Sunday, November 8, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 20: Fawkes-y Food

I know that there are many of my readers who know the historical ins and outs of the Gunpowder Plot, so if your only exposure to Guy Fawkes is through that movie V for Vendetta (I would like to take this time to assert that it is in no way acceptable to blow up a UNESCO World Heritage Site), I direct you to Parliament's overview of the Gunpowder Plot. Since burning effigies was out of the question, Paul and I celebrated the prevention of Jacobean domestic terrorism by (what else?) eating.

Parkin originated in Yorkshire (like Guy Fawkes) and is very closely related to gingerbread, but it has oatmeal in it, because oatmeal was much more readily available in the north of England than wheat flour.


3 ounces golden syrup
1 ounce black treacle
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), if chilled, cut into tablespoons
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a small saucepan on a kitchen scale and pour in 3 ounces golden syrup followed by 1 ounce treacle (or 3 ounces unsulfured molasses--not blackstrap--and 1 ounce corn syrup). Place the pan over low heat and stir in the brown sugar and butter. While the butter melts, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, oats, and ginger in a large mixing bowl. When the butter has melted (mixture will look like Gloppy the Molasses Monster from Candy Land), pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula. Add the milk, egg and baking soda and stir until incorporated. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack and then cut into 18 squares. Cake can be left in an airtight container to "mature" for a few days (or you can just go ahead and eat it). Parkin can also be frozen.

Recipe adapted from British Cookery by Jane Grigson.

Cheater's Bangers and Mash

This is a cheater's recipe because you can use jarred caramelized onions, which means that this meal only takes about half an hour. I like Archer Farms Caramelized Onion Burger Topper, or you can make your own with this recipe.

I picked Bangers and Mash as a Bonfire Night recipe because it's homey and nicely suited to cool weather. Plus, I had already made Parkin and wanted something easy.

Serves 2

4 pork sausages*
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons caramelized onions

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cream

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the sausages and sear on all sides. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook the sausages until they are no longer pink inside (25 to 30 minutes).

While the sausages are cooking, boil the potatoes in salted water until very tender (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Return the potatoes to the cooking pot and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Add the butter and cream and stir to combine. If needed, add some of the cooking water in small increments. Season potatoes to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

When the sausages are ready, remove them to a plate, turn the heat up to high and deglaze the pan with the beef stock. When the beef stock comes to a simmer, stir in the caramelized onions and cook until reduced to your liking. Plate up the potatoes and sausages and cover with gravy. Enjoy!

Adapted from this recipe from BBC Good Food.

*I actually use Archer Farms Bratwursts, because they aren't really brats; they're oversized breakfast sausages, which is perfect. They are, however, very salty, so the gravy doesn't need to be salted.


In other news, I have book and DVD recommendations:

I just finished the eighth Stephanie Plum novel and have laughed my way through all eight (laughing-out-loud, don't read in front of others because they'll think I'm crazy). Stephanie Plum is a layed-off lingerie buyer who, out of desperation, becomes a very incompetent bounty hunter. The books are quick-paced light reading that I wholeheartedly recommend. The first book in the series is One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. Paul is even reading them now.

I also just finished watching the first season of Lark Rise to Candleford from Netflix. Part Little House on the Prairie, part Anne of Green Gables, the series is sweet and wholesome without being preachy or saccharine. Plus, for all of you who love Pride and Prejudice, Julia Sawalha (Lydia Bennet) plays the local postmistress. Great to watch while knitting.

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