social spark Aisling Beatha: April 2013


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The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ginger Shortbread from a Wartime Cookbook

Did you see my last post about a book I found when we were clearing out my father's house?

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Today I wanted to try out one of the recipes from the book.  For some reason my friends and family don't like the sound of some of the recipes, so I went with something that was traditional but with a little twist.  Ginger Shortbread.

The first problem was working out how much a breakfastcup is.  I know a cup was supposed to be 8 ounces, which would work out to 225ml, but modern cup measures used in kitchens are 250ml.  I wondered if a breakfast cup was more or less than a normal cup.  First of all I found a kitchenware place that still makes banqueting sets and so on, and has all the sizes, and sure enough, from their measurements a breakfast cup is LARGER than a teacup.  But how much larger?

Finally, after more research, I found a site of kitchen conversions that listed breakfast cups.  Breakfast cups appear around 1/3 of the way down that page and are listed as 10 fl oz or just under 300ml.  Remembering that most farmhouse kitchens will not have had proper measuring sets and will have used what they had on hand, I went ahead with an estimation.

So, for each breakfast cup required, I used 1 modern cup plus a heaped dessertspoon.  First the flour

Then the brown sugar

The other dry ingredients, ginger, salt and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda to my American friends).   Oh BTW I love my dinky little pinch pots!

A pack of butter used to be 8 ounces, but you can see that with modern times meaning metric, they now weigh more.

So, I decided that I would use a slice off the end to grease the baking tin and then use the rest in the shortbread.  And the baking tin.  What is a dripping tin?  How big is it? I just went with what I thought would work.

So, let's make gingerbread!

2 breakfastcupfuls of flour.
1 breakfastcupful of moist brown sugar (this is important as white sugar won't make it). 
½ lb. butter.
Pinch of salt.
2 teaspoonfuls, ground ginger.
1 small teaspoonful bi-carbonate of soda.

Mix all dry ingredients together, work in the butter until the whole becomes crumbly. Spread evenly in a well-greased dripping-tin and bake in a moderate oven for 3/4 hour. Cut into fingers while warm and lift gently from tin with knife-blade.
This is an economical shortbread which is quickly made, and is a good stand-by as it keeps well in tins.
From Mrs. M. E. Glover, Lane Head Farm, Brough, Westmorland. 

This is where I cheated and, well, used a bit of modern technology.

Forgot to take a photo after it was mixed and before I put it in the tin, sorry.

When I tipped it into the tin, I realised it would make thin shortbread if I covered the whole base of the tin.  So I scooted it up to one end of the baking tin.

The recipe didn't say to prick it with a fork, but growing up that's what we always did to shortbread, so I went ahead and did it and marked out the fingers too.

I have a fan oven, so I went with the lower end of what would be considered a moderate oven, according to an oven temperature chart.  I checked it after 35 minutes and rotated the tin for the last 10 minutes.  Hmmm, maybe the scooting it up to one end of the baking tin wasn't such a smart move.

It also seems to have risen more than shortbread should, maybe I was too light handed when pricking with the fork.

And the final result?  Not bad, not bad at all.  Wonder if they will survive until hubby and son get home?

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


Just over a week ago we were clearing out my dad's house to get ready for him to move from the hospice (where he was at that time) to a nursing home.  Sadly he picked up an infection and passed away on Friday morning.  I'm OK, it was a relief to be honest because it has been a very long 6 months with many crisis moments when we thought we were going to lose him and at least now we know he is no longer in pain.

Anyway, while we were clearing out his bookshelves I discovered an old cookbook that I have become enthralled with.

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You can see it is a wartime cookbook and that's why it's the very simple paperback binding.  It's been printed according to the war economy standard for book production.

It does have an inscription inside the front cover but it's not one we can make sense of with regard to the names (or in this case initials) used.  I do find the comment interesting though:

"May the future fare be better" - hmmm, wonder whose cooking was considered not so good then?

The introduction begins with an explanation of how the book is put together and how the 2nd edition was decided upon.

THIS new edition of Farmhouse Fare, like its predecessor, is made up entirely of recipes con­tributed and well tried by countrywomen scattered over the length and breadth of the country.
The dishes you will find here have not been concocted by experts with all the resources of a modem kitchen. They have been cooked by succeeding generations of women in the farmhouses of the British Isles: upon modem cookers, upon open fires, upon old-fashioned ranges; and with every variety of fuel, from peat and oil to electricity.
Until the first Farmhouse Fare appeared, no such cookery book had ever been made. Its success astonished even ourselves.
Successive reprintings still have not kept pace with the demand. We had to decide whether to print again, or issue a new edition altogether. Times, as they say, were changing. More and more of these excellent recipes were constantly reaching us at the Farmers Weekly from all over the country. We decided on the new edition. 

It goes on to speak of the war years and the effect that obviously had on food availability and therefore recipe choices.
One of our difficulties was deciding whether or not we should leave out all those recipes which successive stages of this war make, for the time being, impracticable. We decided to include some of them nevertheless. In a number of cases you will be able to provide your own substitutes for the ingredients that have vanished from our larders and store-cupboards. In some cases, we may find ourselves unexpectedly rich occasionally in materials which at other times will be lacking. "Hatted Kitt," rich butter biscuits, iced cakes are things we shall not make again until war is over. You will find other such recipes.
But the interest of cooking does not entirely lie in the working-out of individual recipes. There is something to be learned from the wit and sense behind them, and the invention of the housewives' who first experimented with them-even if some of the dishes themselves may be a matter, nowadays, only for the imagination. To read them may stimulate our own ingenuity; therefore you will find that a certain number remain-to round off the picture of traditional English cookery this book represents; and to stir us all to do justice to it, even in these difficult times, with all the resourcefulness we have.
Now I hand over the introductory chapters to Mrs.
Arthur Webb, whose work for the Farmers Weekly is, as her readers know, the mainspring of this spontaneous contribution to the recorded cookery of her own country­side. And she, and the publishers, and I, gratefully record here our appreciation of the generous interest with which the real authors of this book-the ·senders of the recipes themselves-have collaborated with us.

I tell you, I fell in love with this book just from reading that introduction.  I shall share more from it later this week, and may even try one or two of the recipes.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.
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