This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Gift of Peace

This Christmas Max has been given a wonderful gift  - peace - for when I woke up this morning I found that some nasty robbers (according to my granddaughter) had stolen my voice.

Instead I have been left with two others; one is merely a whisper and the other is so deep that it could give Paul Robeson a run for his money.    Both take a lot of effort. 

Silence is the best option.

Otherwise it has been a lovely day.   The telephones and skype have been busy, busy, busy as we catch up with family and friends.   Other friends have stopped by for a visit and in between times I have supervised my granddaughter (4 years old) as she made and decorated Christmas biscuits.

The house is warm and welcoming, lots of twinkling lights and big Christmas candles.  Freshly cut holly, ivy, and rosemary scent the rooms and the old place looks very cosy.

Tomorrow morning will start fairly early as two of our grandchildren just live on the other side of the garden, they will be across before 8am to open presents.     They, their parents and Miles and Poppy will gather at Parsonage Cottage for my special Christmas Day breakfast - scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, croissants, bacon butties, according to taste.     

We'll attend the morning service at our tiny, local church, walking home across the fields.

My son-in-law is chef for the day and he'll be doing Christmas Dinner for ten.    I'll simply provide a few of the side dishes and an alternative to Christmas pudding.       I love having all these talented cooks in the family, I am so happy to hand over the cooking crown!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a Very Happy New Year. xxx

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Mince Pie Tasting and Diana's Secret!

The Christmas Bazaar was a resounding success - the hall was packed to the gunnels with people having a good time and showing their support.

I'll write more about the event on my other blog.   This post is simply about the Mince Pie Tasting Competition.

This was a fun, and free, event where mince pies were presented (in tiny anonymous pieces) for the public to taste test and judge. 

The seven bakers who produced the goods, did us proud.       The public took it very seriously as they nibbled and munched their way through the offerings, some coming back for seconds.

Notes were taken, decisions made, then votes were posted in the small wooden post box which has long been a favourite toy of all my grandchildren.    It was perfect for the job.

There was a clear winner.    Diana, a local farmer's wife.   She was shocked and surprised as she had only entered to make up the numbers.

Diana's Secret?   Orange juice!   In place of water, she used orange juice in the pastry.   It worked brilliantly.    The pastry didn't taste of orange, but had a zing which enhanced the filling.    Well worth a try.

She got my vote, too.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Dog Biscuits and Planning

Apart from day to day meals and the occasional cake-baking session, I have been busy with other things, so my experiments with old recipes have ground to a temporary halt.

There are Christmas Fairs, parties, and events looming, as well as Halloween and Bonfire Night.   All of these require baking and support of one kind or another.  

Experimental biscuits are my next small project, dog biscuits!    I have a book which is packed with scrumptious-sounding recipes, for dogs.    I have picked out two particularly appealing ones, appealing to me, that is.   Not sure how they will go down with Dobson and his canine friends, so I shall have to make them and see.

The first one contains, rice flour, dates, walnuts, carob powder and other surprising ingredients.    The book is devoted to canine health and nutrition, so I hope this holds true of the treats and that the dogs actually want to eat them.   I'll let you know.

The second one contains garlic, parsley, oats, yeast and a meaty brew and I can well imagine them appealing to Dobson.  

This kind of baking is ideal for in the Rayburn.   After baking they need to be dried out in a warm oven for seven hours, so the lower oven will be the ideal place for them, they can be left in there overnight.

Then it is down to the dogs and the taste test.

I'll let you know.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Baking with Pears

Just two miles down the road there is a wonderful fruit farm and at this time of year the apples and pears are really coming into their own.

We love fresh pear juice and treat it as a seasonal delight.     Now is the season.    Every now and then I feel a little guilty at sending those beautiful golden fruits through the juicer, so today I decided to bake with them.

The nights are getting cooler, so are the mornings, so I wanted something slightly warming.   Pear, Ginger and Walnut Cake fits the bill.

It was actually a recipe which called for pecan nuts, but I didn't have any of those in the pantry.  Walnuts seemed the obvious substitute.       The recipe also called for preserved ginger, nope, none of that either - so I used crystallised instead.

Had I worn my glasses, I would have read that everything needed to be chopped up reasonably small - I didn't wear my specs so everything was chopped to a rather rustic standard.

The original recipe can be found on bbcgoodfood.com and is called Sticky pear and ginger cake  (food/recipe etiquette dictates that I should not give their recipe in full).

It is one of the easiest cakes I have ever made, although you do have to allow a fair bit of time for the first stage of the process to cool down for an hour.

Other than that it is a doddle, no creaming the fat and sugar, they get melted  in a saucepan, along with dates, ginger and milk.   Really simple stuff!   The rest of the ingredients, flour, spices, etc are stirred in later.   It is that easy!

The baking time is quite protracted, about one hour and twenty minutes, but the batter is packed with delicious things - pears, walnuts, ginger and dates, so it's not surprising really.

The original recipe now calls for the cake to be drenched in a brandy syrup - wouldn't you know it, no brandy - so I just served it as it came.   I imagine it would be excellent with the brandy syrup.

People came back for seconds, so I guess they enjoyed it.

There are so many pears just waiting to be picked so I think I'll be posting a few more pear recipes yet.

It's also time to pick elderberries to make elderberry rob and rosehips to make syrup.

Busy times.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Art of Soup

The demonstration and talk at the Little Bunting Village Hall was a great success  (Parsonage Cottage Blog) vegetables were chopped and beautiful artwork was created.   Everyone got to take their creation home with them, but that still left quite a heap of unused vegetable slices and shapes.

I couldn't let them all go to waste so some were fed to the hens.     The bulk of the vegetables just cried out to be made into soup - I just had to chop up a couple of onions, the rest had been done by Poppy.   Soon the soup was simmering on the hob.

Soup needs croutons, so I cubed some of the bread I had baked earlier in the week, drizzled it with olive oil and then popped the tray into the Rayburn for 20 minutes until they were golden and crisp.  
Add a little grated cheese and chopped spring onions to garnish the soup and there we have a cheap and nourishing meal, with plenty left for tomorrow.

So don't worry, Poppy, nothing was wasted.

Saturday, 17 September 2016


Yesterday was a chilly, wet, and miserable day.

The canny cats decided to stay indoors and toast themselves in Cosy Corner, enjoying the heat from the Rayburn.

 I decided to bake.   Bread.  

One thing lead to another and I ended up with these.

The small ones are roughly the size of those miniature Hovis loaves which I remember from my childhood.   My grandchildren love the novelty of having a whole loaf to themselves every bit as much as my brothers and I used to.


Bread rolls for my grandchildren, a loaf for Miles and Poppy, and a loaf for us.   Happiness all round.

I used one of my favourite recipes by Dan Lepard,  his Sour Cream Sandwich Loaf recipe.  I didn't have sour cream in the house, but hey, so what!   I improvised and used some Greek yogurt instead - we always have a supply of that - and it worked just as well as ever.

The bread is light and fluffy and a pleasure to eat either buttered, or in a sandwich.   It also makes the best toast ever.  

One day I plan to explore some of the many bread recipes in my old books, I'll need to do some arithmetic and scale down the quantities.  They often call for "a peck of flower"  and I believe that a peck is something like 2 imperial gallons in volume...   I'll leave that all for another day!

I also found time to use some more apples.

This time I used a Tamasin Day Lewis recipe, taken from her book, "Kitchen Bible".    

It was a sublime apple pie, despite the rubbish photograph;  the  recipe has made it into my book of favourites.

Sprinkled among the apples was a mixture of molasses sugar, orange and lemon zest plus juice,  nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, with tiny dabs of butter.     Heaven in a pie, far too nice, far too moreish.

I also made a Lemon Drizzle Cake for Poppy's birthday cake.    

Next year I hope to be writing about how we make Moon Cakes for the Chinese Festival which I told you about on my other blog.   

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Stottie Cakes

Stottie Cakes were recently mentioned in a post by local-kiwi-alien, culinary memories began to stir and I decided to find a recipe for them.

Stotties are  flat round buns of slightly  dense and chewy bread, very popular in the North East.

I had never even heard of Stottie Cakes until I met my husband.   But then again, I hadn't had pease pudding hot or pease pudding cold either.    He is a Geordie, though you would scarcely know it these days.  His accent only comes out when he gets together with his three brothers.

There are lots of recipes out there but the dough I chose to make was this one:

2lbs Strong Flour
3 teaspoons salt
3 oz fat
1 sachet quick action yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
half a pint tepid milk
half a pint tepid water

Mix the salt into the flour, rub in the fat.  Stir in the sachet of yeast and the sugar.   Make a hole in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid.  Draw it all together and knead until the mixture is smooth and elastic, approx 10 minutes.

Leave to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1-1.5 hours.

Gently knock back, then divide into the number of cakes you want to make.  I made ten out of the dough, but next time I will make them a little smaller.    Either roll them out and cut them or shape them into rounds and flatten them.   Press a wooden spoon handle in the middle, almost all the way through.    Prick the top a few times with a fork and bake for approximately 15 minutes at 220 C.

They don't look anything special, and I haven't eaten enough Stotties to know whether they tasted authentic.      I made Max a ham salad sandwich (alas, no pease pudding) and waited for the verdict.

He loved it and said it was just as he remembered them from boyhood.

To me they taste just like the bread rolls which my mother used to make.   We were both happy.  Some have gone into the freezer for another day, the rest have been enjoyed fresh.

Definitely a dough I will be making again.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

School Meals

This week I have done a mountain of cooking.  

Lasagne, homemade pizzas, Macaroni Cheese, Corned Beef Hash, Lincolnshire Sausages and Mash with plenty of good gravy. 

It has felt as though I am back in a time warp, cooking for my family when they were younger.   

After school meals for two of our grandchildren.

They come in hungry as hunters.   The routine is: shoes off, say hello to the cats and Dobson, wash hands, sit down and tuck in while Grandpa tells them a story.

We all enjoy it.

I just wish they both liked more of the same things.  These limited dishes will become rather dull.   Trouble is I don't want to get into cooking two completely different meals each day, though I don't mind doing extra vegetables to suit their individual tastes, because I had enough of that when my own children were young.

We'll gradually get a suitable (for Gran) menu sorted out, then I just need to make sure that it doesn't clash with either of their school lunch menus.  

Several portions of the pasta meals have been frozen, ready for those days when I don't have much time.

Puddings are much easier, fresh fruit is popular, yogurts, even apple crumble and custard disappeared at a rate of knots.

*   *   *

Meanwhile, Bramble Vodka has now been made and is sitting in the pantry, alongside the Sloe Gin.   

Elderberry Rob will be the next brew, that should be any time now. We need to get some bottles of that laid down before the winter flu bugs start their annual rounds.

The grandchildren often bring the coughs and colds home with them.  They are scarcely troubled by them but Max sometimes find these things difficult to shake off.    

We like to keep a few natural remedies in the store cupboard.  If all else fails, there is always the Bramble Vodka, or the Sloe Gin...

*   *   *

Later today I hope to finally get some Stottie Cakes made.   Watch this space.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Gin and Sloes

Take one large bottle of gin, some sugar, a couple of drops of almond extract, and some sloes...

It is time to get the sloe gin made, if you want it to be ready for the end of December and those cold winter evenings.

Yesterday, as I walked Dobson around the local fields, I noticed some large and very ripe sloes.   Today I harvested them.

By the time I had cleaned them, picked them over and washed them, there remained a pound and half of the beauties, exactly the right amount for using up the litre of gin which Miles and Poppy gave to us a couple of months ago.

Everyone has a slightly different recipe but the basic ingredients are gin, sloes, sugar, almonds or almond extract, some don't bother with either.

Sterilise a wide-mouthed  jar by washing in hot water and rinsing well, then place on a baking tray in an oven which has been preheated to approx 120 C, keep it in there for approx 15 minutes.   (The rubber seal should be sterilised in boiling water, not the oven.)

Clean and wash your sloes, discard any wrinkled or bad ones.  Some people prick them with a fork, others don't bother.     Put the sloes into the sterilised jar, add the sugar, the almond extract and the gin.  Seal the jar.

Give it a shake, every day or so, until the sugar has dissolved.   Keep it in a cool, dark cupboard.   In December it should be ready to be enjoyed.

A winter delight.

(I used one litre gin, one and a half pounds of sloes, six ounces of sugar and three drops of really good almond extract.   When we sample it in a couple of months, I will add more sugar if necessary but I don't want it to be too sweet this time.)

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Apple Cake and Apple Fudge Cake

I'm exploring the theme of apple cakes, possibly something to do with having a surfeit of cooking apples.

This first apple cake is made to a recipe in a book of Parsonage Recipes, which seems quite appropriate.   

It is very simple to make, just six ingredients....although I used seven.   I added some ground cinnamon to the apple.

Apple Cake

6 oz Self Raising Flour
4 oz butter
3 oz sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1 lb apples

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg.  Beat well.   Sift in flour and salt and mix to a paste (I found it necessary to add a splash of milk to soften it a little).   Grease a shallow baking tin and line with half the mixture.    Put in a layer of strained, cooked apple.   Cover with remaining mixture.
Bake 1 1/4 hours.  When cold cut into squares and sprinkle with sugar.

No oven temperature was specified, so I baked the cake at 160 C; it was ready after an hour.   Next time I may try it at a slightly lower temperature.

This simple little book is hard back, no dust jacket,   It was published in 1961 in aid of the Lincolnshire Old Churches Trust and is a collection of recipes and hints taken from many of the Rectories and Parsonages within the county.

 The second cake is from Josceline Dimbleby's Complete Cookbook, which was published in 1997.

Max thought it was very moreish, but then he does have an incredibly sweet tooth.

The cake base is topped with melted butter, muscovado sugar and sliced apples.   The resulting pudding/cake is sticky and delicious.

Perfect served with cream, ice cream, or custard - or even a good dollop of thick and creamy Greek yogurt.

I'm looking forward to doing some plain and simple bread next time.

local-kiwi-alien mentioned Stottie Cakes in one of her recent posts. 

It is many years since we had any of those and after baking sweet cakes  the plain simplicity of bread is immensely appealing.    

I'll let you know how I get on as I try feeding them to my resident Geordie.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Lead Cook not into Temptation

It has been a summer of visits, friends, family and other distractions.  Time for experimental cookery, non existent.    What has continued though, has been the reading of old recipe books and household management books ... not Mrs Beeton's.

10/- a Head for House Books, An Indispensable Manual for Housekeepers is just one of several which I am enjoying right now.

It was written about 120 years ago, when ten shillings (50p) had the purchasing power of approx £50, so not an ungenerous budget.    There are many woeful tales of how much food is probably wasted by 'Cook' and how this may be reduced by creating a new dish out of leftovers.

"The remains of milk puddings must not be thrown away, for if beaten up with some more milk and re-baked in a smaller dish, with perhaps the addition of a layer of jam or marmalade, the family will be unaware that they are not being regaled on a brand-new pudding.   Wise is the woman who thus bamboozles her family."

Bamboozles, I love that word!

She says:    "the man who will turn with disgust from the orthodox rice pudding will eat with pleasure precisely the same concoction if baked in a cup or mould, turned out and served with a little finely chopped preserved ginger in a sauce composed of the ginger syrup slightly diluted with water and made hot."...mmmn.

I'm not convinced of that one, sorry Mrs Peel.

In the chapter dealing with Luncheon Dishes

"Let us suppose we are catering for a family of eight, consisting of master, misstress, two children, and four servants.   The orders for butchers and poulterers for the week would probably be as follows:

Week 1: Sirloin of beef, neck of mutton, two rabbits, shoulder of mutton.
Week 2: Silver side (fresh) of beef, one chicken, loin of mutton, 2.5 lb steak, one chicken."

Her tip for making the most of a chicken:

"..the chicken is then stuffed with minced veal, ham, tongue and sausage meat until it regains its original shape...One chicken thus treated will suffice for eight people, without touching the pinions or legs."

Finally, "A great temptation is offered to cooks by rag and bone merchants, who are ready to buy every kind of article.  These persons should not be allowed inside the area or back yard."

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wild Plums Falling from the Sky

The wild plums have begun falling from the sky.   It is time to go foraging for more, before the farmer comes along with his hedge trimmer and destroys them.     It is always touch and go.

In our little Owl Wood there is a plum tree, an unusually tall plum tree, far too high to harvest without the aid of a very long ladder.   Luckily it ripens just before the smaller plum trees, and plums fall onto the woodland floor.   This is my signal to check to see how the others are doing, to think about how soon we can begin to 'harvest' them.

Will they ripen before rain stops the harvest in the fields and the Farmer T turns his attention to hedge trimming and other maintenance jobs until the weather improves?

This is the first dish of tart and tangy plums.   
We don't eat them as plums, nor do we make jam or preserves with them.   

All of these, and more, were turned into wild plum coulis.   We make it every year and treat like the seasonal treat that it is, something to be enjoyed to the full and then eagerly anticipated next year.

These wonderful baubles of dark purple and blue are washed, picked over, any stalks are removed and then they are placed in a heavy stainless steel saucepan, with just a little water.  Put the saucepan lid on, then gently bring them to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

No sugar, no additives.   We keep it very simple.

Once they are soft I remove them from the heat.   Allow them to cool a little and then rub the resulting mush through a sieve.   Use a wooden spoon and take your time.  Enjoy the jammy, plummy aroma and soak up that wonderful colour.

We like to swirl that rich red bounty through thick Greek yogurt.     One of these days I will get around to experimenting a little, using it in other recipes...perhaps in one of those bumper crop years.

Meanwhile, we'll keep on enjoying it in this deliciously simple way.

There is a lovely basinful sitting in the fridge, that will last a few days.  Then the memory of this seasonal treat will have to satisfy us until next year.   Unless I find some more wild plums, of course.

I also need to get out there and pick some sloes, cousin to the wild plum and even more tart.   We could make them into jam or add them to chutneys, etc but this year I intend to make several bottles of sloe gin, they make wonderful Christmas presents.

Of course, this all depends on whether I can get some picked before the farmers trim back the hedges...

The farmers try to harvest before the rains come and we try to harvest before the farmers come and destroy the hedgerow bounty.   Busy times in the countryside.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Expensive Lavender Water and a Spot Healing Cream

One could cost you a fortune, the other could cost you your life.

The first recipe has a note that it would have cost £2 6s 6d to make a gallon - Lavender Water, that is.

Well that sounds pretty cheap until you take a look at the date the book was published then work out the equivalent cost today as being around £230!    A huge amount of money for eight pints of lavender water.

Just on the off-chance that you may like to try this at home:

Lavender Water

Oil of Mitcham Lavender - 4 fluid oz or 8 tablespoonsful.
Musk, 20 grains
Triple rose water, 8 fluid oz
Rectified spirits of wine, 1 gallon.

Keep the bottle well corked and sealed for at least 3 months, the longer the better; shake frequently.   If necessary it can be filtered through white paper, which has been previously warmed in the oven.

A well tested recipe.

I haven't done the costings for actually purchasing all the ingredients today but I guess it could well exceed the £230 equivalent cost from 1905.

The second one I'm offering up today is a recipe for

Healing Spots on the Face

Take of oxide of zinc, 2 drams
Calamine powder, 2 drams
Glycerine, 2 drams
Bisulphide of mercury, 2 grains
Rose water, 2 oz

Paint on with a camelhair brush at night.

Please do not try this recipe at home, mercury is dangerous.

Just as a side note:  My brother and I were given blobs of silver mercury to play with - by our older brother.    We knew nothing of the potentially harmful effects, we just found it fascinating as we chased those quivering silver blobs around on our hands.

 Even 55 years on, the jury is still out over whether he knew what he was doing!

Obviously, we survived to tell the tale, so we were lucky.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A Kitchen Supper

Last night eight of us were treated to a magnificent feast of Chinese food - and it didn't come from a takeaway shop.

Poppy cooked up a storm for us.  She was a little apologetic because she didn't have all the ingredients to make things in quite the same way that she would have in Shanghai, but we were more than happy.


Meat dishes and vegetarian dishes, even the vegan was happy with what was on offer.   Poppy cooked a lots of wonderful dishes and they ranged from hot and spicy through to mild and lightly spiced.   All were delicious.    Here are just a few.

This was the most authentic dish, according to Poppy.  It was belly pork with fresh chillies, pickled chillies, assorted vegetables, ginger, garlic and spring onions.   The meat eaters dived in, the brave ones used chopsticks, the wimps stuck to knives and forks.

This jar of pickled turnip helped to add a different dimension to the taste sensations.

A big dish of delicious spiced tofu - even Max enjoyed this one.

And then there was this...........

a vast dish of spiced lotus root with mangetout and vegetables.   Everything was delicious,  but this dish was absolutely my favourite.  

The colours were like Christmas and the taste/texture was sublime.    

I could eat it any day of the week.

No recipes, sorry.  

I'll try to take notes next time.

Kitchen suppers don't come better than this.

Poppy, you are simply the best.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Herb de St Pierre

I was beginning to despair -  here we are, almost to the middle of August,  and we haven't had any samphire (local pronunciation samfer) yet.    That salty, seasonal treat which grows freely along the mud flats,  not too far away from here.  

Today we managed to get some - hurrah!

I added an assortment of red and yellow tomatoes from the garden and a beautiful piece of salmon fillet to a generous portion of samphire, a drizzle of dressing and found I had a meal fit for a king.

The salmon was simply pan fried, the homegrown tomatoes were oven roasted and full of flavour, both went perfectly with the wonderful green and salty samphire.     It was a simple and delicious meal, my kind of food.

If you have never had samphire/Glasswort/Herb de St Pierre you are missing out on a delicious treat.

It is a peculiar looking, dark green succulent plant with many branching thick segments instead of leaves.  It is at its best in July and August, after that it is best used for pickling as the structure becomes rather woody with age.

You don't have to go down to the mud flats to pick your own, I bought mine from our greengrocer in a small market town.  He obtains a small supply every year.   I stop by frequently, checking to see whether it has arrived yet.    It wasn't there on Monday but yesterday my daughter managed to get some for me.

To prepare: wash it in many changes of water, you need to get rid of all the sand and any bits of algae.   It is worth doing this thoroughly, you don't want sand in your samphire.

Then simply bring some water to the boil, add the samphire, put the saucepan lid back on and let it cook for a few minutes.  You could also steam it.

When cooked, the fleshy part will easily pull back from the ribs of the plant.   Do not add salt!  It is already naturally salty.   I don't even bother to add butter or vinegar, but you could.   Just don't drown it in vinegar!

In a restaurant one eats with more decorum and it is served in much smaller pieces, but traditionally it is eaten by holding the root end of the cooked plant, then simply stripping the fleshy parts from the ribs...with your teeth!  No need for cutlery!

However you choose to eat it, I hope you enjoy this salty seasonal delight.

Friday, 5 August 2016

...and with a feather anoint well...

I am won over by the charm and quaintness of a little book which I found in a charity shop recently.

The title "A Taste of Capel Manor" subtitle 'Madam Susanna Avery's Still Room Book - 1688.'  It is a slim volume, a facsimile reproduction of a 1922 copy of the original text.   Alas, the original Still Room book has been lost, which is a real shame.

Susanna Avery began her collection of recipes in 1688 in a book which was handed down through the generations.  Contents include sections on Wines, Fruits, Picklings, Cakes, Puddings, Biscuits, Meats, Salves, Waters, for Coughs, Colds, etc, The Toilet, with a big section on herbs and their uses.

I thought I would share a cake recipe although I haven't tried it out yet.


Take four pound of flower dryed in an oven after bread is drawn, five pound of corance washt, picked and dried, four nuttmeggs, as much mace beaten, six ounces of lofe sugar, a pint of barme, three or four spoonsfuls of sacke, 8 eggs, but four white; beat them; a quart of cream boyled, and cold again; first rub in two pound of butter to flower again in the flower; then mixe all the other with it, but kneall it not; then put cap paper about a hopp and two sheets at the bottom, and butter it well with other butter, not with any of the waight; so power in the cake and shake it even; then take two ounces of leofe sugar beaten small, and mix with it the whites of three eggs, and with a feather anoint well all over just as you set it into the oven; so let it bake an hour; so take it forth, and anoint it all over with rose water and sugar boyled to a candy height, and set it a little while in the oven again; then into the hopp, and take it with the paper away; this is all.

Madam Susanna Avery

Monday, 1 August 2016

Spice up your Cos Lettuce

Are your Cos lettuce running to seed?  

Fear not, I have an old recipe which can help you transform them into Jamaican Ginger, or so it says.  

I have not tried it myself, we are growing  only weeds this year - an exaggeration, but not by much!

Image borrowed from newlifeonahomestead
"When Cos lettuce is beginning to go to seed - cut off the stalks and pull off the string then cut into pieces the size of West India ginger.    

Put it into water as fast as you can and wash.

Sugar and water in the proportion of 1lb of sugar to 9 pints of water, two large spoonfulls of powdered ginger laid in a piece of muslin, then boil it and let it stand 2 days then boil it again for half an hour.

Repeat this four or five times in the same syrup then put it in a sieve to drain and then wipe the pieces dry, then put it into a strong syrup with a great deal of ginger.  boil it in this syrup 2 or 3 times till it looks quite clear and tastes like Jamaica Ginger.

Some lemon peel cut very thin and boiled in the syrup improves the colour of the ginger mock."

This recipe is attributed to a Mrs P Atkinson.

This particular recipe comes from the large black handwritten book on top of the pile.

I am particularly fond of this one - but to tell the truth I love each one of them, for the story of each one unfolds as I hold them in my hand and read the recipes.

Only one of my small collection has the name of the woman who gathered and cooked the recipes, the rest are unknown, which is a shame. 

These old books with their well-worn covers and much thumbed pages, splashes of grease or splodges of gravy are a constant source of pleasure.  The handwriting is not always easy to decipher but they speak to me in ways beautiful, modern, pristine recipe books cannot.

ps I think Romaine lettuce gone to seed would work just as well.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Duck Egg Sponge Cake

I was given a dish of duck eggs and decided to take the opportunity to try them out in some baking.  I had heard that they make wonderful sponge cake.

My mother used to love duck eggs and would eagerly seek them out, although she preferred to eat hers fried.

The first surprise I got was when I cracked the shell open, though I shouldn't have been surprised really, had I given it more thought.   The shell was almost bouncy and felt exactly as I had always imagined a turtle egg, more tough parchment than shell.

The second surprise was the smell, completely unlike that of our own hens' eggs.   Obviously they were larger, too.    The yolk was the same colour as the rich yolks which our girls produce on their diet of free-range pecking, hen food, grain and spinach (which they adore).

I followed a very basic recipe for a Victoria Sponge cake but baked it for longer as the resulting batter was rather greater in volume.

Once cooled, I sandwiched it together with some strawberry conserve which I made last week.

The sponge was so different from a regular sponge.  Definitely fluffier, very moist, and something I cannot quite explain.  Max loves it.   It has become his new favourite cake, but then Max really likes cake.

So that is teatime sorted out.

Home grown strawberries made into strawberry conserve and freeby eggs made into a moist and delicious cake.   Simple, delicious, frugal, low food miles.  Shame about the calories!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Village Show

It is that time of year again.    Time for the Little Bunting Village Show.   Last year we were told that there wouldn't be another show.    Not many people paid attention.

Until now.  I have written a post about it on Felicity at Parsonage Cottage.

Suddenly things have changed, a show is to be organised (in 4 short weeks) for the middle of August.   Eeeek! on all fronts.   Shall we be able to pull this off, can we possibly achieve in 4 weeks that which normally takes at least a six month run-up?

Of course we can, although it may not quite be as slick as the normal production.

It does mean that I shall have to hand back my 'Best in Show' for cookery, plaque.  Dash it!

On the plus side, it means that we all get to try again and share some laughter along the way.

Long live the Village Show!

Tried and tested or new bread recipes need to be perfected.

Scones was always a hotly contested class, although I don't think they used that category last year, which is a shame.

Cakes, cordials, jams and biscuits - and let's not forget the flowers and produce, arts and crafts, photography.

Fun for all.

Hard work for a few.

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Birthday Cake for Max

Last week I bought a punnet of gooseberries then quite forgot about them until this afternoon when I found them in the back of the salad drawer.    Mmmmn.   Well we have been busy working down at Cowslip Cottage, trying to get it finished in time for the return of Miles and Poppy, our son and daughter in law.    They fly in from Shanghai next week, along with their beautiful cat, Boy.

He is an indoor cat so once he gets used to being in England and living in Cowslip Cottage, he is going to enjoy watching these handsome animals in the parkland beyond the back gate.

He'll also enjoy watching the rabbits, squirrels and birds which visit the gardens.    Life is about to become very exciting for him.

Back to the gooseberries.   I decided to experiment, after all, Max loves the rhubarb and custard cakes which I made earlier in the year, so i reckoned it was worth swapping out the rhubarb for the equally tart gooseberries.

I originally posted about the rhubarb and custard cake here just substitute gooseberries for rhubarb.

I made it in the same way, baked it for the same amount of time, and then let it cool in the tin.   By the time Max came home from the cottage it had cooled and was ready to serve, with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream, although it would work equally well with a drizzle of cream, creme fraiche, Greek yogurt or yet more custard.

It was declared a total success.    I'm delighted, that is puddings sorted out for this week.

Happy Birthday Max!