#244 Grasmere Gingerbread II

Ah, the Lake District. Hugh and I were not far from Grasmere only last weekend on a little break so I thought I’d make the second of the Grasmere Gingerbreads. You can just imagine William Wordsworth tucking into these after his daffodil sandwiches of an afternoon or whatever. It’s what we would have done if it HADN’T PISSED IT DOWN all weekend. Hey-ho.

This is a bit different to Grasmere Gingerbread I in that it is made with wholemeal flour. Usually wholemeal flour based biscuits and cakes are found in the vegan health food shop and taste awful, but don’t let that put you off; these are delicious and easy to make too:

Start by sieving 8 ounces of flour along with ½ teaspoon each of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda and 3 decent teaspoons of dried ground ginger (don’t be scanty, it can take it). Rub in 6 ounces of butter and then mix in 5 ounces of soft dark brown sugar and a dessertspoon of golden syrup. You should end up with a dark rubble. Line a roasting tin or oblong pan with greaseproof paper and pour the mixture in, pressing it down firmly. Bake for 45 minutes at 160⁰C. Remove and cut into rectangles whilst still hot and cool on a rack.

#244 Grasmere Gingerbread II. Really good this one. The wholemeal flour and treacly taste combine well here to make a rich crumbly, though very slightly chewy bittersweet biscuit. I shall definitely be making these again. I reckon if crushed, they would make a very good crumble topping. Tres bon. 7/10

#226 Eccles Cakes

This time of year there is no seasonal fruit, except for champagne rhubarb, and so we have to turn to stored apples and pears or dried fruits. Some people don’t like dried fruits, but I am a definite fan, and thought an attempt at the classic Eccles cake was well overdue. There has been a bit of a disagreement in the house as to whether the recipe in English Food is actually a true Eccles cake or not – Charlotte reckons it should be made with puff pastry and Griggers (and me!) reckons a lard shortcrust pastry. A quick look in the Dairy Book of British Food gives an extra point to Charlotte. Does anyone know the true answer? Give me your opinions on this one please! I’d hope it is a lard-based answer as that seems more Northern English to me. Griggers says that if it made with puff pastry, you have a Banbury cake, which is Southern English. Oh well, we may never know.

Makes 10-12 cakes.

First of all, make some pastry using 4 ounces of lard and 8 ounces of plain flour. While it rests in the fridge make the filling: melt together an ounce of butter with 2 ounces of caster sugar, then stir in 4 ounces of currants, an ounce of candied peel, plus half a teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and allspice. Leave to cool. Roll out the pastry and cut out circles around four inches in diameter. Place a spoon of the currant mixture in the centre and bring in the pastry by its edges so that you can pinch them together. Turn the cake over and gently roll them to flatten them slightly. Make a hole in the centre, brush with a little egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake at 220⁰C for about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

#226 Eccles Cakes. Whether they are true Eccles cakes or not, these were delicious. The filling was rich, but wasn’t too sweet and I liked the spice element (which I thought wasn’t in an Eccles cake). It also reminded me how good lard shortcrust pastry is. If you’ve never tried one – give it a go. 7/10.

#208 Cumberland Plate Tart

It seems that the further north you go in England, the more desserts and teatime treats using currants and raisins there are: Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes are the ones that spring to mind. I’ve never heard of one from Cumberland before; funny, since there are actually two recipes from there in English Food.

I think these things were popular because they are very comforting and definitely a wintertime food, and it is grim Up North, as we know. It has been particularly grim at the minute – particularly around the Cumberland area – so I thought I’d give one a go. The best thing about the recipe is that it is a very good store-cupboard pud – I didn’t have to buy anything, I had it all in! Tiny things please tiny minds.

First make some shrtcrust pastry using 2 ounces each of butter and lard, 8 ounces of plain flour and some milk. Roll out half and line a deep oven-proof plate. Now make the filling: weigh out 3 ½ ounces of golden syrup. To do this, put a saucepan on your scales and tare them before adding the syrup. Add an ounce of butter to the pan and warm though gently so that the butter melts and the syrup becomes runny. Now stir in 5 ounces of either raisins or currants (or a mixture, you devil), an ounce of chopped peel, an ounce of ground almonds, ¼ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, allspice and salt and finally 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Use some egg white to brush around the edges of the pastry, roll out the last of the pastry and cover it. Crimp the edges, make a hole in the centre and then brush with more egg white and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 220⁰C, then turn the oven down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 30 minutes. She don’t say, but serve it with some cream, innit.

#208 Cumberland Plate Tart. Just what the doctor ordered! I really like this sort of dessert, but many can’t abide currants and raisins and things like that these days, so they are going out of fashion which is a big shame. What can be bad about sweet fruit, moist almonds and good old golden syrup? Bring ‘em back I say. 6.5/10

#145 Singin’ Hinnies

This is a teatime treat that I’ve been wanting to make for ages – Griggers really bigs this one up, as does her daughter Sophie. Singin’ Hinnies hail from the North East of England around Newcastle and are regarded one of the best of the griddle cakes, apparently. Everyone, no matter how rich or poor, ate them at teatime or parties. If you were lucky, you’d find a shiny sixpence inside. Health and Safety would have a field day. Singin’ Hinnies sing because of the fat content – the lard and butter make a rapid sizzling noise. The word ‘hinnie’ is a colloquialism meaning honey, a term of endearment equivalent to luv or duck.

To make the Singin’ Hinnies rub 4 ounces of butter and 4 ounces of lard into a pound of flour that has been sifted along with ¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, ½ a teaspoon of cream of tartar and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir in 6 ounces of currants (or raisins or sultanas) and finally make a firm dough using a little milk (how firm? I don’t know – but mine rather like pastry). Roll out the dough and cut out into rounds of around 2 ½ inches (how thick? again I don’t know, but I did about ½ an inch). Grease a skillet or griddle pan with some lamb fat tat’s been “speared with a fork”. I happened to have some, but if you don’t, I’m sure you could use lard. Cook the cakes until they pick up brown spots, turn them over and cook the other side. When cooked (how long? I don’t know!), open them up and add a small knob of butter to each one and keep them warm in the oven whilst you cook the rest.

#145 Singin’ Hinnies – 4/10. Disappointed with this one. I’m not sure if it was me making them incorrectly, but they were either too dry due to overcooking or too squidgy and raw tasting the middle. The currants prevented them from being inedible as did the glug of maple syrup I added too!

Recipe #5 – Pan Haggarty

Our mate Joff came round for tea last night so we had a very nice Pan Haggarty. The meal had to be veggie so the only change I made was to use groundnut oil with a dot of butter instead of lard to fry it in. Pan Haggarty is a North-Eastern dish (from Newcastle, I think) and is simply finely-sliced potato and onion layered up in a frying pan with grated cheddar, adding plenty of seasoning on the way, then frying it slowly until it cooks through and then popping it under the grill. The only difficult part would be the slicing-up of the veg, but luckily I’ve got a slicing attachment for my Kitchen Aid so it was all done in 5 minutes!

In Yorkshire, this dish is called a Pan Aggie – my uncle used to cook it. His way was to layer up potato, onion, garlic, butter and bacon, and bake it in the oven. This way is just as tasty and quite different, but it does take rather a lot longer to bake in the oven than it does to fry on the hob.

#5 Pan Haggarty: 4/5 – a great supper dish – particularly if you need to keep to a tight budget

Here’s what Joff said:
“I was very excited at the prospect of this dish and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m told it was simple to make but I couldn’t have done it! The spuds were particularly perfect. Its the sort of dish one should eat after a brisk walk on a cold, windy day. I shall give it a 4.5/5. Only reason the 0.5 is ‘missing’ is because there wasn’t any left over for a doggy bag!”

And Greg:
“My ruthless critique of Pan Haggarty is . . . yum! Basically it’s ‘I’m getting a divorce and I’ve lost my job’ style food. Comforting in the extreme. The stronger the cheddar the better I’d say and fanzy pickles/relishes are de rigour. I could a whole one to myself. I’d be sensational and go with garlic too though I reckon. Easy peasy too, esp with a Kitchen Aid slicing machine. 4/5. Well done chef.”