream the margarine (or butter) and sugar. Add the egg (well beaten) and other ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, cloves and walnuts). Finally, drain the dates and add to the mixture. Put in a bread tin ( well greased). Leave to stand for 20 minutes. Bake in a slow oven for 1 hour.  (300F, Mark 2, 150 C) 

Meryl says : This recipe came from Mrs Robson, one of Grandma’s closest friends and this was one of her signature recipes. The combination of date and walnuts gives a slightly crunchy flavour to the loaf. One to enjoy and easy to bake!