I can clearly remember the first time my brain registered the juiciness of a nectarine and its heavenly scent. It was summer and unusually hot. I was about 3 or 4 years old and me and my mother, the lady next door and her son Sam who had the same age, had walked quite a distance to a park where we could play. After we had played a while, Sam and I were each given an unusually large nectarine – mostly because our hands were very small. They came out of a brown paper bag, and I can still recall the sound of the bag, and the scent that came next when it was presented to me to pick my fruit. I remember that I smelled the skin of the fruit, looked at it, turned it around and was then handed a piece of white kitchen paper to catch the juice that was about to drip from my chin and hands. I investigated the skin between my fingers, the texture of the fruit. I recall the bitterness of the magenta red stone as I was trying to get the last of the flesh from it….
traditional British bakes
It is not a coincidence that I chose to write about Queen cakes today. If you’ve read the papers and watched the news, or if you are a royalist, then you know today the Queen of England celebrates her 90th birthday. This makes her the world’s oldest-reigning monarch and the longest reigning monarch in English history. Queen Victoria was the previous record holder with her 63 years and seven months. So Queenie has every reason to be smug and have a big party – which is a giant street picnic on the Mall (the strap of wide street in front of Buckingham palace) in june. Getting a ticket for it was near impossible to my regret, because this was a celebration I would have been happy to buy a new hat for, bunting I already have aplenty. So if you’re reading this Your Majesty… is there room for one more? I’ll throw in a book!
But let’s talk about these Queen cakes. They are little cakes, and they started popping up in English cookery books in the 18th century. When reading the several recipes from the 18th to the 20th century I have in original cookery books, they remind me of a little cake I grew up with in Belgium. However, the recipe was slightly different as the Belgian cakes were flavoured with a little vanilla or almond essence, while Queen cakes are flavoured with mace, orange flower water, rose water and lemon depending on the date of the recipe. The Belgian cakes also look more like Madeleines, but they both have currants in them and the use of vanilla or almond essence is of course a slightly more ‘modern’ way to flavour bakes.
As with many English dishes, the Queen cakes come with their own dedicated cake pans. These were produced in the 19th century and depictions of them can be found in at least two books that I know of, one I own. 18th century recipes remain silent about the tins they should be baked in, but it is very possible that the then fashionable mince pie tins would have been used, leaving them without a need to create new tins….
Let me share with you a recipe from Pride and Pudding, my debut book that was festively launched in London’s Borough Market two weeks ago. There is also good news if you haven’t ordered the book yet! The Amazon editorial team has not only included Pride and Pudding in their ‘Books of the Month’ – this week it is also part of their ‘Deal of the Week’ which comes with a 50% discount only this week. (Get it here >) Meaning it will only set you back a tenner! It looks like sales are going splendid as I haven’t seemed to have lost my spot in the first 10 of the top 100 Bestsellers. As an author you do fear no one will buy your book. As do you fear bad reviews and negativity. So if you have a moment and you like the book, Amazon reviews do make a difference.
Now back to the actual order of the day. Cabinet pudding was a favourite on Victorian tables, the first recipes for it appeared in the early 19th century, though similar puddings had been made long before then. It is also sometimes called Newcastle pudding, diplomat pudding or Chancellor’s pudding, though the connection with politics isn’t clear. Recipes also vary. There are theories about the name but none seemed to hold much truth to them….
If you have visited the city of Bath, nestled in a green valley with its Roman baths, elegant Georgian townhouses and impressive circus, you might have noticed that there are two famous buns in town. Both are competing to be the oldest, most authentic, and most valuable to the city’s heritage. The Sally Lunn and the Bath Bun – they both even have their own tea room in town. Of course the notion that one of these buns is more important than the other is bollocks. At the end of the day, it’s just something to spread your butter on. I’m far more interested in both of these buns history than I am in their importance.
One bun maker claimed that the Bath bun was just simply a Sally Lunn which was slightly changed and then given the name Bath Bun for the tourists. A rather simplistic way of looking at it, but it has happened to other foods in the past. Of course in this case we are talking about two entirely different buns.
What a difference a bun makes
We know that during the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, set up by Prince Albert, 934.691 Bath buns were sold to the public. This shows they were either popular, or they were the best option! According to bun legend people remarked that the Bath bun sold in London was not exactly like the one sold in Bath and soon Bath buns in London were renamed London buns. However, mentions for London buns can be found 20 years before the Great Exhibition. So I’m fairly sure we are again talking about two different buns. To confuse things even more is that in Australia a Chelsea bun is known as a London bun.
The Sally Lunn which I will get to in another posting, is a light bun with a nice dome shaped top, it looks like a brioche but is less rich and not sweet at all. It is known since 1776. The Bath bun used to be a Bath cake in the 18th century. But although it was called cake, it was definitely treated as a bun, which according to Elizabeth Raffald The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769 should be the size of a French roll and sent in hot for breakfast. Bath resident and cookery author Martha Bradley, gave a recipe in her book in 1756 entitled ‘Bath seed Cake’. Over the course of the 18th century eggs were added to the batter making the buns richer. In Andre Simon’s ‘Cereals: A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy’ from 1807 the recipe instructs the cook to:
Rub 1 lb. of butter into 2 lb. of fine flour; mix in it 1 lb. of caraway comfits, beat well 12 eggs, leaving out six whites, with 6 spoonfuls of new yeast, and the same quantity of cream made warm; mix all together, and set it by the fire to rise; when made up, strew comfits over them.
Jane Austen was a fan of Bath buns and promised to stuff her face with them if her sister Cassandra would not be joining her for a visit to Paragon that May….
To prepare, preheat your oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into small cubes, transfer it to the bowl, and start rubbing the butter into the flour until you get a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pour in the milk and use your fingers to mix it together until it becomes a dough. Press and knead briefly.
I’ve been wanting to investigate and especially photograph the infamous Treacle mines of England for some time now. But as it happens, it’s England’s best kept secret. So why is it out in the open? Google Treacle Mines and you’ll get numerous stories, one even crazier than the other.
Well… the best way to protect a secret is to convince people that it doesn’t exist. And that is what the clever people from these small mining villages have done.
|… in these hills|
When he got home he told his father about the discovery and they both set out to see their money ticket. They lit up the cave with as much candles they were able to afford and started to free the well from its stone tomb. But as the sticky black mess bubbled the boy’s father put in his finger, trying to smell and inspect this thick black matter and concluding it must be something else than oil. Confused and disappointed the boy also dipped his finger in the black bubbling well, smelled it and hit my its sweet but rather unfamiliar scent, he licked the thick black substance from his finger. The boys silence troubled his old father, but after a little while he was able to speak… This sweetness will be sought after and more dangerous than lead, tin or oil.
Treacle tart is made, not with Treacle but with Golden Syrup. I have added black Treacle however, for flavour. Old recipes state using Treacle, but Golden Syrup was in the past known as Golden Treacle, or light Treacle. This tart is not for people sensitive to sugar, in fact, I can’t manage to eat a whole piece despite the flavour being nice. It is remembered by many in England as a School dinner pudding and those who loved it then, love it still. So here it is, especially for the sweet tooth!
Two ways with sausages for Bonfire night: Jacket potato bangers and Toad in the hole
Last year on this day I wrote about Guy Fawkes and his connection to the Gunpowder Plot (see Gunpowder, treason and Bonfire Parkin here) and how it came to be that such plot was, well… plotted. I went back to nearly a hundred years before the plot, to see where that seed was sown.
Today I look at the customs that resulted from this failed plot and how it influenced the way we riot and react today to show our dismay, disappointment and disgust for politics and religion.
The trial of the eight surviving conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot was held on januari 27 1606 in Westminster Hall which would have destroyed had their plot been successful. A statute was passed, declaring that deliverance from Gunpowder treason should be remembered every year. From then on each 5th of november there would be a church service at which attendance was compulsory if you were loyal to the King, or at least wanted to pretend to be loyal. It became an annual ceremony to keep the memory of the failed Gunpowder Plot alive. It continued until it was taken out of the prayerbook two centuries later in 1859. But although it was erased from the prayerbook, it was by now rooted into the culture.
In a way the customs of the 5th of november provided a replacement to the pre-reformation holy days of All Saints and All Souls on the 1st and 2nd of November. On these days the churches would be lit with candles, and torches marking the start of winter and darkness. This catholic tradition in its own right had replaced the old pagan rites of Samhain, which celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. It literally means ‘summer’s end’ and is the primary festival marking the end and the beginning of the year.
When the christians needed to convert the pagans, they gave them the 1st of November, a day on which they could light candles and make lanterns in hollowed turnips, just as they had been doing for generations before christianity spread. The reformation to Protestantism left the people with an empty gap where their 1st of November celebrations used to be, so naturally they embraced the new bonfire tradition after the Gunpowder Plot failed in the first years of the 1600’s.
Conveniently to the Protestants, the 5th of november could be used as a celebration of the conservation of Protestantism, a date to mark in the calendar alongside the early death of Queen Mary (a Catholic), the long reign of Queen Elizabeth I (Protestant) and the defeat of the Spanish Armada (to warn off the Spanish Catholics).
When Charles I married the Catholic princes of France, people showed their disapproval of the Catholic queen by burning effigies of the Pope and the devil on the 5th of November. We are now situated 20 years after the Gunpowder Plot and the only effigies that were burnt were that of the pope and the devil, not of Guy Fawkes.
In 1647 was described how bonfires went from simply great fires to spectacles with fireworks and explosives including fireballs. And in 1657 Samuel Clarke’s ‘England Remembrancer invoked the happenings of the plot.
After Charles II Restoration in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary “This 5th of November is observed exceeding well in the City; and at night great bonfires and fireworks.” The next years up until the year of the Great Fire in 1666 (which was for a short time also blamed on the catholics) he also mentioned Bonfires and festivities which shows us the normality of these celebrations by this time. On one occasion he is driving home with his wife after going to see Macbeth “forced to go round by London-Wall home because of the bonefires.”
Celebrations of the 5th became larger and intense rather than festive after the brother of Charles II Duke of York publicly declared to be a Catholic. This was followed by the Exclusion Crisis to exclude the him from the throne because he was Roman Catholic. When the Tory’s started to declare being agains the Exclusion, this created probably one of the first bonfire night riots. In 1682 the 5th fell on a sunday so celebrations started on monday the 6th. Reputedly crowds of people took to the streets attacking Tories and shouting their support for the King’s bastard son, the Duke of Monmouth, who was Protestant. This Bonfire night, it was not a celebration of the failed Gunpowder Plot, it was a warning and objection against the possibility of being ruled by a Catholic king.
The next year on the 5th, bonfires and fireworks were banned to keep the calm. But you know what, two years later James did succeed Charles and England had a Catholic King… Needless to say that the Bonfire night celebrations were forbidden although the ‘Gunpowder Treason-Day’ church service remained.
Under the rule of James’ daughter Mary Stuart and her Protestant husband William of Orange, the celebrations of the 5th commenced and got entwined with the restoration of the Protestant religion in England by William of Orange. That double meaning didn’t stick though and years after this, it was forgotten and the 5th was yet again a celebration of the failing of the Gunpowder Plot.
Gunpowder Treason-Day’ church sermons changed each year, always highlighting another political event. Leaving the people a reason to take to the streets each year.
By the 18th century the festivities on the ‘fifth’ became less and less fuelled by hatred against Catholics and more about other political issues. The Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791 made life easier for Catholics, granting them the same rights as Protestants. Of course this sparked resistance leading to a week of rioting in 1780. But eventually the Catholics emancipated, helped by the Irish situation, with Catholic Irish members of Parliament. Of course in Ireland the troubles between the Irish Catholics and English Protestants remained.
Another change happened to the Bonfire night celebrations when anti-catholicism became less acceptable. By the early 19th century effigies of the pope were no longer burnt and the crowds needed another figure to ‘blame’. Strangely enough that figure became Guy Fawkes, the person who was least named in contemporary writings about the Treason and Plot. Although Guy Fawkes is mostly remembered on Bonfire night today, it was Robert Catesby who was chief instigator of the Gunpowder Plot (read my previous post to learn more of the plot).
So why did our Guy Fawkes become the figure of Bonfire Night? We can of course not say for certain why, but in 1793 just before the turn of the century, a play was performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatre. The prelude in one act was entitled: Guy Fawkes or The Fifth of November. In 1835 a comic pantomime called Harlequin and Guy Fawkes: or the 5th of November was performed in London’s Covent Garden. Many different stories about the Gunpowder Plot were told in plays after that, maybe the truth drifted away and the name Guy Fawkes just sounded best in playwright, maybe it was because he was discovered with the gunpowder…
But now Guy Fawkes has become the Gunpowder Plot, and the night of the fifth got often referred to as ‘Guy Fawkes night‘. He became the new face of the tradition, the scapegoat of the Plot, the symbol of opposition and disapproval.
Our story takes more turns in the 19th century with Bonfire night celebrations turning violent and dark. Victorian times saw the coming of a different sort of celebration, a night of rioting and criminal behaviour. A night when the honest should stay indoors and the dangerous ruled the streets.
The processions of ‘the night of the fifth’ would be fired with local social issues of politics and religion. They became manifestations, uprise agains local authorities and they became so dangerous and organised that they needed another organised organisation to contain them. So the police force grew to counter the protesters.
Today we live in a time with organised demonstrations, approved by the local authorities and contained for the safety of the protesters as well as the opponents and those who have nothing to do with it. But when the demonstrations do get ugly today, we see Guy Fawkes appear in the crowds…
Much like in the early 19th century plays about the Gunpowder Plot, a movie was made from a 1980’s graphic novel in 2005. ‘V for Vendetta’ is set in a near-future dystopian society in England, with the main character being ‘V’ a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, who wants to destroy the corrupt fascist regime and its leaders. One of the authors of the graphic novel commented that “The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I’m happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.” By many political groups the film was seen as an allegory of oppression by government. Anarchists, libertarians and activists of any kind have used the Guy Fawkes mask in their demonstrations after the movie came out. It has been seen in demonstrations agains the G8 summit and in other economical and political protest. It has become the emblem of anonymity and dissent.
The ‘Guy’ has gained another face, 400 years after he was just one pawn of the Gunpowder Plot. He has now become the face of disappointed people, the face disapproval in modern times. The face saying, we have had enough… For now at least.
On to the food part of this post. Bonfire
societies organise the Bonfire parades now in a safe and family
friendly manner. The streets of Lewes particularly are the place to be
for elaborate bonfire displays. People watch the parade and the fireworks and look forward to warming their hands on hot food and drink.
For this years bonfire night I give you two ways with bangers which are perfect for bonfire night celebrations at home. Toad in the hole is a traditional meat & batter pudding dish that evolved from the Yorkshire pudding-type puddings and other types of fired pudding.
It is bound to be a success with the little ones as who doesn’t love a good old proper sausage. The other dish is a banger jacket potato, an easy dish that even the most inexperienced cook could make. The potato just needs time to cook in the oven so do that in advance. It’s a perfect little bomb of warmth when you are planning to do some bonfiring of your own in the garden!
Toad in the hole
- good quality sausages, 3 or 4
- a few sprigs of rosemary (optional)
For the batter
- 280 ml milk
- 110 g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 3 medium eggs
preheat your oven to max 250° C
Fry your sausages in sunflower oil in a pan until nearly done
Pour 1 cm of sunflower oil into a baking stray or cake tin and place in the middle of the hot oven.
Place a larger tray underneath in case the oil drips over, you don’t want extra cleaning afterwards
Make your batter in the manner of making pancake batter
When your oil is hot, you will see as it will be spitting, arrange your sausages into place along with the oil you still have in your pan from frying your bangers
Carefully but swiftly pour the batter into the hot oil, stick in the rosemary sprigs and close the oven door. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed up and nicely colored.
Serve with mustard, braised red cabbage, jacked potato or mashed potato and caramelised onions if you like
To braise red cabbage
- red Cabbage
- a cooking apple, cubed ( for a football size cabbage you need 1 large cooking apple)
- a teaspoon of cinnamon
Cut your cabbage very finely, and heat some butter in a pan.
Add your cabbage and apple and braise, adding a little water when needed.
When soft, spice with a little honey and cinnamon
Serve warm, o so good with sausages
Jacket potato bangers
For the potato
- 1 potato per person You need a floury kind like a Maris Piper, King Edward, or for Belgians ‘Bintje frietaardappel’
- +- 20g coarse sea salt
- good quality sausages
- 3 onions, braised and caramelised
Wash the potatoes and let them dry
Preheat your oven to 220° C
Put your salt in a tray and roll each potato in the salt and rub it in
Prick your potato with a toothpick a few times to prevent them bursting
Place the potatoes straight on the rack in the middle of the oven
Bake for 1 hour, then squeeze the potato slightly to see if it appears soft inside, if that doesn’t appear so, place back in the oven for another 15-30 minutes.
When the potatoes are nearly ready or when you are about to have dinner caramelise some onions, add one teaspoon of pomegranate molasse of balsamic vinegar, whatever you prefer and let it become nice and sticky. You could do this in advance too and just cook the sausages when you need them.
Finally fry your sausages in oil or butter, I prefer butter and oil in this case. Finish them off with 10 min in the oven along with your potatoes to heat them up again or on their final bake.
Then cut into the potato, add some of that caramelised onion, add a banger and serve!
Also very good with braised red cabbage.
Last years Bonfire parkin might take your fancy, find the recipe here >
What are you doing for bonfire night?
Wishing you all a happy Saint George’s Day with these humble cottage pies. I’ve been mostly working on my book, stuck with my nose in research and absolutely loving it but in the evening I long for great simple food with pure flavours. This pie is just that, with the best spuds you can find for your mash, decent flavoursome beef and a layer of moist spinach, this is a treat for me. I just wrap it in a towel and relax with a beer and a movie.
No doubt you will all have been waiting for the dragon slaying moment in this story but unfortunately I will have to disappoint you as there are no dragons in this tale.
Then the tale of George and the dragon appears in the Legenda sanctorum or Golden legend, a collection of hagiographies (stories of the Saints) by Jacobus de Voragine. This book of which there were over a thousand of manuscripts in the 13th century was very popular and was one of the first books that were printed in the English language when printing was invented around 1450.
So what are you up to today?
- 400 g beef mince, from chuck steak
- 1 large chestnut mushroom or a white one
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 small carrot
- 1 clove of garlic
- a knob of butter to fry the meat and veg
- 1 small tin of tomato puree 50-70 gr (concentrate of tomato)
- 1 glass of red wine or stout beer like guinness – 250 ml
- 2 teaspoons of Worcester sauce
- 300 ml of beef or vegetable stock (I use an organic vegetable stock cube)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few handfuls of fresh spinach (you can use from your freezer too)
- Potato mash, you need 4 large spuds or use leftover if you have some
- Add 4 teaspoons of grated cheddar cheese
- 2 individual trays, or one larger one. Small pie pans work well. (14×19)
Cook your spuds and make your mash with milk, butter, nutmeg and salt. If you like to make it richer, add an egg yolk too. You need a silky smooth mash which is slightly wetter than you’d eat it normally as it dries a bit in the oven.
Chop all the vegetables and add to a heavy based casserole, glaze a little over a medium flame and then add the meat. Brown the meat and add the tomato puree, stir well to combine evenly
When the tomato starts to caramelise – which means stick to the bottom of the pan, pour in the wine or beer. Stir to loosen up the meat and veg.
Let the booze evaporate, it takes about a minute, and it will be reduced a lot. If you don’t want to use alcohol, use water or stock
Now pour in the garlic, stock, and the Worcester sauce and put on the lid, leave for 30 minutes but check on it frequently so it doesn’t burn to the base. You may leave it longer too, it is merely for the flavours to develop.
Use boiling water from the kettle and blanch your spinach, drain and add a cube of butter, you may omit this but butter does taste so very well.
Preheat your oven to 180°C
Place your spinach in your chosen baking tray or trays, season with pepper.
When the meat is ready, transfer it to you tray or trays.
Now make the mash layer by scooping blobs of potato on the meat, then spread out.
You can pipe this mash, but who has the time to pipe mash on a weekday??
Place into the oven under the gril for about 10-15 minutes or until your mash has some color. It depends really on what you like, lightly coloured or not.
Serve with a beer, or wine if you like.
Put the rest in the freezer, we usually have some leftovers. These pies freeze very well, just defrost in your fridge overnight when planning to use.
Thank you for leaving a comment!
I haven’t been a pious Christian since I was 6, Lent only means one thing to me, I will have a birthday soon. Easter wasn’t something I particularly looked forward to, and I was surprisingly unimpressed with the overly sweet milk chocolate eggs the easter bunny brought me. Nor did I enjoy the big family gatherings as they always resulted into political debates, and dispute. It is most certainly the reason for my aversion to politics and politicians.
A Ceremonie in Glocester.I’le to thee a Simnell bring,Gainst thou go’st a mothering,So that, when she blesseth thee,Half that blessing thou’lt give me.
At some time along the way of time the legend of Simon and Nell appeared. A story most people have heard from their grandparents.
|The Book of Days|
The Simnel cake today is a fruit cake that is slightly lighter than a Christmas tide fruitcake. It is covered in marzipan these days instead of a tough white crust and a layer of marzipan is baked into the middle of the cake. On top of the cake are placed 11 balls to represent the true apostles, leaving off Judas Iscariot the traitor. When exactly the 11 balls came into practice isn’t clear but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the Victorians
My Simnel cake omits the spices and only holds candied peel and dried fruits which give the cake a very sweet taste.
What do you need
- 300 g mixed fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins)
- 100 ml sherry
- 250 g butter, unsalted and at room temperature
- 230 g raw cane sugar
- 4 free range eggs
- 320 g plain white flour
- pinch of salt
- 40 g candied lemon peel, chopped
- about 750 g of marzipan
- orange marmalade, a few spoonfuls
- optional: 1 egg to egg wash the top
The day before, soak the mixed fruit in the sherry
Preheat your oven to 160°c
Prepare a round spring form by lining it with baking parchment
Roll out 1/3 of the marzipan and use the spring form as a guide to cut out a circle of the same size.
Cream the butter and the sugar and add the eggs one at a time.
Add the flour and combine well
Now fold in the mixed fruit and candied peel
Scoop one half of the dough in the spring form and place the marzipan on top
Now scoop in the remaining dough and place in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Leave to cool in the baking tin.
Now roll out half of the remaining marzipan and cut out another round the same size as your cake. Roll 11 balls from the leftover marzipan.
If you want to cover the sides of the cake, roll out the last of the marzipan creating a long ribbon.
When the cake is cooled, turn on the oven grill at 160°c and smear on the orange marmalade on top to place your marzipan on the cake followed by the balls.
Egg wash your balls and place under the grill until the balls have a golden or brownish color.
Serve with tea, lots of it.
Not a fan of so much marzipan, this is an option too!
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The fifth of november, remember?
One of the most intriguing of English traditions to me is Bonfire night. Otherwise known as Guy Fawkes night it is a feast that commemorates the failing of a plot by Roman Catholic conspirators to blow up the House of Parliament in London killing the Protestant King James in the process.
Although Guy Fawkes is mostly remembered on this occasion, it was Robert Catesby who was chief instigator of the Gunpowder Plot. Catesby turned against the government of Elizabeth I when his father along with so many others Catholics, was prosecuted for refusing to conform to the Church of England. When Elizabeth I died, James – son of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots – came to the throne which gave the Roman Catholics new hope for greater religious freedom. When this hope turned pear shaped the English Catholics plotted to put Arbella Stuart on the throne, she was Catholic, James’ cousin and a major claimant to the throne of England having both Tudor and Stuart bloodlines. Arbella always stayed close to the throne but never became queen, by blood she had a larger claim to succession and she became known as the ‘Queen that never was’.
The seed to the Gunpowder plot however was planted nearly a century earlier by another Tudor, Henry VIII. When he issued the Act of Supremacy which declared him head of the Church of England to be able to divorce the first of his six wives, he started a century of violent religious turmoil. Henry’s Church of England wasn’t initially Protestant but his son Edward VI instituted more Protestant reforms. Mary I, being Henry’s daughter with his Catholic wife whom he divorced to marry Elizabeth’s mother Anne, was a Catholic and tried to restore the Catholic faith. She started her five year bloody reign by reviving the laws against heresy and was hated for it. The result was the persecution of Protestant rebels and the execution of some 300 heretics. Elizabeth’s accession to the throne on Mary’s death was greeted with enormous jubilation from the people. Yet again the Roman Catholics were facing persecution and the plotting to replace Elizabeth I with Mary Queen of Scots began.
This brings us back to Mary’s son James and the infamous Gunpowder treason and plot.
On the 5th of november 1605 Guy Fawkes was apprehended while guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar under the house of Parliament. How they found out about the gunpowder in the cellar leads to speculation but it is presumed that someone from within the circle of conspirators of the plot warned someone to stay away from parliament on the 5ft. After his apprehension Fawkes was tortured to give up the names of his accomplices.
The signature on his confession after who knows how many hours – days – of torture is somewhat shaky but you can clearly make out his name. This confession however is said not to show all the names of those involved. The confession believed to be signed one day later shows all the names and the signature is that of a broken, beaten and suffering man. The letters are barely coming together, you can faintly see the name Guido but I guess the surname was too much. It is some what disturbing to see his handwriting change in such a manner but it is quite remarkable that these documents were saved.
Guy (or Guido) Fawkes was executed along with several of his conspirators after being tried for high treason januari 1606. the sentence was hanging, drawing and quartering.
Parliament passed and act that called for the 5th of november to be celebrated as a joyful day of deliverance. There are a lot of rhymes associated with this day and although the earliest is said to date back to 1742, I have not found the source and therefore can not believe it to be accurate. The rhyme ‘Remember Remember the 5th of november’ adapted by for movie V for Vendetta has however been in practice for decades.
Pennies for the Guy
To this day the Houses of Parliament are still traditionally searched by the Yeomen of the Guard just before the State Opening which was the day on which the plot was discovered. Straw or cloth effigies of Fawkes called ‘Guys’ are often made by youngsters and carried around displaying them to passers-by asking for ‘A penny for the Guy’ and often they are burned in the bonfire celebrations. Food is a big part of the tradition today with bonfire toffee, toffee apples and spicy parkin cakes. A parkin is a sticky ginger cake from the north of England and because Guy Fawkes was a Yorkshireman it has since been associated with bonfire night.
My research into bonfire night continues and I am sure next year I will have plenty more to share with you. I want to look deeper into the links with pagan rites and folklore.
But for now this will have to do and I leave you with a parkin.
After quite a few recipes tested, some over a 100 years old and some new, I came to this one and think it makes an enjoyable cake. In the parkin you see in the pictures of this post I used porridge oats, they were too rough so I changed the recipe to medium oatmeal. How this recipe turned out you can see the picture that comes after the recipe, this one I took just before dark so excuse the messy picture, I had to be quick about it.
If you are lucky enough to be in England next weekend when the large bonfires will be lid, I wish you loads of fun and plenty of food and booze to keep you going.
If you want to make the toffee apples, check out this recipe here >
I just replaced the lollypop sticks with branches from a tree in my garden, looks ever so pretty.
What do you need
For 9 squares
- 100 g (3ó oz) rolled oats (see page 16)
- 200 g (7 oz) golden syrup or maple syrup
- 45 g (1ó oz) Lyle’s black treacle or molasses
- 200 g (7 oz) butter
- 200 g (7 oz) oat flour
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp whisky or milk
- pinch of sea salt
For a 20 cm (8 inch) square cake tin
Preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F) and prepare the cake tin (see page 21).
Briefly pulse the oats in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
Heat the golden syrup, black treacle and butter in a saucepan until melted and combined. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then add the chopped oats and the
remaining ingredients. Combine well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Spread the mixture into the cake tin.
Bake for 50–60 minutes and then cool in the tin. When the cake is cold, cut it into squares and pack it in an airtight container to rest for at least a day before serving.
The cake gets stickier and more moist every day and can last for 2 weeks if you can hide it for that long.
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