Tag Archives: Shropshire recipes

Aromatic Shropshire Pudding

Aromatic Shropshire Pudding

Duerrs sent me a sample of their jam specifically made for home bakers. Made to be easily spreadable and stable when cooked their rhubarb and custard jam brings back memories of the sweets from childhood. I have been racking my brain as to the best way to use the jam. Last week I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen trying out new recipes for my bread baking courses and whilst I was making cardamom scented buns I thought about using the jam as a filling for a ginger flavoured bun. Rhubarb and ginger are one of my favourite flavour pairings.  They were very tasty but because I made them in a whirl shape a lot of the jam escaped during baking, so I am back to the drawing board with that one. I think if I make a bun that is more like a doughnut with the jam enclosed that will work better. More experimentation will take place later this week.

On Sunday I was making dinner for Mothering Sunday and so was thinking of a dessert that would make use of the jam. I was tempted by roly poly and Manchester Tart but as I was looking through the index of Dorothy Hartley’s Food in England I noticed her recipe for Aromatic Shropshire Pudding with Brandy. I am not sure how I have missed this recipe before, being a Shropshire Lass through and through. My version is based loosely on Dorothy’s recipe, her version has no jam in it, but as it is a steamed pudding and I seem incapable of following other people’s recipes I thought why not? I didn’t have any brandy either so I swapped that for some dessert wine that I have sitting on the top of the cupboard. I swapped suet for butter too. Dorothy suggests serving it with brandy butter because in her words “(T)his is brown and aromatic, and, served with this butter and sugar, makes a good pudding for a frosty day”, I made proper custard. I did say it was loosely based on Dorothy’s recipe.

This recipe is a good way of using up stale bread and is very much like a sponge steamed pudding. I had some cold today with fridge cold cream and it was just as delicious in a different way.

225g breadcrumbs
100g butter
60g light brown sugar
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 generous teaspoon brandy, dessert wine or liqueur of your choice
2 eggs, beaten with 1-2 tbsp of water
150g jam

Method

I made this in a food processor  by putting the breadcrumbs and butter into the processor and whizzing it, then adding the sugar, nutmeg, brandy/dessert wine and the beaten egg mixture and whizzing briefly again.

You can make it without a food processor by grating the cold butter into fine breadcrumbs and then adding the rest of the ingredients and using your hands to bring it all together.  The mixture should be quite moist.

Butter an ovenproof bowl that has a 1-pint (500ml) capacity and spoon the jam into the bottom of the bowl. Place the mixture on top of the jam. Cut a large square of greaseproof paper and fold a pleat in the middle of it. Tie securely with string, preferably making a handle with the string. Place a trivet in the bottom of a large saucepan. Put the pudding in and carefully pour hot water in to cover the bowl by three-quarters. Cover the pan tightly with a lid and bring to the boil. Lower to a simmer and simmer for three hours.

Lift the bowl carefully out of the water. Remove the paper. Invert a serving plate onto the top of the bowl and turn the pudding out. Be careful as sometimes it can  pop out and splash hot jam at you. Serve with cream, custard or brandy butter.

Aromatic Shropshire Pudding before cooking

Aromatic Shropshire Pudding before cooking

Duerrs sent me a free sample of their jam to try. All opinions are my own and honest. 

Shrewsbury Cakes

Don’t let these boring looking biscuits deceive you, they are actually quite exciting.

I haven’t posted a Shropshire recipe for some time. This isn’t because I have forgotten my ambition to share more Shropshire recipes with you. I have been reading quite a bit about the history of food in England recently and I have often been thumbing through my Shropshire recipe books. I just haven’t managed to blog about it.

The Shrewsbury Cake, also known as the Shrewsbury Biscuit, has many variations and a long history. Some recipes state lemon as the main flavouring, some caraway seeds. Karen Wallace, in her Shropshire Food, says that five variations of the biscuit are listed in Cassell’s Dictionary of Cooking, printed in the 19th century.

Wikipedia tells me that a recipe for it was included in The Compleat Cookery, printed in 1658, and that the playwright William Congreve, uses the Shrewsbury Cake as a simile in his play, The Way of The World in 1700. Karen Wallace refers to a pamphlet produced in 1938 (that is how important the Shrewsbury cake is, it gets its very own pamphlet, with the grand name ‘Shrewsbury Cakes – The Story of a  Famous Delicacy’) that states that the first recorded mention of said cakes was in 1561. The cakes were given to people of importance when they visited the town.

My Shropshire Cookery Book, published by Shropshire Women’s Institute has a historical recipe  from a family recipe book from 1630 to 1750 and this is the one I have used for this recipe. It includes a reference to sack, which had me scratching my head for some time. What, I wondered, is sack? Then I remembered that hiding away on one of my shelves I have the Good Housekeeping Cookery Encyclopedia, which says that sack is “an old name for various white wines, particularly those from Spain and the Canaries; sherry is the only modern representative of the family”. So, there we go, who knew?

I don’t have any sherry in the house, but I do have a bottle of Madeira, so Madeira it is then.

Here is the original recipe taken from the WI’s Shropshire Cookery Book.  This book does not have a publication date, but as the price was originally 2s.3d. it’s safe to say it was printed before the decimalisation of sterling in 1971. It’s a wonderful book full of treasures and I love the way each recipe was given by a member of one of the WI’s in Shropshire.  The historical recipe for Shrosebury Cakes was given by E.Walshe (St.Giles WI), and very grateful I am too.

To Make Shrosebury Cakes
Take one pound of flower, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter, half an ounce of carraway seed, some nutmeg, rub it well together then take three eggs, beat them well, then put to them three spoonsful of sack and as much rosewater. Mix it with your paste then role it out and cut it into what shapes you please, bake them upon tin plates, prick them with a pin let your oven be not to hott.

I love the way so many of the spellings have changed since the 17th Century and the spelling of Shrosebury is very interesting.  There is a long-standing argument locally over whether Shrewsbury is pronounced with a shrews or a shrose, and I have grown up saying it with a shrews. It seems, however, that historically it was  a shrose. Shocking (and may I add, wrong).

You can still get Shrewsbury biscuits in some of the bakeries in Shropshire. But I doubt they add a slug of Madeira to their dough. In fact no Shrewsbury biscuit I have ever tasted tastes like these.  You can detect both the Madeira and the rosewater and the dough spreads to create a delicate tuile-like biscuit rather than the shortbready type I have tried before. They would be delicious with ice cream. When I make them next though I might forgo the rosewater and stick with the madeira as I am not sure it’s not all too complicated a taste. Don’t do away with the caraway seeds though, as they are delicious.

Here is my recipe. It makes one-third of the original to make 22 biscuits.
150g plain flour
150g caster sugar
150g cold butter
¼ tsp caraway seed
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 egg
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp Madeira or sherry

Method

The easiest way to make these biscuits is in a food processor.  Tip in the flour and the cubed butter and pulse until breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it starts to come together as a dough.  Shape into a flattened disc and wrap in cling film or a food bag and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

If you don’t have a food processor, then rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together with your hands until it gathers into a ball.

Dust the work surface with flour as this is quite a sticky dough and roll the dough until about 5mm thick. Stamp out rounds or any shape you like and place onto lightly greased baking sheets.

Place in the centre of a preheated oven at 160°c, gas mark 3 or the lower half of the Aga Baking oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden.  Leave on the tray to cool for five minutes and then remove carefully onto wire racks.  These biscuits are delicate so take care.

Make a pot of tea, sit down and enjoy a little taste of history and salute to the good people of Shrosebury, or indeed Shrewsbury.

 

 

Soul cake – A Shropshire Recipe

Today is All Soul’s Day.  I didn’t know about All Souls Day until I read about it in my Shropshire recipe books in the summer and I have been waiting ever since to make these Soul Cakes.

All Souls Day is a Christian festival and these days some churches hold special services for people to attend to remember those that are no longer with us.

In ye olden days it was a tradition that the poor would go a-souling and offer up prayers of remembrance for the relatives of their wealthier neighbours in return for money or food.  Then, in more recent years, it was the children who would sing “A soul-cake, a soul-cake, please good missus, a soul-cake.  One for Peter, one for Paul, three for Him who saved us all” and would receive a soul cake in return. A bit like trick or treating (in the nicer parts of town).

It was/is believed that All Souls Day was/is the day when the spirits of the dead will visit loved ones. I like that idea very much.  I am not at all religious but would love to think that loved ones who are no longer with us are still able to visit and see how we are getting on with the ups and downs that this life throws at us. So in celebration of all the memories of loved ones no longer with us I have made these Soul Cakes.

Three of the Shropshire recipe books that I have all use the same recipe, which is credited to Mrs Mary Ward. She is known to be the last person to keep up the tradition of giving out Soul Cakes at her home in Pulverbatch.  She died in 1853 at the ripe old age of 101.  Rather amazingly, to celebrate her 100th birthday she wore her wedding dress of yellow satin and received Holy Communion with her friends and neighbours.  I wish I could squeeze into my wedding dress now! The story goes that she never suffered from a day of illness in all her long life. She must have been some kind of lady Mrs Ward. I wonder if she is looking down on us today?  I hope she is and I hope she is proud that her recipe is still being used 200 years on.

The problem with old recipes though is that they can take a bit of interpreting. Here it is as it appears in the books I have.

“Three pounds flour, quarter pound butter (or half pound if the cakes are to be extra rich), half pound sugar, two spoonsful of yeast, two eggs, allspice to taste, and sufficient new milk to make it into a light paste.  Put the mixture (without the sugar or spice) to rise before the fire for half an hour, then add the sugar, and allspice, enough to flavour it well; make into rather flat buns and bake.”

Right, where do I start?  How big are your spoonfuls of yeast? Teaspoon or dessert spoon? How much allspice should I use? A pinch or two teaspoonfuls?
How much milk will be needed? Rather flat buns? Should I cut them out like scones? Or shape them like bread rolls? What temperature should I cook them? I appreciate Mrs Mary Ward would have cooked them on her fire, but should I treat them like bread and scones and use high heat for a short period, or like a cake and so cook them at a moderate heat for longer?

So the soul cakes you see here might not be anything like the good cakes made by Mrs Mary Ward.

These days I think we might have a sweeter tooth than we used to and I must say these are rather dull eaten on their own. However, with a bit of butter and jam, they wash down a treat with a cup of tea.

This is how I made them (with thanks, and maybe apologies, to Mrs Mary Ward).  I halved the original recipe as I doubt I will be swamped with singing children later.

750g plain flour
100g butter
1 teaspoon yeast
1 egg
350ml milk
100g caster sugar
1½ tsp allspice

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°c, gas mark 7.

Place the flour and yeast into a large bowl.  Melt the butter and warm the milk.  Beat the egg in a mug or small bowl.  Add the butter, milk and egg to the flour. Mix together well until smooth. Make into a ball.  Cover with a large plastic bag or oiled clingfilm. Place in a warm spot and leave to rise for half an hour. Add the sugar and allspice to the dough and knead until well combined.  Place onto a lightly floured board and roll rather flat!  Now I admit to having no idea how flat you should roll these.  I tried about 2 cm and these are a bit too biscuity.  I also tried about 4 cm and these work well as a scone.  I also tried the last one like a bread roll and that worked well too.

Place in the hot oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden. They taste good warm with butter and strawberry jam.

I am glad I tried these, but perhaps there is a reason they aren’t made so much these days.  They are a bit dull and I have tasted better scones/ sweet bread. I like the ideas associated with them though.

 

Shropshire Mint Cakes

Well, this is my first post in what I hope will become a series of Shropshire recipes. ( I suppose Fidget Pie was the first, but hey…).  Over the summer I found three books on Amazon,

and I found another today, which is winging its way through the British postal system as we speak.  I want to share some of these recipes with you to celebrate the traditional recipes of my lovely county.

The reason I found this fourth book is because I found the recipe for these mint cakes in the red and white book by Mary de Saulles, unfortunately the list of ingredients omits the sugar. So I found myself searching for the original recipe to find out how much sugar I should be using and I think it is in this book and I found the recipe online.

Whilst searching for this though, I found that a recipe for Shropshire Mint Cakes was published in an Australian newspaper on 24th April 1935.  How fantastic is that?  A Shropshire lass in search of a local recipe is assisted by a newspaper article published on the other side of the world 76 years ago.  The internet is a marvellous tool.

I couldn’t use this recipe either though because this one doesn’t seem to specify the amount of butter that you use.  The search has also revealed that like all recipes these little cakes can be adapted, one recipe uses currants but suggests that you could also use dried figs and the other recipe suggests the use of both currant and mixed peel. One recipe suggests that you make them by spreading the mixture over a square of pastry and topping with another square, cook, then slice into squares.  The other suggests that you make individual cakes.  I thought the latter would make for a neater cake, especially if my lack of dexterity became involved.

The Shropshire Mint Cake is a bit like the Eccles Cake, but with the addition of fresh mint.  You can really taste the mint and at first you think that these might be an acquired taste, but I can assure you that they soon become just that.  I had acquired a taste well before I was eating the fourth one in a row, warm from the oven (my well-known lack of willpower again!).

I urge you to give them a try.

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
100g butter, diced
1 tbsp caster sugar
enough cold water to mix

For the filling:
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
80g caster sugar
80g currants
50g softened butter
1 egg to glaze

Method

First of all place the chopped mint into a bowl and add 40g of the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to sit for at least an hour until the mint juices start to run.

Make the pastry by placing the flour and the diced butter in a bowl and rubbing the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers, lifting your hands up high over the bowl to incorporate air. (I would use my food processor, but it broke and is at my Dad’s as he valiantly tries to repair it for me – thank goodness for Dads). When it looks like fine breadcrumbs, stir in the tablespoon of sugar and add enough water to make a smooth dough. Flatten the dough slightly into a disc and  wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

Place the currants, mint mixture, remaining sugar and the butter into a bowl and using a fork combine well.

Roll the pastry quite thinly and cut out discs using a scone/cookie cutter.  Place half of these discs onto two baking sheets. Then place teaspoonfuls of the currant mixture in the middle of the discs. I used a scone cutter that measures 6 cm and this made 24 little cakes.

Beat the egg with a fork and then brush a little of the egg all around the edge of the discs of pastry and place another disc on top, sealing well around the edge by pressing with your finger.  Brush the egg all over the tops and then place the baking trays in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or the middle/bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove carefully onto a wire rack and leave to cool a little before you sample your first one.