Choices, choices, choices – it’s Bonfire Night and I’m not sure what to write about and how to illustrate my post.
Or I could take you back to my childhood memories of cold dank autumnal evenings – hatted and be-scarfed with straw as an extra lining in my wellies and the small town bonfire?
Perhaps a firework party at home and bobbing for apples, keeping the fireworks in a sealed tin and whirling and writing in the air with Sparklers would paint the picture I’m looking for?
And then there are memories of my bonfire parties in London and lighting up the sky.. In my 20s and early 30s and with a gang of friends letting off display size fireworks in a tiny North london garden and of my guests all huddled at the back of the garden around the abandoned Anderson Shelter (built during World War Two as a home bomb shelter) and the neighbours peering out of the window only managing to move their heads out of the way in the nick of time?
Or later up the road in another garden and the time I was persuaded to set light to the old kitchen and nearly setting light to the mature and oh so tall trees, the pans of mulled wine (yes you read plural – one cooking and one ready to drink)?
Or maybe I should tell you about the Bonfire Societies here in Hastings, East Sussex and in neighbouring Kent; of their costumed parades through towns, of torches held aloft through twisting turning ancient streets, of barrels of lit tar being rolled in Lewes?
You see there are so many choices, happy days and happy memories.
The food is equally difficult, should I make jaw aching and teeth pulling treacle toffee, or sticky-sweet toffee apples, maybe something savoury like jacket potatoes with crispy skins and soft creamy fluffy flesh, I’ve already mentioned the mulled wine…..
What won was Parkin, I’d been asked a while ago if I could make a ginger cake and just hadn’t got round to making one. Parkin would be perfect – gingery, spicy dark and rich with the aroma of Black Treacle. A Bonfire night classic. And I have a recipe – my mum’s, written in her highly distinguishable hand.
A bit of background reading and double checking of quantities led me to find out that Parkin is a cake from the North of England (my old stomping ground), in particular Yorkshire, although Lancashire and other counties also chime in with their versions. It’s a gingerbread style cake made with a mix of flour and oats, substantial and flavoursome. The warming spices give it a kick, perfect for a cold-dank autumnal night.
So why don’t you join us Brits for Bonfire Night, and make some Parkin – and I’m reliably informed it get’s better the longer you keep it. So that’s the challenge, eat it when slightly warm from the oven or a week later when the ginger and spices have worked their magic.
The other big ingredient that gives Parkin its distinctive flavour is Black Treacle, if you can’t find it molasses works as a good substitute.
Classic Parkin Recipe
- 4oz / 115g unsalted butter
- 3 tbls Black Treacle
- 2 tbls Golden Syrup
- 6oz / Demerara (dark) sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 5oz / 140g flour
- 5oz / 140g oats
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 tblsp milk
- Turn the oven on to Gas 3 or 160
- Grease / butter an 8 inch tin tray – square or rectangular is best. Make sure it is very well greased
- Weigh out the dry foods – flour and oats, and add the spices and baking powder, and mix together well
- In a large pan on a low heat add the butter, sugar, Treacle and Syrup and gently heat the mixture up so that the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from the heat
- Add the milk and stir it in
- Add the dry foods (flour and oats mix) and gently mix with a wooden spoon so that the flour and oats are well coated
- Now add the beaten eggs and stir them in
- Pour the mixture into the well greased tin and cook for an hour and a half
- The edges may start getting a bit burnt, of you like you can add a piece of greaseproof paper to the top towards the end of cooking, but I like mine slightly crispy at the edges
- Remove from the oven and cool for half an hour in the tin
- Take a knife and run it’s edge around the tin to loosen the cake, and remove it from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Cut into squares and store in an airtight tin for up to a week.
Now where are the Sparklers………