Enjoy baking with Grandma Abson!
Wednesday, 11 December 2013
What a brilliant idea! That’s what the customers said when they saw the basket of homemade edible gifts I was demonstrating at Grandma Abson's Christmas Bake off at Cook N Dine the baking emporium of the North.
I started off with Grandma’s homemade mincemeat and soon the scent of cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg were wafting through the store. Once potted up and decorated, the jars make very attractive gifts!
I moved onto to Cranberry & Apple Chutney. This tasty recipe is proving to be a real hit this year and it’s recipe of the Month at Tasty Flavours in Doncaster Market.
Next was Aunty Emma’s Christmas Plum Pudding and a chance to stir the mixture and make a wish for next year. I showed how Grandma’s recipe can be microwaved to cut out hours of steaming.
Mouth-watering Shortbread biscuits, using Christmas shaped cutters – stars, angels, bells and Christmas trees were simply decorated and wrapped up in small gift bags proved a popular choice.
Spare Almond paste or marzipan, left over from decorating the Christmas Cake can be turned into exquisite Chocolate Marzipan balls in a the twinkling of an eye. Dip the balls in melted chocolate and top with a simple edible Christmas decoration to make a very attractive gift.
Finally, old fashioned Peppermint creams – so easy to make with icing sugar, peppermint extract and lemon juice (I omit the white of egg as in Grandma’s recipe on page 79 of her book and just use lemon juice and a splash of water to bind them) .
It all goes to show that making a special homemade gift is easy. Wrapped together with Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking book with lots more easy recipes, it’s a perfect Christmas gift combination!
Happy Christmas to everyone.
Enjoy baking with Grandma Abson!
Enjoy baking with Grandma Abson!
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
We've already got fresh Cranberries on the market so it's time to begin Christmas preparations with this easy Cranberry and Apple Chutney. It’s based on Grandma’s Apple Chutney recipe. The sumptuous red of the cranberries give it that real Christmas colour and the smells will get the Christmas season off to a good start. If you make a few jars and decorate them with ribbon, they will make lovely Christmas gifts for friends and family! I’ll be giving you some more edible Christmas gift ideas over the next few weeks - alongside Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book, of course.
2 lb/approx 1 kg apples
1 lb/450g onions
250 ml white wine vinegar
¾ lb/350g cranberries
1 lb/450g demerera sugar
5 peppercorns or freshly ground pepper
5 peppercorns or freshly ground pepper
2 tbsps ground ginger or 1 piece fresh ginger sliced and finely chopped
“Chop up the apples and onions finely. Place in a large pan with the white wine vinegar and bring to the boil. Then simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the apples and onions are soft. Add the other ingredients and mix together. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring until the ingredients are tender. Allow to cool and remove the peppercorns. Spoon into clean jars and cover.”
Grandma’s tips :
To test if the chutney was ready, she would draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. If it’s ready, the chutney must not flow back into the gap left behind by the spoon. If not, then check every 5 minutes or so until the gap is clear. She also said that Chutney needs to cool slowly so the spices infuse and flavour the fruit. You can add more ginger and cinnamon to make it even spicier.
We love this recipe and serve it instead of Cranberry Sauce on Christmas Day. Let me know if you try it.
Thursday, 24 October 2013
Spicy Apple Chutney
With the revival of interest in growing garden produce, there’s always the question of what to do with seasonal gluts of fruit and vegetables. Grandma had lots of recipes which show what did in her day when there was a surplus. She often made chutneys and pickles to last through the winter as a perfect side dish with hot and cold dishes.
So, when I was given a bag of ‘fallen’ apples by Pam and Tricia at the fabulous Cafe Med on Doncaster's famous Indoor Market, I went back to Grandma’s Apple Chutney recipe. I always remember that Grandma served this spicy accompaniment with pork pies and cold meats at Christmas.
2 lb/approx 1 kg apples
1 ½ lb/675g onions
1 lb/450g dried apricots
1 lb/450g sultanas
1 lb/450g demerera sugar
2 oz/50g garlic
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsps ground ginger
1 tsp mustard seed
1 quart/ 1150ml vinegar
“Chop up the apples, onions and apricots. Add the other ingredients and mix together. Place in a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring until the ingredients are tender. Allow to cool. Spoon into clean jars and cover.”
Simmer the ingredients
Grandma’s tips :
Grandma chopped the fruit and onions finely or even put them through a mincer since she preferred the final consistency of her chutney to be thick and smooth.
To test if the chutney was ready, she would draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. If it’s ready, the chutney must not flow back into the gap left behind by the spoon. If not, then check every 5 minutes or so until the gap is clear. She also said that Chutney needs to cool slowly so the spices infuse and flavour the fruit. You can add more ginger and other spices such as mustard seed, coriander or cumin to make it even spicier.
A gift of homemade Chutney
There are more of Grandma’s recipes for Chutneys and Pickles in her book or e book Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking – it’s a perfect gift. You could even make some Chutney and pot it up with decorative ribbon as a homemade present for friends and family!
Sunday, 13 October 2013
Sara is a keen baker and from time to time sends me easy recipes to try. She writes :
“I discovered this recipe - now called 'Ma Bailey's Brownies' - when my boys were at school. The tradition continued and I made them each time they set off for university and for each visit during the term. The chocolate chunks stay sort of gooey in the brownies. These brownies has also been to Ireland, Lapland and Iceland. I am trying to see how far round the world I can get it! Today's bake is for visiting my son and his family near Lancaster."
200g dark chocolate
175g/7oz soft brown sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
A few drops vanilla essence
50g/2oz plain flour
5ml (1 tsp) baking powder
Preheat oven to 180C, Gas mark 4. Line a baking tin 18cm /7" square with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter with 50g/2oz of the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of hot water. Put sugar, eggs and vanilla essence into a large bowl, then sift in flour and baking powder. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix well. Chop the remaining chocolate into rough chunks and stir into the brownie mixture. Spoon into the tin, spread evenly and bake for about 40 minutes until the cake begins to shrink from the sides and the centre is firm.
Sara’s baking tips :
This is what I do now - Melt choc in microwave then add butter and CAREFULLY finish melting them together. Today's bake took an extra 10 minutes but has been known to be longer so don't panic! I cut the pieces in half again as it's rich and is usually for sharing! I still work in ozs but for the first time I just followed the metric today. Hope you try these homemade brownies. They’re really easy - the hardest part is waiting 40 minutes for it to come out of the oven!”
Thanks, Sara. We did and they are fantastic! I hope they go round the world as you said! How are you celebrating Chocolate Week?
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
Being interested in all things Roman, I was delighted to chance upon an amazing archaeological site in the village of Vieux La Romaine in Normandy, France. If you have ever wanted to imagine life in the Roman Empire, then this place is a ‘must see’. The Head of Archaeology and her small team of experts and volunteers are doing a fantastic job. With 3 major excavation sites, as well as a well designed museum containing a huge amount of artefacts, this location deserves a much greater place on the Roman archaeology trail.
Our visit was during the Heritage weekend in mid September ‘Les Journees du Patrimoine’ and a special ‘Salon de The’ was put on by the members of the ‘Comité de Jumelage de Vieux et Otterton’. The village of Vieux is twinned with Otterton, near Exeter in Devon. A tempting array of savoury and sweet flans were on offer to visitors, all served up with a smile and a cheery explanation of each dish.
Most impressive was the famous local Norman speciality - La Teurgoule – a rice pudding flavoured with cinnamon. It’s absolutely stunning to taste. The ladies explained that they make it in a large pot for special community festivities and the crusty topping is the best bit! Here’s the recipe for a smaller family celebration:
600ml/1 pint milk (whole not skimmed)
75g/3 oz pudding rice
2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Knob of butter
Grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Mix the rice, sugar and cinnamon in the dish. Add the milk and stir around. Dot the top with butter. Place in a preheated oven (150C/Mark 2/300F) for about 3-3 ½ hours. Test with a knife to see if the mixture has thickened and is creamy. Allow to cool and serve ‘tiede’ = warm
This recipe reminded me so much of Grandma Abson’s luscious rice pudding slowly cooked in the coal oven at Bolton on Dearne Railway station. We always loved scraping the crusty bits around the edge!
All in all, a great introduction to our Normandy trip and not forgetting Iain’s marvellous cooking at the 16th century Manoir de la Riviere in nearby Villers Bocage.
Monday, 30 September 2013
My Grandma Abson lived though the hard grind of life in service in 1900s. This wasn't quite the jollity in Upstairs Downstairs and Downtown Abbey. Then she lived through the depression of the 1930s, when she became a widow with two teenagers, and rationing in World War 2. She therefore learnt to be very resourceful in times of shortage so that she could continue enjoying delicious baking.
Mixing a cake with less sugar
So this week, I've been thinking of Grandma’s recipes which came from times of shortage. Part of her philosophy was about turning out something good and tasty from limited resources. The weekly ration of sugar for an adult from 1940 to 1953 was 8oz, the equivalent of 225 grams. This sounds quite a lot if, like me, you don’t have a sweet tooth. However, Grandma cut down the amount of sugar in her cake, pudding and biscuit recipes. I also get away with using a lot less, between one third and one half of the quantity of sugar in most recipes. She also used to flavour things with cinnamon, mixed spice and used honey or golden syrup as an alternative.
So you can stay healthy and save money by reducing the sugar in your cakes. Enjoy your baking and let me know what you’ve made this week.
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
A flurry of butterflies gave the final touches to Becca and Rob’s 3 tiered wedding cake on their special day earlier this year.
Most wedding cakes are traditional fruit cakes but the lovely couple wanted a simple sponge wedding cake. But there’s always the question of how to stack sponge cakes without an elaborate structures of dowels. How to create a stunning masterpiece from sponge cakes? Well, our secret’s out! I used ultra light polystyrene moulds for the top 2 tiers. These rested securely on the large bottom tier of chocolate cake. And, ready to serve for the guests, I made 3 more large cakes, decorated in the same way for the evening ‘celebration’.
Countdown to the Big Day
- In the months and weeks before the wedding day, I made test cakes with various butter cream fillings for Becca and Rob to try. In the end, they chose :
Chocolate Cake with Butter Cream filling
- Wednesday (3 days to go), I made the 4 large 10 inch/25cms cakes : Victoria Sandwich, Toffee ( x 2) and Chocolate Cakes.
Meryl’s Tip : I used Grandma’s basic recipe for each one and baked them into 10 inch/25cm cake tins for each cake with the 3 eggs and their weight in sugar, butter and flour for each layer of individual cake so each cake was made with 6 eggs. I used soft brown sugar for the Toffee Cake and Toffee Butter Cream filling instead of caster sugar.
- Thursday (2 days to go), I made Butter Cream in the various flavours to go with the cakes. I covered each cake with Butter Cream to form a base for the Ready to roll Icing. I rolled out the Icing and iced the cakes.
- Friday (1 day to go) : I delivered the cakes to the venue, tied the themed green ribbon round each cake, and stacked them. Becca placed the butterfly decorations as she wanted. Hey presto!
- Saturday : Cake cutting (the bottom tier!) and lots of fantastic feedback from the newlyweds and their guests about the stylish look and most importantly the taste of all the cakes!It all worked perfectly. It was fantastic to be part of such a wonderful day! Becca and Rob even took it in the car to the airport for their honeymoon - what a great start to their life together!
Thursday, 5 September 2013
Just now, we’re entering the season for Plums. They are an amazingly versatile fruit with lots of Vitamin C so I’m delighted to share this recipe from Grandma’s collection.
Plum and Almond Flan
Flan base Shortcrust Pastry Use 8oz /225g flour or Meryl’s tip You can use 7oz/200g flour and 1oz/25g of ground almonds and 4oz/110g butter
2 eggs beaten
3 oz/75g ground almonds
1 lb/450g plums
Roll out the pastry to a 9 inch or 23cm flan dish and allow it to ‘relax’ for around 30 minutes. Cream the butter and sugar. Then add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour and ground almonds into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the pastry case. Cut the plums into halves and remove the stones. Arrange the plums on top of the almond filling. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 190C, 375F Mark 5 for about 25-30 minutes until the top has browned.
If you wish, you can glaze the top by boiling 2 tablespoonful of any dark jam or jelly such as redcurrant, raspberry, bilberry or plum with 1 tbsp of hot water. Brush this on top of the flan.
There are lots more recipes with Plums. Here are some ideas :
- In Yorkshire we like The Yorkshire Drop It’s proving to be another hit at Tim & Jane's Tasty Flavours at our local market as Grandma’s Recipe of the Month.
- Make a Plum Crumble with the same Crumble mixture as for Rhubarb Crumble
- There’s a recipe for Plum Jam in Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book
- Or simply stew the Plums in a pan in a little water or eat them as they come!
Make the most of them while they are at their best! Have you a favourite recipe with Plums?
Thursday, 22 August 2013
Grandma has hit the local press again! Doncaster Free Press made the link to BBC TV's Great British Bake Off which started this week with a great article by journalist, Gael Stignant about our Grandmas inspired us to bake. They've also posted one of my favourite recipes Doncaster Butterscotch Cake - a sponge cake recipe where I used Grandma's Victoria Sandwich recipe to make a cake for Doncaster to celebrate one of its famous products Doncaster Butterscotch. If you didn't catch the recipe - here it is again :
Grandma Abson’s Doncaster Butterscotch Cake
3 eggs & their weight (= approx 6oz /175grams)in
6 oz /175g Butter
6oz/175g soft brown sugar
60z/175g self raising flour(sieved)
“Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Mark 4. Line the bases of 2 x 20cm/8 inch sandwich tins with non-stick baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, adding a dessertspoonful of sieved flour with each egg. Fold in the remaining flour. Divide the mixture between the 2 cake tins and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cakes start to shrink from the sides of the tins and a cake skewer inserted into the centres comes away clean. Place on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the rack and leave until cool.”
Butterscotch Butter Cream Filling
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
3 oz (75g) Icing sugar
Milk to mix
Butterscotch chips for decoration
“Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the milk. Cover one cake with the filling. Then place the other cake on the top. Dust the top with icing sugar and sprinkle the butterscotch chips over the top.”
Many thanks to Gael and don’t forget to send me your favourite baking recipe to share!
Sunday, 18 August 2013
Visitors to Cusworth Hall earlier this summer were surprised to learn that Lavender was a popular ingredient in baking as they enjoyed sampling my version of Grandma’s scrumptious Lavender biscuits. As well as being a beautiful plant in the garden, Lavender is one of the best kept secrets for baking. Lavender sugar can be used to bake a wide range of teatime favourites such as Scones by substituting the sugar with Lavender sugar in the original recipe.
All you need to do is to make Lavender sugar :
Place the caster sugar in a bowl. For every 4oz/110g sugar, you will need a tablespoonful of lavender. Add the lavender to the sugar by pressing it through a sieve with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Put the sugar in a clean jar and add another tablespoon of lavender flowers to the jar. Cover the jar and shake well every couple of days. Leave for 3 to 5 days for the lavender to infuse into the sugar. Then it’s ready to use.
Chris at Fragrant Lavender has sent me a very simple and scrumptious recipe for Lavender Cakes which don't need Lavender sugar but use the Lavender flower buds mixed with the flour. These are small cakes which Grandma would call 'buns'. It's a basic Victoria Sandwich mixture.
Chris's Lavender Cakes
4 oz/110g Margarine or butter
4 oz/110g Caster Sugar
4 o/110g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Lavender flower buds (Chris says: 'I use fresh ones but you could use dried ones.')
Cream the margarine/butter and sugar until light and creamy in texture. Add the eggs a little at a time and beat well. Add the lavender flower buds to the flour then fold into the mixture. Half fill paper bun cases then bake at 180-190C, 350-375F, Gas mark 4-5 for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch.
and here's the recipe for the Lavender biscuits I served to visitors at Cusworth Hall :
225g/8oz plain flour
75g/3oz lavender sugar
1 yolk of egg
“Rub the butter into the flour and add the sugar and the salt. Then add the egg and work into the flour as quickly as possible, making a dry dough. The mixture must be kept dry. Roll out thinly and cut into rounds. Bake for 25 minutes in a slow oven.” (300F, Mark 2, 150C)
Meryl’s tip: Use the spare white to egg to make Coconut Macaroons to Grandma’s recipe on page 51 of Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking book.
If you haven’t got lavender in your garden, visit a Lavender Farm or shop like Fragrant Lavender and pick up a plant ready for next year.
Friday, 9 August 2013
We’ve seen and heard very little about gooseberries in recent years so it may be that they aren’t so popular any more. And yet this tart berry is so easy to use in a range of desserts and puddings. I’ve just been given some gooseberries from a neighbour’s garden, so I’ve wasted no time in making a Gooseberry Pie as it’s one of our favourites. You don’t need much pastry for this dish as just a pastry lid will suffice.
60z/175g caster sugar
60z/175g shortcrust pastry (plain four, butter, egg, water or milk to mix)
Prepare the gooseberries by topping and tailing them. Wash them before stewing them in a saucepan with sugar and a little water for around 5 minutes on a low heat. Allow to cool then pour onto a pie dish. Make the shortcrust pastry: For an 8 inch (20-21cm ) pie dish you will need 6oz/175g of flour and 30z (75g) of butter. Rub the butter or margarine into the flour. When the mixture is like breadcrumbs, make a well and add the egg. Knead and add the water to make a dough. Let it stand for ½ hour in a cool place before rolling out. Roll out the pastry to the size of the pie dish and cover the gooseberries. Trim the edges then brish the top with milk. Sprinkle a teaspoonful of caster sugar over the top so it will crisp in the oven. Bake at 200C, Mark 6 for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Serve hot or cold.
Here is another old Gooseberry dessert recipe which Peter and Jan gave me a while ago when I was doing a series of baking talks at Hodsock Priory during the Snowdrop season in February. Jan has been making this recipe for over 40 years. Try it out and tell me what you think.
1lb gooseberries + 4 tbsp water
2oz granulated sugar (or more to taste)
1 level dessertsp cornflour (or a bit more to thicken them a little)
8oz plain Madeira cake (Peter says Sand Cake in Grandma’s book is perfect for this)
1oz glace cherries (or a few more if you like them)
2 level tbsps clear runny honey
Top and tail the gooseberries. Simmer with the little water and sugar for about 5 minutes till cooked, but not mushy; remove from heat. Blend together cornflour with a dessertsp water and add to the fruit, bring to boil stirring gently. Cook for 2 minutes to thicken a bit. Pour into 1½ pint shallow casserole. Cut cake into 1” cubes. Halve the cherries. Place butter in saucepan, measure honey carefully and add to the melting butter. When butter has melted, remove from heat, gently stir in cake pieces and cherries until they are coated with the butter and honey. Pile the mixture on top of the gooseberries. Prepare a moderate grill. Put the ambrosia under the grill to lightly brown the topping. Serve hot or cold, with custard or cream.
If you haven’t access to gooseberries in your garden, and can’t find them in your greengrocer or local market, the Pick Your Owns (PYOs) are in full swing now. Here’s one near York, UK called The Balloon Tree which has an abundance of seasonal fruits on offer.
Let me know if you try these recipes or have any gooseberry recipes to bring this fruit back into favour?
Monday, 29 July 2013
Yorkshire Drop with Plums
Here on 1st August, it gives us a Yorkshire folk a chance to reclaim our sense of identity, be proud and celebrate what’s good about our county and give a boost to all those Yorkshire folk who have to live in exile away from this wonderful region. There’s more to find out about Yorkshire Day where I’ve told the tale of the origins of our special day.
Here’s a round-up of special Yorkshire food to taste. There’s Yorkshire Parkin which we usually have on Bonfire Night and in Doncaster we can celebrate with Doncaster Royal Butterscotch Cake and Grandma made a Bridlington Cake too. But by far the most well known dish is Yorkshire Puddings and Grandma was an expert!
Perfect Yorkshire Puddings
But have you heard of the Yorkshire Drop? This recipe is based on Grandma’s Yorkshire pudding batter mixture but served up as a dessert with a fruit filling instead. It’s a close relative of the mouthwatering French Clafoutis.
4 ½oz/125g plain flour (sieved)
1 ½oz/40g sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 rd pint/200ml milk
*Fruit as in season
Make the batter as for Yorkshire Pudding. Mix the eggs and flour with a wooden spoon. Mix in the sugar, salt and milk and beat to the consistency of cream. Let it stand for about half an hour or so and stir occasionally to let the air in. Butter an ovenproof dish and pour in the Yorkshire Pudding batter mixture. ‘Drop’ in the fruit into the mixture and cook in a preheated moderately hot (Grandma called this temperature ‘quick’) oven for about 45 minutes (Mark 5, 190C, 375F). The batter will rise to perfection. See for yourself!
Meryl’s tips for the fruit: *Now’s the time to make full use of summer fruits, so you can vary the fruit to ‘drop’ in according to the season : Plums, Raspberries, Blackberries, Cherries and Rhubarb, are all perfect for this dish. Wash and dry the fruit carefully. Slice fruit such as Plums and pre cook Rhubarb.