When it comes to cooking; I truly believe this little island of ours can stand up proudly and say with arms held aloft “We have wonderful food”. I’m a great believer in a balanced diet, of healthy food with a yummy cake, homemade biscuit or tasty snack once in a while. When visitors arrive, it’s always a delight to have something homemade to share with friends and family. So my blog today is a homage to British baking! and long may it continue.
It’s just the time of year to make mince meat, to store it until December and let all of the boozy naughtiness seep into the fruit. You can take Mr Kipling’s filth and stuff in a skip because my taste buds crave the lumpy, bumpiness of homemade pastry, the unevenness of homemade mince meat and knowing every crumbly mouthful is sprinkled with seasonal indulgence. So my first round of applause goes to the mince pie!
My mother is from Derbyshire and she used to make Eccles Cakes. More girth increasing naughtiness. The flaky pastry must be made from real butter, the fruit rich with mixed peel, a good sprinkling of brown sugar and the essential blend of softness and the crisp outside. They really are the easiest things to make and a real winner when you are required to turn up with cakes for a social occasion.
I feel now as if there should be a drum roll and I should stand up and wave a flag, my next oooh aaah moment is for the scone! These should be thick, tall, homemade and irregular. Rolled out with an old milk bottle and cut with a tea cup! Served warm with clotted cream so thick you could stand your spoon in it, and you can only have homemade jam. This is where my inner WI comes bubbling to the surface but shop bought scones are overly laced with bicarbonate of soda and taste too salty. The best scones are served with a cup of tea, in a bone china cup and saucer and in a garden on a Summer’s afternoon.
I have to include the humble pasty. The take anywhere picnic lunch, but certainly not a cheap treat. Only the very best beef skirt will do. No cheaper cut will do it but you only need a few ounces, cooked with the beef on top of the swede, potatoes and onions so the beef gravy drips over the veg and whilst tucked tightly in with perfect crimping, keeps everything moist and delicious.
Now I’m sure Americans won’t get this but our best pies are savoury. I think you can put most things in a pie but chicken and leek takes a lot of beating. Families up and down the country have a chicken and something pie on a Monday from the leftovers from Sunday lunch. If I’m showing off, I always make mine with a flaky pastry top and shortcrust bottom. What ever the pastry, what ever the filling, this is a real family favourite. Cheap, filling and again, this has to be homemade!
When I think of baking, like so many people, I remember the goodies that my mum cooked for us as kids. On a Sunday, when our hair was drying in front of the fire, usually whilst watching the Antiques Roadshow or Last of the Summer wine, we would have ‘tea’. Tinned fish or egg sandwiches and some sort of cake. Bakewell Tart can be made with frangipane but my mum never stretched to that. Left over pastry, a jammy bottom and a sponge top flavoured with almond essence. I loved this and I still do.
Everyone needs to let their inner baker out once in a while!