The only thing Chinese about this recipe is the ginger…
“August 11th 1986
Happy birthday Mummy. love from Katie
So reads the inscription on the second hand copy of “The Food Aid Cookery Book”, edited by Delia Smith with a Foreword by Terry Wogan which I received from Amazon today, price £2.80.
The book was published at Easter 1986 and retailed at £3.95. This copy is labelled “used, acceptable” but it looks as if it has never been opened, no thumb marks, no jottings in the margins, no splashes of cooking fat or dried in flour. Whatever happened to Katie and her Mummy? How did Mummy react when she got a birthday present of a Food Aid cookbook, a book whose recipes were contributed from all over Britain and whose proceeds were for the Band Aid charity inspired by our own Bob Geldof, a book described as “a contemporary celebration of good food at its best”?
It’s funny that this copy should arrive to me on the eve of the publication of Goodall’s “A Modern Irish Cookbook – 50 great recipes, all inspired by traditional Irish cooking and ingredients but updated to reflect the way we cook today”, a book also intended to raise funds for charity, this time for closer to home – Crosscare and Cork Penny Dinners. Go on. Down-load it on-line why don’t you. It will only cost you €2.99.
Some things don’t change with the passing of the years. Except that I have a Shananigans recipe in the Goodall’s cookbook for Sichuan Mixed Seafood Duncannon Style – who would have thought…
You see I mislaid my copy of The Food Aid Cookery Book many years ago – by then it was dog-eared and ragged, its pages coming loose from their binding. When I got it in 1986, Shane was 5 and Claire was 7. I had a full set of “Super Wife” a serialised magazine designed to teach me how to mend a fuse as well as cross-stitch (I can do neither.) Like my now good friend Bumbles of Rice (@bumblesofrice) I worked full time outside the home and batch-cooked my way though weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday I cooked casseroles and sauces, baked yeasty granary baps, made flapjacks and biscuits to pack the lunch boxes and to make it easy to serve up a half-decent week day meal.
And our favourite recipe for biscuits, that would last a week or more in a tin and still stay crunchy and delicious, was one for ginger biscuits donated to the Food Aid cookbook by Mary Aaron of Darlington County Durham, a friend of Delia Smith. When my own good friend Brenda came looking for that recipe recently so that her daughter could use it for a charity bake off, nothing would do me but to track down a copy.
It’s arrival today unleashed many happy memories of children and their friends coming and going from school and play, of little fingers prising the biscuits from baking trays before they had cooled down (DON’T!), of sticky lunch boxes with half-eaten sandwiches and of near permanent exhaustion.
So here goes… I made a few small adjustments to method (in bold) after my first and very successful attempt at making these in many a long year. They taste just as delicious as I remember them.
- 150g golden syrup
- 110g margarine or butter
- 350g plain flour
- 275g granulated sugar
- 2 tsp of powdered Goodall’s ginger (and yes, while the recipe didn’t insist on it, I alway did use Goodall’s ginger)
- 1 tsp bread soda
- 1 egg
- A pinch of salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Grease four baking trays thoroughly.
- Place a small saucepan on a weighing scales, set to zero and weigh in the golden syrup.
- Add the margarine or butter and melt the two together over a gentle heat.
- Sift the flour, salt, ginger and bread soda into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar.
- Beat the egg and stir that and the syrup mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing well until you have a smooth and slightly oily dough.
- Take rounded teaspoons of the mixture and roll into small rounds.
- Put these on the baking tray leaving LOTS of room for them to spread.
- Bake them for 12 to 14 minutes and then allow them to cool completely on the baking trays before removing with a palette knife or fish slice and storing in an airtight tin.
While the book says the recipe makes 24 biscuits. I found that the mixture is enough to make 36.
Who knows, I might even post another few recipes from the book – such delights as “Jeffery Archer’s Creamed Seafood Bake” or “Princess of Wales’ Watercress Soup” (yes it was Di) or Ronnie Barker’s £5 note sandwich” or, oh look, Ken Lo’s South Sea Noodles… now there’s a thought.
But tonight I’m wondering who will find a copy of the Modern Irish Cookbook in 25 years time and wonder about the bloggers who wrote those recipes and the lives they led and about the person who wrote the inscription in the book and the cook that used it.
Cooking… part of the continuity of life…