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.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Hunting Nuts v Ginger Nuts

I know very little about most of my old handwritten recipe books, which is a shame.    However there is one, which I posted about here, which was used by successive cooks in a country vicarage. 

Here is a photograph of one of the early pages, before the writing becomes much trickier to decipher.    When I first bought it, at a local auction, where it had been described as a 'school dinner ladies book', I was barely able to read more than a few pages.

I got it very cheaply, probably because no one else could read it either!    Oh what a little gem of a book.   Tatty, worn, grubby from almost two hundred years of use, but I get great pleasure from reading through it - because now, after all these years, I can read the various hands.

I have done some research and I know that it was a wealthy parish, I also know that the Vicar came from a monied background, but not much more.  

The Vicarage provided vast meals for school outings and celebrations, cook made lots of pickles and preserves and lists just how many she had made one year - very impressive, I'll list them sometimes.

It was a rural parish and yet, unlike most of my other recipe journals, 'Mock Turtle Soup' and Sheep's Head Broth do not feature.   More expensive cuts of meat are used.

Enough of my musings.

Today I decided to take pity on Max.   The biscuit tin was empty and he really wanted some gingernuts, like the ones I made last week.

Well that was ok, but I do like to try out new recipes.   I decided to make a batch of Hunting Nuts, too.    Of all the biscuit mixes which I have ever made, the Hunting Nut one is the most wonderful one to make.    It felt like a little magic happened as I mixed them.

Hunting Nuts

Put 8 oz Treacle
8 oz Raw Sugar
8 oz Butter
into a pan on the fire.   Let them melt and simmer and then pour them into a hot pudding basin and put in as much flour as you can mix comfortably.   Add ginger to your taste.   When cold roll them into balls about the size of a marble.   They will keep uncooked one or two months.

The photograph above shows the four Hunting Nuts which I couldn't fit onto the baking sheets - of course I have to use them to test out the claim that they will keep, uncooked, for one or two months.   Watch this space!

As ever, not all measurements are given and cooking instructions non existent.    What fun.   

Back to the recipe, I added 1 oz ground ginger, you may prefer a less fiery flavour, so add less.    For once I was careful to measure the amount of flour which was needed.    I used exactly 1lb 2oz.   As I added the final two ounces the mixture suddenly all came together in one easily managed lump of deep, dark, glossy dough.

It was wonderfully simple to make the marble-sized balls.   I suppose you could bake them in that shape, but I decided to flatten them a little.

Terrible photograph, but here we have  Hunting Nuts
and Ginger Nuts.

I baked them for 15 minutes at 180 degrees.   They came out shiny and beautiful, my daughter thought I had been making macaroons!

This quantity of mix yielded more than four dozen Hunting Nuts.

They firmed up as they cooled and it wasn't long before Max came by to filch a couple.    He loved them.

I also made a batch of Ginger Nuts, I wanted him to compare the two biscuits.

As you can see, one is smooth, the other has chopped peel and a completely different appearance.   

Almost before I had taken the final biscuits out of the oven, my granddaughter Merry came bursting into the kitchen and wanted to help me make a chocolate cake.

It wasn't quite what I had planned (a cup of tea and a rest would have been nice) but how could I refuse?

So we made chocolate cake, from scratch.   It was carefully mixed by Merry (with a little help) iced by Merry and decorated in her favourite way with Smarties, of course.   

Granny's little helper is becoming quite proficient for a five year old.



  1. I wonder why these biscuits are called 'nurs'. The chocolate cake looks scrummy. One day Merry will be making you a cuppa and the cake.

  2. Hello Linda, Train them young, while they are eager to learn. Wicked Gran!
    I am not quite sure about why they are called 'Nuts' but it probably has something to do with the fact that they are quite hard biscuits and, just as with nuts, you could possibly break a tooth on one. Of course this makes them ideal for dunking..