20th Century

  1. 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 […]
  2. 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 […]
  3. 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 […]
  4. 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 […]
  5. 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 […]
  6. 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, […]
  7. 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 numberous 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 […]
  8. 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 […]
  9. 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 […]
  10. 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 […]
  11. 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 […]
  12. 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. […]
  13. 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 […]
  14. 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 […]
  15. 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 […]
  16. 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 […]
  17. 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 […]
  18. 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, […]
  19. 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 […]
  20. 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 […]
  21. 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 […]
  22. 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 […]
  23. 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 […]
  24. 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 […]
  25. 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 […]
  26. 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 […]
  27. Whitsun Cake Whitsun Cake - Wotchers! Time was, we used to mark the passing of the year with festivals and their associated foods. The list of celebrations that have continued into the 21st century is a lot shorter than it used to be: pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, Simnel Cake on Mothering Sunday, Cross Buns on Good Friday are about all […]
  28. Radnor Cranberry Tart Radnor Cranberry Tart - If you have an extended social life in the run-up to Christmas, and sample nothing but mince pies throughout December, by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out. Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end […]
  29. Honey Curd Honey Curd - This recipe was an absolute delight to discover in an old Women’s Institute recipe book. For a start, the use of honey instead of refined sugar is so much better for you, and it increases the keeping properties immensely. The original recipe claimed that it would keep a year. I used the cheapest, runny honey […]
  30. Hunter’s Biscuits - As you may know, I have one or two cookbooks lying around and I haven’t actually got around to making absolutely all of the recipes contained therein. But I’m working my way through slowly – and it’s just fabulous when I discover little gems like the recipe this week, tucked away as it was in […]
  31. Cracked Wheat Bread, 1937 Cracked Wheat Bread - Something a little different this week – not just an unusual recipe but also a method of baking a loaf that might be new to you. It’s called baking ‘under tin’ and is very useful if your loaf is decorated on the outside with seeds or grains, as it prevents them from becoming over-coloured in […]
  32. Cinder Toffee Cinder Toffee - Here’s another recipe that can, be part of a home-made Christmas, either for nibbling at home or prettily wrapped in cellophane as a gift, or indeed any suitable gift-giving time. It can also be customised in a number of ways, as I shall detail below, be it in the ingredients you choose or the finishing […]
  33. Apple Bread Apple Bread - This recipe was copied from the Ipswich Journal into the manuscript book from a Norfolk household in the early 19th century. The manuscript was eventually purchased by the Wellcome Library and its contents digitised and made available online, which is where I discovered it. It was the simplicity of the recipe that appealed – just […]
  34. Stuffing Traditional Stuffing - Here’s something that very often gets neglected next to the flashy stars of the Christmas meal – stuffing. If I could get just one of you this year to refrain from buying a cardboard packet and to try this instead, then I’ll be happy-clappy. Traditional stuffing is so simple – basic, almost (breadcrumbs, onions, herbs, […]
  35. Banoffi Pie - I’d just like to take a moment to discuss a modern British classic pudding: Banoffi Pie. Yes, Banoffi. Not Banoffee. That’s just one of my little niggles regarding this dessert that have ultimately led to this post. Done properly, to the original recipe, it is a classic, sophisticated and delicious dessert, worthy of a dinner […]
  36. The Grant Loaf Grant Loaf - If you’re going to bake your own bread, you could do worse than start with this one – it doesn’t require kneading, it only needs a very short, single rise, and you can have a batch of three loaves cooling on a rack in an hour and a half! The recipe has been around for […]
  37. Ivory Cream - A delicate cream of fresh bananas and orange set in a traditional mould for a classic and timeless pudding. This recipe was found in a book published in the town where I live, back in the 1930s. I was drawn to the unusual combination of fruits and was curious how these two strong flavours would […]
  38. Seedless Raspberry Jam Seedless Raspberry Jam - If you make no other preserves this year, make this one. I’m serious. If you were here, I’d grab your lapels and lean disconcertingly close to your face whilst muttering this assertion. Look at that colour! Now imagine that colour as a taste explosion on your tongue! It’s incredible! I’m using far too many exclamation […]
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