#321 Sweetmeat Cake

This recipe is apparently Jane Grigson’s favourite of the eighteenth century sweet tarts apprently. A sweetmeat is really any delicious sweet morsel – in this case candied orange peel, but I expect you can use any candied fruit or spice. The sweetmeats are scattered in a pastry case and covered in a sweet filling before being baked. I couldn’t really find any British recipes, though I found a couple of mentions in nineteenth century stories; I have no idea where Jane got hold of this one. I expect she pored over many a book in the National Library.

I did actually find a mention in a Canadian journal from the 1910s that sweetmeat cakes were made using honey thickened with breadcrumbs as a filling – this wasn’t a surprise as this sweetmeat cake (a tart, really) was the predecessor to one of my favourite puds, the treacle tart (as an aside she gives a brief description of a treacle tart, but not a proper recipe, not sure why she didn’t include this obvious one in the book).

Well, wherever she got it from, here is the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350C).

Start off by lining a nine inch tart tin with either shortcrust or puff pastry (I went with the former). Next, chop 2 ounces of roasted hazelnuts and 4 ounces of candied peel and scatter them over the pastry.

Mix together 2 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, 6 ounces of caster sugar and 6 ounces of melted salted butter. Once thoroughly beaten, fill the tart with the mixture.

Bake for around 35 to 40 minutes until the top has turned a delicious golden brown. The tart will rise in the oven, but then sink when you take it out. Griggers says to eat it warm with cream, but it was pretty good with some nice vanilla ice cream too.

#321 Sweetmeat Cake. A fantastic and easy-to-do pud! The mixture turned into a slightly chewy toffee and its sweetness was perfectly counteracted by the still slightly bitter candied peel. Plus the hazelnuts lent a neutral earthiness and some texture. One major reason for this, I believe, is that I used home-made candied orange peel (see here for the post); it really made a difference. The bought stuff is too sweet, with too little bitter flavour and in pieces that are too small. This is well worth a try and even better than treacle tart! 10/10

#286 Candied Peel

From the odds and sods part of the last chapter of the book this one. I’ve never been particularly moved to make candied peel because I usually bake cakes on a whim and don’t really consider thinking ahead and making the chopped peel required for fruit cakes et cetera. This has all changed now I am in the United States of America. If you buy candied fruit for your cakes here they will not only contain citrus peel but also invariably a good proportion of glace cherries and pineapple. Now don’t get all tetchy America; I’m not dissing your candied fruits. Sheesh! In fact I prefer your version, but it’s just not English now, is it? And that simply will not do for the purposes of my blog.
This recipe uses the peel of two grapefruit or one ‘large, fine’ pomelo (you can get these at Asian supermarkets pretty easily) or four oranges. Slash the skins and remove the peel, pith and all. I suppose it’s a good way of using up the peel of citrus fruits instead of just throwing them away. I suppose you can follow this recipe and candy pretty much anything you like. Lemons would work. Or citrus slices. I once saw loads of whole candied fruits like plums and peaches and things like that for sale in Harrods at extortionate prices.
Back in Tudor times, people went crazy for candied fruits and it is during these times when recipes for mince pies and Christmas pudding were borne. This was due to the sudden supply of sugar from sugar cane from the West Indies. A very popular dish at the time was sweet custard tart with candied fruits and candied fish! The fools. Plus, to have black teeth was very much the rage; this meant you could afford to plenty of sugar!
Once you have removed the peels, boil them, covered, for a good fifteen minutes. Drain them and repeat this process once, twice, or thrice again until the peel is tender and the bitterness is ‘at a palatable level’. Now drain them and let them cool.
 Now either leave them as they are or cut into strips. You can use the strips as an after dinner sweetmeat if you like. If so cut them into nice neat long rectangles if you want to do that. Dissolve ten ounces of white sugar in a quarter of a pint of water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add the peel. Boil steadily, stirring occasionally until all the syrup has been absorbed. This takes around half an hour.
Now drain the peel in a metal sieve and then leave to cool, spread out on kitchen paper.
Keep them in an airtight tub and chop whenever required for cakes. You can roll them in some more sugar or dip them in melted chocolate to serve with coffee if you like.
#286 Candied Peel. I quite enjoyed making these – quite a therapeutic process; just right for a Sunday afternoon activity. Easy too – I was expecting it to be tricky. I was imagining a spluttering tub of boiling sugar and third degree burns, but it was all quite tame. I haven’t used them for anything yet, but I did have a taste and they were very, very good. Very sweet of course, but still had lots of zesty zing left in there and a million miles away from the bought stuff. What shall I candy next? Suggestions below please! 8/10.

#56 Stuffed Monkey

Well I do have some catching up to do! I’ve been cooking loads – not all Grigson dishes, but a few. Trouble is, life keeps getting in the way, and I can’t find time to write everything up. Also, I’m knackered. And lazy.

A good excuse to do a recipe is cake day at work – every Wednesday – so I thought I’d look through the book to find something to make where I’d got all the ingredients in the store cupboard, and came across (#56) Stuffed Monkey; a favourite of Jane Grigson’s. She lifted it herself from a book of Jewish Cookery, but has no idea what makes it particularly Jewish, or indeed what it has to do with monkeys. If anyone knows please tell me. Although Jewish, it does have an English feel to it – it’s basically an almond and candied peel filling sandwiched between two rounds of very sweet pastry that’s almost shortbread in texture and flavour. When baking, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s ready or not, so add an extra 5 to 8 minutes to the cooking time I’ve given if you think you would prefer your Stuffed Monkey more biscuity. Don’t worry, no monkeys were harmed in the making of this sweetmeat.

Here’s how to stuff your very own monkey:

Make a sweet-spiced pastry by mixing together 6 ounces of flour and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Rub in 4 ounces of chilled butter that has been cubes until fine breadcrumbs are formed. I always to this with a mixer set on a slow speed these days as it stops the butter softening and turning it to a paste too early. If you don’t have a mixer, use your fingertips. Mix in 4 ounces of soft brown sugar and an egg yolk, and bring the mixture together with your hands to form a dough. If it is too dry to come together add a teaspoon or two of milk. Allow this to rest in the fridge for half an hour, or the freezer for half that time.

Whilst you wait for this, make the filling by beating together 1 ½ ounces of melted butter, 2 ounces each of chopped peel and ground almonds, 1 ounce of caster sugar and an egg yolk.

Roll out half the pastry so it fits in the bottom of an 8 inch cake tin, spread the filling over the top, then roll out the other half and place on top. Brush with egg white and bake for 30 minutes at 190 degrees C. Cool in tin.

TOP TIP: Sweet pastry is a tricky bugger to roll and lift without it braking apart, so roll it on cling film that’s been floured. You can pick it all up at once without tearing.

#56 Stuffed Monkey – 5.5/10. It was an unusual sweet biscuity with a wonderful chewy citrus and marzipan flavored centre. I found it a little dry, however I think I may have overcooked it a little (I added an extra few minutes to the cooking time). That said, it got polished off pretty quickly and many people went for seconds, so what do I know!?