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 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.