Loving the leftovers – mincemeat cake

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Edwardian Grandma and her friends were of the ‘waste not, want not’ generation. They had lived through two world wars and knew that every scrap of food had to be used to feed the family.

I hate waste too and January is the month when I aim to make meals out of whatever lurks in the far corners of the freezer and fridge. Of course, I say that I hate waste, but I always over cater at Christmas. That’s why there’s still party food in the freezer and two and a half jars of homemade mincemeat in the fridge.

Flicking through Grandma Bond’s little red book looking for inspiration for this blog I came across pages I’d added with recipes from my own extended family and friends. And there it was, the perfect January recipe – a mincemeat cake from Jane Kester, my former sister-in-law.

So not granny’s cake, but in the spirit of her recipe book of friends’ favourites, here is Jane’s simple, but delicious fruit cake made with mincemeat.

It’s really versatile because you can make it in any shape tin. I used a round tin, but you could make it in a loaf tin or even a tray bake.

Mincemeat Cake
4 oz margarine
4 oz caster sugar
2 large eggs

Cream these together
Then add:

7 oz self raising flour
12 oz mincemeat
Little milk

Pour into greased and lined cake tin. You’ll probably need to reduce cooking time if cooking in a tray bake tin.

Bake at 325F, 160c or gas 3 for 10 minutes then lower temperature to 300F, 150C or gas mark 2 for about 1 1/4 hours. If the top is browning too quickly cover with baking parchment.
When cake has cooled ice the top. Combine 4 oz sieved icing sugar with 1 tablespoon of lemon and drop of hot water and spoon over cake.

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Orange and almond cake – a little bit of sunshine in January

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Just like Edwardian Grandma I have my own book of handwritten and copied recipes. Some are passed on from friends while others are clipped from magazines or copied from the Internet. My daughter Meredith bought me the recipe book several years ago and I hope it will pass down through the generations like Grandma Bond’s little red book.

Like me – and her grandmother and her great grandmother before her – Meredith loves cooking and baking. I’m immensely proud that she has her own foodie blog.
Perhaps this is the 21st century of the handwritten notebooks our grannies treasured?

January calls for a light touch in cakes following calorie-laden Christmas cakes, puds and mince pies. So, instead of a recipe from Edwardian Grandma, I’m featuring one of my signature cakes – a gluten and fat free Spanish orange and almond cake. This recipe is one I found a while back on a site called All Recipes UK.

I’ve made it many times and it never fails – just make sure you whisk plenty of air into the egg whites and also the yolks and sugar mix. Don’t be out off by the use of whole oranges – skin and pith – it really works. This cake is so moist and is good accompanied by a coffee, or eat as a pudding, either on its own or with thick cream or ice cream. The only downside is that it doesn’t keep well – just a couple of days. However, in my experience it doesn’t hang around long enough to go off!

It’s a cake that reminds me of sunshine and Mediterranean holidays – so it’s a sweet antidote to the January blues.

Ingredients

Serves: 10

2 oranges, about 280 g (10 oz) in total, scrubbed and roughly chopped (with skin)
5 eggs, separated
200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
225 g (8 oz) ground almonds
2 tbsp flaked almonds
sifted icing sugar to decorate

Method

Put the chopped oranges in a small saucepan, discarding any pips. Add 1 tbsp water, then cover and cook gently for 30 minutes or until the oranges are soft and excess liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Line the bottom and sides of a 23 cm (9 in) springform cake tin with baking parchment. Finely chop the oranges in a food processor or blender, or with a large knife.
Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until they form stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in half the caster sugar, then whisk for 1 minute.
Using the same whisk, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar in another bowl for 2–3 minutes or until pale and quite thick. Whisk in the finely chopped oranges, then carefully fold in the ground almonds.
Stir in 3 spoonfuls of the whisked egg white to loosen the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites with a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and level the top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
Bake for 50–55 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 20 minutes and again at 30 minutes, and cover lightly with foil if it is browning too quickly.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn it out, peel away the lining paper and transfer to a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar before serving. The cake can be kept in an airtight tin for up to 2 days.

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Stir Up Sunday: Grandma Bond’s Christmas Pudding

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Stir Up Sunday is the traditional day for making your Christmas pudding so that it matures in time for your festive feast. The date changes annually because it’s always the last Sunday before Advent (a date that moves each year) – this year Stir Up Sunday is November 24.

I’ve cheated and already made my pud to Edwardian Grandma’s recipe and it’s maturing nicely, soaking up a little brandy from time to time.

Unlike other recipes in the little red book, which came from friends and neighbours, this is very much Grandma’s pudding. She used to wrap silver sixpences in foil and pop them into the pudding for her grandchildren to find.

This isn’t an overly rich, dark pudding and even people who don’t like traditional Christmas puds usually like this one. Also, it doesn’t include any eggs and you can use vegetarian suet, so it’s suitable for vegans.

The recipe makes one large pudding, or two medium ones that will each serve around 6 people. It’s a pudding that keeps well in cool place so you could make two and save one for next year.

Part of the success of a good Christmas pudding is the boiling – you really can’t cheat and speed up this essential process. However, do remember to open a window or door if you don’t want your kitchen to be like a steam room. I forgot, and after six hours of boiling my pudding, water was dripping down the walls and heading towards the electric sockets!

Grandma Bond’s Christmas pudding
8 oz currants
8 oz raisins
4oz suet – can be vegetarian
3 oz lemon peel (or a mixture of citrus peel)
2 oz almonds
1/2 nutmeg grated
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoon sugar
8 oz plain flour
Small carrot grated
Mix all ingredients with water (I like to add a little brandy)
Boil for 6 hours

I always use whole peel and chop it finely rather than using those supermarket tubs of chopped peel. Sometimes I’ll add chopped glacé cherries too for a change.

You’ll need to grease two medium or one large pudding basin. Once you’ve combined all the ingredients with some liquid (it shouldn’t be too runny – you want to aim for a cake mix consistency) pour into your basins. At this stage it won’t look too appetising, but don’t worry: this is normal.

Cover the top of your bowl with a large circle of grease proof paper and a piece of foil the same size, creating a pleat across the diameter of the bowl – see illustration. Tie the paper and foil in place with string around the rim of the bowl. It’s essential to avoid water getting into the basin during the boiling process. This BBC Good Food video is helpful http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/technique/how-steam-pudding

It’s traditional to wrap your pudding in muslin, but I wrap in old linen tea towel, tying the ends on top of the pudding to create a handle for lifting it out of the pan. I put a small upturned saucer or jam jar lid at the base of a very large pan, then stand the basin on it. Carefully fill the pan with boiling water from a kettle and put a lid on it. Then boil the pan on top of the stove for six hours – check the pan doesn’t boil dry and refill with boiling water from the kettle and not cold water.

After six hours let the pudding cool down, then put a circle of grease proof paper on the top of the pudding and wrap in foil. Keep in a cool place and occasionally unwrap, prick with a skewer and spoon over some brandy. Wrap up tightly again. On Christmas Day remember to allow a couple of hours for boiling the pudding ahead of serving.

Serve with brandy sauce, brandy butter, custard or cream.

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Mrs Fairbank’s Christmas Cake

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imageMy baking blog has been mothballed this year as we’ve been a low carb, no cake household trying to keep middle-aged spread under control. However, it’s Christmas soon and we must have cake ….. and pudding. Grandma Bond always made both: as a small child I remember helping out as she measured the ingredients. Of course, there was always the bowl to lick.

In Edwardian Grandma’s little red book there are several recipes for Christmas cakes and puddings. However, only two were really rated – and my own mum continued the tradition of making Mrs Fairbank’s Christmas cake and Grandma Bond’s Christmas pudding. I’ve often wondered whether the latter was my grandma’s own recipe or one handed down through the Bond family – perhaps my own father’s grandma? Sadly, there is no one left to ask.

The recipe makes quite a light cake because there’s no black treacle in it. I soaked my fruit overnight in brandy – you could use rum. I always try to find whole citrus peel and chop it finely – the taste is so much better. The recipe says currants but I usually use a mix of currants and raisins. I also add some blanched almonds and chopped glacé cherries. I made the cake last weekend and it is wrapped up in a cake tin – I’m feeding it regularly with brandy!

Christmas cake Mrs Fairbank

8 oz butter
12 oz sugar
12 oz plain flour with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
16oz (1lb) currants
4oz peel
2 oz ground almonds
Almond essence
4 large eggs
Nutmeg
Little milk or rum (I used brandy)

Beat butter and sugar together and add beaten egg
Beat well, add flour and baking powder and nutmeg
Add fruit and liquid
Mix well
Bake gas 2 lower shelf for three hours

8 inch round tin, grease and line base and sides with baking parchment – the paper should be higher than the tin. Wrap double brown paper around the tin and tie with string. Let it cool in tin before lifting out. Wrap in foil and store in a cake tin. Feed occasionally with brandy or rum – prick cake with toothpick and spoon booze over.

Torte di mele – recipe from an Italian mamma

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Edwardian grandma has taken a break from cake making (and, therefore, blogging) over the summer – too many calories!

However, early in July I spent four days in the delightful Albergo La Marina in the quiet seaside town of Deiva Marina, close to the beautiful Cinque Terre, Italy. It was a spur of the moment decision to head to the Ligurian coast. We’d been staying in Lake Como, but the threat of bad weather sent us off in search of the sun.

Deiva Marina one of those quiet Italian resorts where Italian grannies spend the summer months playing canasta with their friends and minding their grandchildren. We’d found the Albergo La Marina on a Google search on an iPhone. It was the top hotel in the resort on TripAdvisor – there are only four hotels!

From the first phone call with the owner’s son Marco to our departure day we couldn’t fault this charming hotel. Family run and recently renovated, the hotel was simple, spotlessly clean with crisp white sheets and fabulous food cooked by mamma Ana.

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For 30 years Ana has been cooking Ligurian dishes such as seafood spaghetti, fresh swordfish, handmade pasta and pesto. She also makes homemade cake for the breakfast buffet. Yes, cakes for breakfast! And why not?

I couldn’t leave Albergo La Marina without a recipe from mamma Ana. Elena on reception, who spoke excellent English, was going to translate the recipe from Italian, but we were leaving and didn’t have time.

The recipe was simply a list of ingredients, an oven temperature and an approximate cooking time. Rather like the recipes in Edwardian Grandma’s little book, but in Italian. I’d assumed this was a recipe for an apple cake as we’d eaten Ana’s cakes for breakfast.

Back home I translated the list of ingredients and then realised that I didn’t have a clue about methods. Any good Italian cook would know what what to do so wouldn’t need instructions – just as my granny didn’t need to write down how to make a basic Victoria sponge.

I Googled Italian apple cake and found several recipes with photographs of what definitely looked like a cake. So, assuming that I was making a cake, I creamed butter and sugar together, then added the eggs and flour. The mixture was a bit stiff, so I added milk as instructed in the recipe.

Almost an hour later my cake looked done, so I turned it out onto a cooling rack and it fell apart. It looked like a complete disaster, but actually tasted delicious and we ended up eating it as a pudding with cream.

I emailed Elena who came back immediately to tell me that I should have been making a pie! She even sent a photograph of how the ingredients must be worked together using a method the Italians call ‘a fontana’.

This time it seemed to work and I emailed Elena a photograph of my apple tart or pie – it was given the seal of approval.

So, here is the recipe for Ana’s torte de mele – a rich tart of two discs of pastry sandwiched with apple and amaretto biscuits. The pastry is almost a cross between a sweet dessert pastry and shortbread. It’s a tart that tastes of Italy and begs to be accompanied with a decent cappuccino.

Below is Mamma Ana in her kitchen

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Mamma’s Torta Di Mele (apple tart)

350g plain flour
150g butter
150g sugar
1 egg & 1 egg yolk
Grated zest if one lemon
Pinch of salt
Half packet baking powder – 1 1/2 tsps

3 large apples – peeled and sliced – cook partially so that they retain their shape (note: use dessert apples such as Golden Delicious or Granny Smith’s. You may need four or even five if they’re small to medium as Italian apples tend to be very large)

Crushed amaretto biscuits 10 – 12

Prepare a 26 cm diameter round tin – a loose bottomed tin is best

Oven 180 degrees for 40 mins (exact time depends on your oven – the tart should be a pale gold)

Method

Put the flour onto a pastry board, ideally made of wood or marble and create a hole in the middle. Then you put butter (at room temperature), then the eggs, the sugar, the salt, the baking powder and the grated lemon. This is the ‘fontana’.

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Knead fast to create an elastic paste. If it crumbles away don’t worry, just add some cold water or half a yolk. And if it’s too hard, add some milk.

Divide the pastry into two and roll out two circles to fit the tin. Put one in the base of the tin, top with the apples and then sprinkle over the crushed amaretto biscuits (this melt into the apples). Top with the other disc of pastry and bake for approximately 40 minutes. I sprinkled icing sugar on mine.

I must thank my better half Roger for the lovely image of the Albergo La Marina. He’s taken several of the photographs for this blog and in return gets to taste the recipes.

Salad Days – a recipe from Danish great grandmother

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In a bid to lose a few pounds before our holiday in Italy our household is a cake free zone. As Edwardian Grandma’s little red book only contains carb laden cakes and biscuits I was struggling to find a recipe for my blog.

However, I remembered from my childhood that grandma always produced a pickled cucumber salad whenever we went for tea. It accompanied the sliced ham, hard boiled eggs, salmon (tinned of course) and salad cream – never mayonnaise in those days. As a child I had no interest in cucumber salads – I just wanted the cake that would appear afterwards.

My mother made the salad for my father as it was one of his favourites. I rarely ate it and considered it a bit odd, to be honest. It never occurred to me to question where the idea for this pickled salad came from until I started this blog and was looking for a low calorie recipe.

My great grandmother Selena (known as Lena) was from Copenhagen. I never met her, but having Danish blood always seemed vaguely exotic as a child. A quick Google search revealed that cucumber salad, or agurke salat in Danish is a usual accompaniment to open sandwiches called Smørrebrød. In other northern Scandinavian countries the salad is known by different names.

Perhaps Lena passed the recipe onto her daughter in law. Edwardian grandma’s husband (my grandfather) Herbert would have grown up eating this salad, I assume.

I am not very fond of cucumbers – they always seem the most boring of salad vegetables – but as this Danish salad is part of my family history and culture I made it. I found various recipes online – some used dill to flavour but I don’t remember grandma using it (was dill known or available in northern England in the 1950s and 60s, I wonder?). I added some sliced onion as I have a vague recollection that grandma added it. You need to make it a few hours ahead of eating to allow the flavours to develop. I believe it keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

I can see why grandma served it with cold meat and fish because it is actually so much nicer than plain cucumber. I shall be making it again.

Danish sliced cucumber salad

1 large cucumber
Table salt or sea salt
Half cup of white wine vinegar
Quarter cup of sugar
Quarter cup of water
Thinly sliced salad or red onion – optional
Dill – optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the cucumber as thinly as you can – I used a mandolin slicer. Layer on a plate and sprinkle with the table salt and leave for 10 minutes. This salting process draws out the water and also helps to get rid of the ‘burp’ factor – cucumbers have a habit of repeating on you.

Rinse the salt off the cucumber slices, drain and squeeze as much liquid out as you can. Dissolve the sugar in the water and vinegar. Layer up the cucumber slices and onion and pour the liquid over, add dill if you’re using and season.

Leave for at least two to three hours in the fridge before serving.

Jubilee Cake with fresh fruit and mascarpone cream

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Using Mrs Beeton’s Victoria sponge recipe I made this Jubilee cake to take to a Diamond Jubilee party at a neighbour’s house.

Rather than filling it with cream and jam I used fresh fruit and a mascarpone cream. This is a mixture of mascarpone cream cheese and creme fraiche sweetened with icing sugar used by chef Yotam Ottolenghi who makes the most wonderful cakes and pastries. Just whisk together equal quantities of mascarpone and creme fraiche and sweet with icing sugar.

A cake fit for a queen!

A slice of Mrs Beeton’s Victoria sponge for a Jubilee tea party

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A Victoria sponge is a classic English afternoon tea cake and perfect for a Jubilee weekend celebration. Edwardian grandma didn’t write a recipe for this teatime favourite in her little red book. I suspect that’s because every good home baker knew the basic techniques for a Victoria sponge.

Granny may well have used Mrs Beeton’s recipe, which I discovered quite recently via Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It’s quite simply the best Victoria sponge recipe ever – light and airy. It’s the easiest of recipes and its success is based on the fact that you use an equal weight of everything, including the eggs. So, start by weighing the eggs in their shells and then use exactly the same amount of butter, sugar and flour.

I shall be decorating mine with fresh fruit for a neighbour’s Jubilee party, but I’d usually just sandwich it with jam and cream, or even a buttercream icing.

Victoria sponge cake

Weigh the eggs first, then use the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. Makes a 20cm cake.

Unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing
4 eggs
Caster sugar
Self-raising flour, sieved with a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
A little milk, if necessary

To finish
Raspberry jam
Whipping cream or buttercream icing
Icing sugar or caster sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease two 20cm sandwich cake tins with butter, and line the bases and sides with baking parchment.

Weigh the eggs in their shells and weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. In a bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, adding a tablespoon of sifted flour if the mix looks as if it’s going to curdle. Beat in the vanilla extract, then gently but thoroughly fold in the flour.

Now check the consistency of the batter. Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture and hold it over the bowl. If it drops down fairly easily, it’s just right. If it sticks stubbornly in the spoon, fold a tablespoon or two of milk into the mixture.

Divide the batter equally between the two tins and gently smooth the tops with a knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sandwich the cakes together with jam and cream and sieve icing sugar over the top.

A very English macaroon from Mrs Hunter

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Mention macaroons to many people and they think of delicate, melt-in-your-mouth French creations in ice cream colours. Mrs Hunter’s macaroons are old fashioned, chewy English versions and perfect for a vintage themed afternoon tea. They take me back to my childhood when I was fascinated that you could eat the rice paper.

My neighbour lent me some cookery books published by Parkinson, makers of gas cookers. The macaroon recipe in the book from the 1930s is very similar to this one from Edwardian Grandma’s notebook.

Mrs Hunter was one of grandma’s Mothers’ Union ‘set’ – middle aged women who were the backbone of the Church of England. She lived near my parents so I knew her quite well when I was a child. I seem to remember she ran a cafe in Ward Jackson Park, Hartlepool and she would sometimes allow me behind the counter.

Unlike French macaroons these are so easy to make – in fact almost foolproof. They should be crunchy in the outside and chewy in the middle. You can make it with almonds or coconut, but I prefer the almond version. If you can’t get rice paper then line baking sheets with baking parchment, but don’t forget to peel it off!

Almond or coconut macaroons – Mrs Hunter

2 oz ground almonds or desiccated coconut
4 oz sugar
1 dessertspoon cornflour or ground rice
white of 1 egg

Gas mark 3 – 17 minutes

Mrs Hunter provided no method for these macaroons. I checked a couple of old recipe books and you need to lightly beat the egg white, then add the other ingredients.

Make into small balls and put on rice paper on baking sheets. These spread out quite a bit so allow plenty of space. You can top almond macaroons with a blanched almond if you want.

17 minutes seems very precise – The Parkinson Cookery Book says 20 minutes. They should be lightly coloured on the top. Once cooled they should be slightly chewy.

Plain old fashioned rice cake – a recipe from Mary Almond

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On a recent trip to my brother’s we were looking through old family photos and found a photo of Edwardian grandma and three friends, Mrs Taylor, Mrs Pearson and Mrs Baxter. It looks as if it was taken in the1950s when grandma would have been in her 60s. It’s also the decade I was born – her first grandchild.

Grandma and her friends had come through two World Wars and in this photograph they look like sensible, not to be messed with women. You can imagine them rolling up their sleeves and just getting on with it. Family myth is that grandma was white washing a ceiling when she went into labour with my father and had to be dragged off a stepladder to give birth!

Rice cake is a sensible cake for sensible women. As a child I was always disappointed if the cake tin revealed just this plain cake instead of something fancy with chocolate or buttercream icing. It’s an every day cake and leftovers make a good trifle. Although it’s not a personal favourite I felt I had to make it as I associate it so much with my childhood. I’ve found rice cake in several recipe books from the 1920s and 1930s – I guess it was a relatively inexpensive teatime basic in many households.

This recipe is from Mary Almond. I don’t know who she was, but a what a lovely name and a shame that she is not represented by a fancier cake.

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Rice Cake – Mary Almond

4oz margarine
4oz sugar
2 eggs
5 oz self raising flour
2 oz ground rice
a little milk as required
little essence – almond, vanilla, orange or lemon

Beat sugar and margarine then eggs. Flour flour in – don’t beat it. Mixture should be rather soft – add milk as necessary.

I made this in a small loaf tin, but you could use any shape cake tin. Mary Almond’s recipe had no cooking temperature so I checked in an old Parkinson Cookery Book and went with gas no 4 for 30/40 mins.