#104 Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I’ve heard of the lardy cake and once saw someone making one on telly. I remember thinking that it looked pretty marvellous. For those of you that have never heard of lardy cakes, they’re basically a sweet sticky bun, but instead of enriching it with butter, lard is used; it’s layered along with sugar and mixed fruit through white bread dough. These ingredients meld together to make a moist, sticky and very rich teatime treat. It is quite possibly the least healthy thing I’ve ever cooked, and Jane Grigson reckons it’s on the “skinny side”!

Start off by making some bread dough using a pound of flour (follow this method if you don’t have your own recipe, but adjust amounts accordingly). Whilst you’re waiting for it to rise, measure out 6 ounces of lard and chop it up, 6 ounces of mixed dried fruit, 2 ounces of mixed peel and 6 ounces of granulated sugar. Once the dough had risen, and you’ve knocked it back, roll it out into a long oblong and spread the first two thirds of it with a third of the lard, fruit, peel and sugar. Fold this into thirds and press or tuck the ends under, give it quarter turn and roll out the dough again. Repeat this process two more times so that all the fruit and sugar are used up. Place the rolled up dough in a large tin that is oblong or square in shape and let the dough prove. Bake for 35-45 minutes at 220ºC. Turn it out onto a plate so that the sticky side is facing up and so that the lard can soak through the bread. Serve warm or cold.

#104 Wiltshire Lardy Cake – difficult to score this one; we tried it warm and it’s either 9/10 or 2/10. It’s tastes really sweet and is beautifully sticky with lovely plump juicy raisins, but has the bizarre savoury meatiness of the lard. I think if I were to cook it again, it would have to be even more skinny than Griggers’ measurements. However, once it was cool, it did taste less, er, meaty. Give it a go – easy and cheap to make, so I think I’ll go with a final score of 7/10.

A Trip to Anglesey

Off we went: me, Greg, Joff, Charlotte, Kate and Pete to Newborough in Anglesey, Wales. I’d never been and was looking forward to it; Charlotte had just got back from Australia and it was her birthday. I idea was to have a picnic on the beach, and it was up to me to bake a cake. It wasn’t a Grigson however, but a milk chocolate cake, a Buttery family favourite from my Mum’s Be-Ro book (a staple for anyone’s recipe book shelf in my opinion). The day started out rainy and miserable, but as promised, Newborough has it’s own microclimate and we were sunbathing and swimming in the sea, with rather severe burning of the face and corned-beefing of the legs.

I did get a chance however to redo the Cornish pasties. This time they turned out much better; it seems I was correct in my review, you need to incorporate the lard very slowly into the flour. In fact, I made it in two half-sized batches just to be on the safe side. The pastry was delicious and was very different to a normal butter or half-butter-half-lard pastry. I’m not quite sure why – it just had a more appropriate flavour. It’s difficult to describe, I suppose it’s like comparing chips cooked dripping to those cooked in vegetable oil: you can’t taste beef dripping, but they taste so much better.

Because of these revelations, the pasties are being promoted from a score of 2/10 to 7/10.

FYI: there is much debate as to how the word pasty should be pronounced. Should it be with a long ‘a’ or a short? Griggers reckons a long ‘a’ since Cornish pasties come from ‘Down South’, but I think it should be short as it makes them sound more homely. Rick Stein agrees, apparently.

#70 Cornish Pasties

When we all thought about going out for the day picnicking, the first thing I thought of making was a Cornish pasty; easy to make and easy to eat. The whole idea is that they are hardy. I’d never made one before, but knew that it was pretty straight forward…

Start off by making the pastry. Cornish pasty pastry should be made with lard as the only fat, apparently. Grigson doesn’t give much instruction on how to make pastry other than, fat and flour are to be used in a ratio of 1:2. To make two large pasties I used a pound of flour and 8 ounces of chilled, cubed lard. It sounds a lot, but these are big pasties! Start off by rubbing the flour into the fat, along with a pinch of salt. Use the tips of your fingers, or the appropriate attachment on your food mixer. I usually go for the mixer as it doesn’t make the fat warm up like fingertips do. Don’t be tempted to put the mixer on a high speed; use the lowest setting possible (see review, below). Let the pastry rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop up a pound of beef – use skirt, chuck, or as I did, top rib. Make sure all the fat and gristle is cut off. Chop a four-ounce onion, and thinly slice 3 ounces of turnip and 8 ounces of potato. Mix the vegetables and meat in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper – do not skimp – plus a pinch of fresh or dried thyme.

pasty filling

Divide the pastry into two and roll one half to the size of a large dinner plate, pile in half the mixture in a line down the centre of the pastry circle, pull up the sides and crimp them together using water as glue.

pasty crimp
Place it on a baking tray and brush with egg. Repeat with the other half. Bake for 20 minutes at 200ºC, then turn down the oven to 180ºC for a further 40 minutes.

#70 Cornish Pasty – 2/10. The first disaster of the project! I’ve given the recipe because I know what I did wrong – because I was making such a large amount of pastry, I tried to hurry it along by turning the speed of my mixer too high. The result of this is the fat didn’t form ‘breadcrumbs’, it softens too early and doesn’t get incorporated properly. If you are making it, heed my advice! It would perhaps make two lots of pastry, using half the required amounts of fat and flour. The filling was delicious , but the pastry turned into dust, I couldn’t even get them of the baking tray without them collapsing. Instead I ate the filling with a spoon, and threw the rest in the bin. I am going to try them again next week.*

pasty baked

*and I eventually did and that’s what the photos are of – just to prove they can be made properly! Neil – August 20202