Well, here is the first of my occassional recipes from my Grandmother's notebook. My Grandmother, Elizabeth, was born into a large Methodist family in the North East of England in 1901. She became the manageress of Pattinsons - a large Tea room/bakery in the city of Durham, and many of her recipes were inspired by her time there. She died at the age of 84, and I still miss her today. She was my friend as well as my Gran.
In fact, she wasn't my grandmother at all, although I didn't find out until I was much older. My father's parent's marriage was one of the hidden casualties of WWII. I don't really know all the details - my dad always says he was too young to remember, and he was far too busy playing football, or hide and seek - but I have heard bits and pieces from various sources over the years - particularly from my Aunt. All I know is that there was an affair, a baby born out of wedlock, and my Grandpa coming home from the war to take care of his two abandoned children who had been left with their grandparents. One of my cousin's has vaguely talked about writing a novel about it, and I am sure it would be a good one.
Anyway, my grandfather had gone to visit an old army friend in Durham, just after the war, had gone to the tea shop,and there met my Gran, who would have been a spinster in her mid 40s at that time. They fell in love and married. I am always filled with admiration thinking of how strong a woman Elizabeth must have been. For a middle aged, single, religious woman - to have left her family, come back with her husband ( a war veteran and recently divorced), to the small town where everyone would have known about the "scandal", to take on the care of his two children, who had lived through all the deprivations of the war, and the trauma of their mother leaving, and to become involved in the life of the community, church and family in the graceful way she did deserves more than a medal. She is my hero and inspiration to this day.
Wow - it seems a bit mundane now to turn to recipes after all that drama, but, that is what we are here for. No doubt various family anecdotes will find their way in to these posts as we go along. This recipe book was a Christmas gift to my Gran the year after her marriage. It is inscribed:
With best wishes
from Hannah and Tite.
Aunt Hannah was the youngest of my grandmother's siblings. There were 6 in all - 5 girls and 1 boy, and I was privileged to know them all, as we often took trips down to England to visit. "Here's Scotland coming!", my Uncle George used to say, as we piled out of the train, or the car.
Uncle Tite was Hannah's husband - his full name was Titus. All the family had wonderful exotic Biblical names and were just the most wonderful kind people you could ever meet.
Ok - the recipe. I will be sharing mostly recipes that I remember fondly from the groaning tea table that we sat round every week, but also some that I don't know - bearing fascinating names like "Humpty Dumpties" or "Goody Boats" - just to see what they are.
This week, though, in response to a special request, we are baking Gypsy Cream biscuits - a crunchy chocolate cookie sandwich with a chocolate cream filling. Gypsy creams were made by the McVitie biscuit company, and were very popular as I grew up - I seem to remember they came in a brown box. They are no longer made, as far as I can tell, but I did see a reference to Romany creams somewhere, which may be similar. This is the recipe in my Gran's notebook, and they did feature quite regularly in the weekly baking session
2 oz butter
2 oz lard
3level tablespoons golden syrup
(do try and make the syrup spoonful level - I think mine were a bit too generous and the biscuits were quite hard as a result)
6 oz flour
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa or drinking chocolate
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp baking soda
2 oz sugar
2 oz porridge oats
mix dry ingredients into wet
add a teacup full of milk
shape into walnut size balls, place on a greased baking sheet and flatten out with a fork.
Bake for 20 minutes at 325 def F (160 C)
When cooled, sandwich together with chocolate butter-cream icing (frosting)
Not bad at all! I was never really a bought gypsy cream aficionado, so I don't know how they compare to McVitie's. They did taste a lot like I remember my Grandmother's. A bit harder - see my note on the syrup - and a bit chocolate-ier, as I used cocoa instead of drinking choc, but all in all, pretty tasty. Don't fear the lard - I think it does make a difference, but you could use a white vegetable fat instead - just stay away from the hydrogenated stuff. xxx.