Category Archives: Books

Ooh La La-rdy Cake!

Dan Lepard's Lardy Cake

This week I have been on a baking spree.  I made Dan Lepard’s Lard Cake, recipe in the Hand Made Loaf, after several years of thinking about it, seeing Celia have such fun making it last year and after finding a butcher who would save me some good quality pork fat to render lard from.

I followed the method for rendering fat in the oven which I found in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes’ by Jenifer McLagen.

Two Lardy Cakes half way through prep

Brian was delighted by this treat. The recipe in the book makes over a kilo of dough which is far too much for one Brian to eat even with help from me,  so I split the dough into two lots and used  2 x 18 cm tins to bake them in and shortened the baking time by ten minutes. I found those paper cake cases the easiest way to line the tins and it made it easy to hoik the cakes out to cool without running the risk of burning sugar syrup going everywhere.

Roll up that dough

The first one with the caster sugar topping I took to Graham at Molesworth’s, a local Bristol butchers’ shop, as he had been so kind as to keep the leaf lard back for me and was one of the few butchers I spoke to who seemed to know what I wanted so I reckoned he should get to try my first (and possibly my last ) batch of lardy cakes.

As I walked down the street with my little basket feeling slightly self conscious that I was carrying a hot lardy cake and imagining a curling aroma behind me, (thinking of Desperate Dan in the Dandy)   a man in full evening dress circa 1920 and with a top hat (not imaginary this bit)  walked past me and said ” I hope you have spring flowers in your basket.” I said  “Home made lardy cake I am afraid.” He doffed his hat to me and said “Marvellous!” It was four thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes I wish I had one of those cameras on a helmet…

Demarara Topped Lardy Cake

The second one has a topping of Demerara sugar at Brian’s insistence as that was the way his Gran made it  (as you know I never argue with Brian’s ancestors) and a few raisins.

Brian's Demerara Lardy CakeIt was suggested that Brian shared his cake but apparently this is not an option. I have had a piece and I can report that it is very light, for a lard cake, but it most definitely has an aura of fine porky goodness about it, which is deeply unfashionable and will no doubt make many people rush for their kale smoothies just looking at the photos.

Old Faithful Sourdough Starter

In its favour it is of course completely dairy free and it uses a sourdough starter as well for extra fermenty goodness.

Lardy Cake Crumb Shot 1 2 crumb shots

The crusty sugary outside is pretty good and if I was going on a forced march over hill and dale I would be grateful to stop after about six hours and eat a chunky triangle of Lard Cake with a large mug of strong  black tea, but I am not so sure I could eat this very often. I did enjoy making it though! I will try most things once, always a good principle to consider.

Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.

 

For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-

Hills, Cheese, Snow, Cake

Grasmor from Harris Park, Cockermouth

19th March 2013

As you can see it is pretty wintry still in England this week. This view of the fells from Harris Park in Cockermouth gives you a feel for the raw and unsettled weather we have at the moment.

Windfarm on Cumbrian fieldsToday we drove in search of Dad’s opthamology appointment to two different hospitals as he wasn’t sure which one it was in, which added a certain frisson to the proceedings, but all went well and we had a lovely drive over the fells, waved at the sea at Whitehaven, and passed the windfarms on the fells as the snow and sleet gusted around us.

We returned via Thornby Moor Dairy Cheese Farm (as recommended by our friend Andrew Auld of the Loaf in Crich) where we sampled and bought some wonderful cheeses.

Thornby Moor Dairy

Cumberland Farmhouse Cheese from Thornby Moor Dairy, Carlisle

Cheeses made with unpasteurized milk from shorthorns, delicious goat cheeses and artisan farmhouse cheeses.

Before being unwrapped and cut

We admired the timeline of cheese on the shelves and then returned to Cockermouth for lunch. Edit: In view of some of your comments I will try and add a bit more here – I may not have understood this in its entirety but the cheese maker who came out to help us expalined that the rows of cheeses on the shelves were all the same cheese, the small version of the farmhouse cheese at different points between 0 – 3 months. The mould gathers on the outside of the cloth the cheese is wrapped in, which is removed before being presented for sale. The dairy produces a blue cheese but this wasn’t it. I apologise if I haven’t got this quite right.

Maturing cheese at Thornby Moor Dairy Cheese Farm

This afternoon we popped out to the New Bookshop for coffee and cake.

Coffee and Gingerbread

The New Bookshop alone has sold more than 200 copies of The Cockermouth Poets, which I think is pretty impressive for a poetry anthology!

The Cockermouth Poets

Zeb has been not very well but we hope he is finally on the mend. He loves it up here usually and he has been very miserable. We love the out of hours vets who gave him pain relief on Sunday night at 10 30 pm when he couldn’t stand up without twisting and turning. Yesterday he managed to produce part of the bag that he ate 12 days ago which has somehow managed to travel through his digestive tract and re-appear as a gigantic Cuban cigar of rolled leather. So lets hope that he recovers fully. He slept in the middle of the bed last night.

Now it’s time to cook supper again: roast vegetables and chicken pieces I think, and maybe sharpen the kitchen knives before I start.

Deconstructing Jeffrey Hamelman’s ‘Bread’ – Part 1

Firstly let me say, this is not a how to bake bread post, this is a ‘how to read and use a book’ post. I hope no one is offended or feels patronised and if you are completely comfortable with baking books then please do skip on to something more interesting.

I find myself recommending this book simply because it has a really solid range of recipes and formulae and tons of good advice and information embedded in the text but it is a bit scary when you first open it!

EDIT April 2013 : There is a new and updated edition of this wonderful book now available and I recommend you get hold of that one rather than this older one. It has new recipes and has been considerably updated.

challah winston knot

Celia figured out the instructions for this one, bless her!

I remember when I first got it I was really excited and then my heart sank as I looked at the dense pages of text, flicked through, came across all those decorative bread projects, rummaged through the formulae, stared at the columns, wondered what on earth the words meant. Continue reading

Soup and Pancakes

Mainly out of curiosity and a dash of nostalgia I recently bought a copy of Scandilicious  (Saltyard Books May 2011), by Signe Johansen. I was just watching her promotional video on Amazon today and reflected on how different her upbringing was from mine!

Min Danske Mor arrived in England in the fifties from Sweden, where she had lived from the age of thirteen, armed with two Swedish cookbooks and only the vaguest notion of how to feed a family.  She struggled with the butchers, who cut the meat up differently, the imperial weights and measures, unfamiliar dishes with names like Yorkshire Pudding and relied on a handful of suppers which she could make. We never had puddings, but ate large quantities of salad as our second course, always with a mustardy  French vinaigrette.  Continue reading

Bread falling apart

Bread Jeffrey HamelmanLook at the state of this book and I’m only half way through the recipes! It’s falling apart. Publishers please note, cook books need robust bindings!