20th Century

  1. Petticoat Tails and Pitcaithly Bannock - This might seem like a double recipe post, but it is more of a ‘two for one’ in that the same ingredients can be presented in different ways, depending on your inclination and the effort you wish to put in. So… Petticoat Tails. Much has already been made of the contortion of ‘petites gatelles’ into […]
  2. Steak and Kidney Pudding - I enjoyed reading this tweet a few weeks ago: The best thing to hear when you ask someone to explain their hobby or interest is them starting with “okay, so..” cause they’re about to rant for at least 30 minutes straight with no breaks and it’s the most adorable shit in the world. — Terminally […]
  3. Toad In The Hole - Toad In The Hole was a favourite dish of my childhood, and also one of the first dishes I made when I began cookery lessons at school, aged 11. Toad in the Hole is a traditional lunch or supper dish combining sausages and a standard Yorkshire Pudding batter. The earliest mention attributed by the Oxford […]
  4. Four slices of Frederick T. Vine's MarbleCake Marble Cake - Marble Cake can be considered a classic British cake, still enjoyed by many all over the country. To my mind, however, it has always seemed less marble-y and more blobby, in that the big dollops of (usually) vanilla and chocolate cake batters are frequently only half-heartedly stirred together. Well, as we all know, there’s nothing […]
  5. Hot Cross Buns - More interesting than toast, not as rich as cake, what’s not to love about a bun?  The buns traditionally served towards then end of Lent are… well now, here’s the thing. They go by many names. Most people might think, as the title above implies, that they’re Hot Cross Buns, but that’s not strictly accurate. […]
  6. Empty Pudding - Sometimes I stumble across a hidden gem of a recipe when I am supposed to be hunting out something else. Thus it is with this recipe that I found in a nondescript Edwardian cook book¹. There are several things that drew me to this recipe. Firstly, the name, which is curious, and after following the […]
  7. Plough Monday Pudding Plough Monday Pudding - In times past, when secular life intertwined much more with the religious, and life was closely linked with the land, Plough Monday was the first Monday after (the) Twelfth Day (of Christmas), the Feast of Epiphany, January 6th. It was supposedly the day when work in the fields resumed for the men with spring ploughing […]
  8. Eggity Bread Eggs and Bread - It’s very easy to make a meal out of just eggs and bread, as has been demonstrated over centuries. I grew up enjoying the culinary delight known in our house as Eggy Bread – bread soaked in egg and then fried in a little butter until the eggs were cooked and the slices a dappled […]
  9. Vegan Lemon Curd Vegan Lemon Curd - This is a recipe from May Byron’s Rations Book (1918). Rationing during the WW2 is well known, but it was also introduced during the last year of the first world war. Confession time: I’ve changed the title of this recipe from the original. The original recipe is for Lemon Curd Without Eggs, which would have […]
  10. Cornish Pasties Cornish Pasties - Usually I like to begin by talking about the history behind a recipe, but there’s not much hard evidence with Cornish pasties. I would, however, like to clear up a few potential misconceptions before getting to the interesting stuff. Cornwall does not have a monopoly on the word ‘pasty’. Devon does not have a monopoly […]
  11. Rhubarb Gingerbread Rhubarb Gingerbread - This is a recipe from that classic of home cooking, Farmhouse Fare. I have copies ranging in date from the 1930s to the 1960s, and I always find it interesting to see which recipes come and go through the decades as they are replaced with more fashionable dishes, or as tastes change, as well as […]
  12. Sultana Tarts - This recipe comes, once again, from the pen of Frederick T. Vine. I like it because it shows how much can be achieved with a very small number of ingredients. I chose it because ’tis the season and is also a great way to present mince pies, making the most of each component. Mince pies […]
  13. Frederick Vine's Meaty Mincemeat Mincemeat a la Royale - This recipe dating from 1900 sits right on the cusp of the centuries and comes from the pastry manual “Savoury Pastry” written by Frederick T. Vine. I have a bit of a thing for Mr Vine and his manuals. Written for the bakery trade, they are packed with recipes for the variations and huge range […]
  14. Brown Bread Drops Brown Bread Drops - Brown Bread Drops, circa 1900, Harris & Borella, All About Biscuits A large part of my interest in old recipes is driven by always being on the lookout for something a little bit different. People tend to be a little wary of old recipes, in part due to the “Ew!” factor of TV programs on […]
  15. Godcakes, Coventrys & Congleton Cakes Coventrys, Godcakes and Congleton Cakes - It’s all about triangular pastries this week. Let us start with Coventreys (middle pastry in the above photo). Essentially, these are jam turnovers, but there are a few key characteristics that set them apart from your average turnover. For a start they are triangular, formed by cutting circles of puff pastry, adding a teaspoon of […]
  16. Sultan Cream Tart Sultan Cream Tart - This tart is a pleasant change from round or rectangular tarts and has the added advantage of being able to be made in any size required, from small, serving just one person to large, serving eight. Of course, if you’re feeling peckish, then one person could probably eat a large one, but I’m going to […]
  17. Plum Cannons Plum Cannons - These eye-catching pastries are, essentially, a jam turnover, but with a little deft handling, they are transformed into an unusual and appealing shape. Another hit from the team of Harris and Borella’s All About Pastries, they date from the turn of the nineteenth century. The original recipe suggested Greengage conserve for the filling, but alas, […]
  18. Dutch Macaroons Dutch Macaroons - Macaroons have been a favourite British treat for centuries. Their form, shapes and flavours might have changed over the years, but they basically remain a mixture of sugar, ground nuts and egg white. These colourful specimens come from Harris & Borella’s All About Biscuits (c1900), a commercial handbook for the Victorian/Edwardian baker. Unlike the modern […]
  19. Old Fashioned Cheesecakes Old Fashioned Cheesecakes - These cheesecake recipes come from a favourite book – All About Pastries, from the All About… Confectionery Series by H.G.Harris & S.P Borella (circa 1900). The recipes are all for commercial quantities, but I’ve become quite adept at scaling them down to more manageable batches. They were simpler times back then, and ‘cheesecakes’ weren’t always […]
  20. Lancashire Butter Pie Lancashire Butter Pie - The Lancashire Butter Pie is a regional, traditional pie specific to western Lancashire, especially the area around Preston, and has also been known as Friday Pie and Catholic Pie. Preston has traditionally had a strong Catholic presence. In Tudor times, it was resistant – and at times downright hostile – to the Reformation. In 1583 […]
  21. Apricot Dream Slice Apricot Dream Slice - For a number of years I have been collecting the original recipe books of regional Women’s Institutes. They usually take the form of spiral-bound, text-only booklets and are, I feel, a great indication of dishes being prepared in the homes at time of publication. I have books dating from the 1920s to the 1980s and […]
  22. Orange and Walnut Garland Cake - In my head, the book from which this recipe is adapted is practically modern, as I clearly remember the year it was published, but then my brain gently reminds me that 1978 is now 40 years ago and I am PLUNGED into a slough of despond at how OLD that makes me feel. But enough […]
  23. Apple Snow Apple Snow - This recipe is more usually served in the late summer and autumn months, but I’ve chosen it now because the weather outside today has carpeted the garden with a thick layer of snow. This is a classic dessert whose provenance stretches back centuries. Although the name ‘Apple Snow’ is the one more usually found in […]
  24. GF Cornflake Tart Cornflake Tart - A trip down my own personal memory lane this week, with a classic of the school dinner repertoire, Cornflake Tart. In the 1970s and 1980s, long before the advent of the dreaded turkey twizzler, my mother was a supervisor of a kitchen that cooked dinners for seven schools in the local area, including the one […]
  25. Damson Preserves Damson Preserves - Here’s a trio of preserves that champion one of my favourite sorts of food – free stuff! Damsons grow wild in the hedgerows and along the canal banks and lanes of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, and the only cost is your time to pick them. They are tart, wild plums, about the size and shape […]
  26. Meringue Shapes Shaping Meringues - I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with meringues. On the one hand they are extremely simple to make, with just two ingredients, but on the other, for the most part, they are almost universally blobby. Not such a defect, you might think, but it doesn’t help the elegance of a dish when one’s […]
  27. Lemon Biscuits Lemon Biscuits - One of my favourite sets of books is a series for the Edwardian baking trade written by H.G.Harris and S.P.Borella. Published as part of The British Baker Library in the first years of the twentieth century, the “All About…” books are a fascinating record of the sheer range and variety of baked goods both fashionable […]
  28. Malt Scones Malt Scones - My current lack of oven (for those interested the ETA is currently mid-February) has prompted me to delve into my small but eminently interesting collection of Victorian and Edwardian commercial bakery books in search of something to ‘bake’. Back in the day, there were numerous recipes that could be baked on a griddle, a far […]
  29. Staffordshire Oatcakes - Staffordshire Oatcakes are, quite possibly, the best regional speciality you’ve never heard of. In fact, that is much more of a generalisation than you may realise, because they’re specifically regional to North Staffordshire, centering on the area around Stoke-on-Trent. It’s historic origins are mixed, with some anecdotes suggesting they originated from soldiers returning from India […]
  30. Steamed Sponges Steamed Sponge - This recipe is for a traditional steamed sponge, the type many of us remember from our childhoods. So comforting in the winter months, with a blanket of hot custard draped over. They are a breeze to mix, but in these days when most people have a gas or electric stove-top, rather than an always-on range, […]
  31. New Potato Pie New Potato Pie - Pies are frequently seen as the star of a meal, but this new potato pie is a delightful accompaniment to numerous meals. Tender new potatoes are baked beneath a rich buttery crust with a creamy sauce flavoured with parsley. Not only does the crisp and golden pastry lid keep in all the flavours, it allows […]
  32. Onion Charlotte Onion Charlotte - In the great pantheon of cookery ingredients, onions tend to get a bit of a raw deal, in my opinion. Although they are fundamental to the development of flavour in a multitude of savoury casseroles, stews, soups, pies and salads, they are rarely celebrated with starring roles and are usually relegated to the sidelines: always […]
  33. Pudding Cake Pudding Cake - May Byron, 1915 The pudding cake is, to my perception, a genre of puddings that has all but disappeared from our tables, despite being popular since the 18th century. It describes something that, when cold, would be recognisable as a cake, but here it is served, warm and comforting, straight from the oven. As with […]
  34. Gooseberry Raised Pie Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie - Traditional There’s a 200-year-old tradition in Oldbury-on-Severn of making gooseberry pies with a sweetened hot water crust pastry as part of the Whitsun celebrations. Jane Grigson mentions them in several of her writings on English food. Due to the age of the recipe, it was some time before I managed to find a picture of […]
  35. Oyster Tarts Oyster Tarts - A great little recipe from that classic baking institution: Be-Ro. Thomas Bell founded his grocery company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1875. Amongst other items, he manufactured and sold baking powder and the world’s first self-raising flour under the brand name Bell’s Royal. After the death of King Edward VII the use of the word ‘Royal’ in […]
  36. Fruit Sponge Fruit Sponge - Of all the puddings of my childhood, this is the one that I return to the most. There is something just so comforting and delicious in the simplicity of sweet sponge, sharp fruit and cold cream. It’s so simple it doesn’t even have a proper name, just a terse description of the ingredients; fruit, sponge. […]
  37. Bacon and Egg Pie with Tomato Bacon and Egg Pies - Sometimes the best-tasting food is also the simplest. This recipe was yet another from one of my many dusty W.I.pamphlets from the mid 20th century. It was so brief it barely qualified as a paragraph, let alone a recipe, so I’ve added some detail below to help things along. In essence, you can count the […]
  38. Fruitbowl Loaf Fruitbowl Tea Loaf - Retrieved from  an old farmhouse baking book, this recipe has dates and walnuts, which make for a delicious tea loaf, but can also make it a little dry, almost dusty, especially if the walnuts aren’t in their first flush of youth. Deliciously, the inclusion of mashed bananas helps with the moistness and the apple sauce […]
  39. Sweet Shortcrust Pastry - This pastry has been scaled down from a recipe I found in a Victorian/Edwardian commercial bakers’ book. It’s an all-butter (and therefore vegetarian) pastry  and includes a small proportion of cornflour. This makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry. It also gives it a really smooth, almost silken, dry […]
  40. Nectar Rice Pudding Nectar Rice Pudding - I received an email from a friend this week, being very complimentary about this rice pudding recipe I’d given her. She wrote “This is so yummy on a chilly winter day in Melbourne!” I made a mental note to put it on the blog in the autumn, but then I got up this morning and […]
  41. Bara Briths, 1930s Bara Brith - This week it’s the classic Welsh speckled bread Bara Brith. Nowadays, this is usually made using baking powder as the leavener, but personally I prefer the more traditional yeast. And bonus! There’s two recipes for you to choose from! When looking at an old recipe, I usually study the range of recipes available and select […]
  42. Luxury Bath Buns, 1940s Luxury Bath Buns - Here’s a variation of a recipe in MY BOOK which I have adapted from one of my favourite vintage recipe books, snappily entitled “Morning and Hot-Plate Goods including Scones, Buns, Teabread, etc” by John Boyd. It is a book for professional bakers, in that the recipes inside involve ingredients measured in pounds rather than ounces, […]
  43. Sea Foam Fudge, 1924 Sea Foam Fudge - This is another fantastic textured fudge recipe, but in a whole different way to the Condensed Milk Fudge. It is made with whisked egg-whites and a hot sugar syrup, beaten to grain the sugar. The result is a dazzlingly white, almost marshmallow appearance. The magic, however, happens when you take a bite. Just like it’s […]
  44. Candied Cranberries Candied Cranberries - Here’s a recipe you might want to try when fresh cranberries are back in the shops. After discovering the joys of home-candied peel a few years ago, I have since tried my hand at several different fruits. With it being the season for mincemeat and fruit cake decorating, when I spotted some punnets of fresh […]
  45. Classic Fudge Fudge - Confession: This is not my recipe. It is the original fudge recipe that used to be posted on the Carnation website and for some reason was taken down a few years ago. Luckily for me – and you – I have it ingrained on my brain as it is the best, no-fail recipe I have […]
  46. Cream Cakes, 1930s Cream Cakes - I spend a lot of our holidays in southwest France prowling around patisseries and artisan boulangeries with eyes like saucers, admiring the delicate and stylish combinations of cream and fruit and chocolate and truffle and glaze and, and, and…. However, in order to get there, it is rather a mammoth road trip, so I generally […]
  47. Baking Powder Bread - Similar to, but also different from Soda Bread, this loaf actually works out to be a little bit slower to make than Soda Bread, but the extra time is worth the wait because it is also lighter. As a bonus, it doesn’t require buttermilk, using instead a 30 minute ‘lactic ferment’ of ordinary milk and […]
  48. Retro Tarts Retro Tarts - Some time ago *waves hand vaguely* I introduced you to an all-butter pastry which I had adapted from an old Victorian commercial baker’s book. The crust for my Cheese and Potato Pies has about 25% cornflour, which makes it fantastically silky-smooth to handle and which also bakes beautifully crisp and dry. The recipe this week […]
  49. Goathland Treacle Tart Goathland Treacle Tart - Goathland is a tiny village – population less than 500 – tucked away in the North York Moors National Park, just south-west of Whitby. It looks an absolutely delightful place, and Harry Potter fans will recognise Goathland Station as doubling for Hogsmeade (the station nearest Hogwarts) as well as Aidensfield from the popular TV series […]
  50. Snow Cake Snow Cake - An unusual and simple cake, with the bonus of being gluten-free! As I was perusing one of my several vintage baking books, I came across this recipe – not in any specific allergy-related book or even chapter of a book. No, it was just included with a bunch of other recipes in a book aimed […]