A Little Jaunt Around Northern England, Part 1
Earlier this month David and I went for a week to northern England to visit friends, see the sights, and to be present at the opening of an art exhibit of works done by one of my ancestors. We drove down from Scotland, sometimes in driving rain, to travel to Hartington on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. On the way south, we passed through Cumbria which is famous for two wonderful treats, Cumberland Rum Nicky and Westmorland Pepper Cake.
Cumberland rum Nicky
For the filling
• 225g/8oz dates, coarsely chopped
• 100g/3½oz dried apricots, coarsely chopped
• 50g/2oz stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely chopped
• 50ml/2fl oz dark rum
• 50g/1¾oz soft dark brown sugar
• 50g/1¾oz unsalted butter, cut into 1–2cm/½-¾in cubes
For the sweet shortcrust pastry
• 200g/7oz plain flour
• 2 tbsp icing sugar
• 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1cm/½in cubes
• 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
• 1 tsp lemon juice
For the rum butter
• 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened
• 225g/8oz soft light brown sugar
• 75ml/2½fl oz dark rum
1.Start by mixing all the filling ingredients, except the butter, together in a bowl. Set aside to soak while you make the pastry.
2. For the sweet shortcrust pastry, mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub it in lightly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, do this in a food processor or a mixer and then transfer to a bowl.
3. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and two tablespoons of cold water. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture. Using a table knife, work the liquid into the flour to bring the pastry together. If it seems too dry, add a splash more water. When the dough begins to stick together, use your hands to gently knead it into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
5. Once the dough has rested, cut it into two pieces, roughly one-third and two-thirds. Roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured work surface. Line a 20cm/8in pie dish with the pastry, leaving any excess pastry hanging over the edge. Spread the filling in the pastry case and dot with the butter.
6. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut it into eight long strips, roughly 1cm/½in wide. On a sheet of baking parchment, use the pastry strips to create a lattice with four strips going each way, passing them under and over each other.
7. Dampen the edge of the pastry in the tin with water, then invert the lattice from the paper onto the tart. Press the ends of the strips to the pastry base to secure.
8. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160C/325F/Gas 3 and cook for a further 20 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, for the rum butter, beat together the butter and sugar, then gradually beat in the rum. Refrigerate until needed.
Serve the tart warm or cold, with a spoonful of rum butter.
My grandfather’s family came from Kendal in Westmorland so this must have been a local treat for him, probably at Christmastide.
Westmorland Pepper Cake
• 3 ounces raisins
• 3 ounces dried currants
• 4 ounces sugar
• 3 ounces butter
• 5 ounces water
• 8 ounces self raising flour
• 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1⁄4 teaspoon clove
• 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
• 4 tablespoons milk
• egg, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350°F; adjust rack to middle of oven.
2. Grease 7-inch cake tin or small loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
3. Put fruit, sugar, butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then let mixture cool to warm.
4. Put the flour, spices,and pepper in a bowl and stir to blend. Gently stir in the fruit mixture, milk and the egg. Mix thoroughly without beating.
5. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until firm to the touch,golden brown or a toothpick test indicates done.
6. Turn out and let cool on a wire rack.
7. May be topped with a mixture of cream and powdered sugar or simply dusted with powdered sugar.
We went to stay with my mother’s best friend Jennifer Waters who lived on the Beresford Estate in Dovedale. Aside from her house and an ancient tower, where we had lunch, the estate also boasts a Temple to Fishing built by Charles Cotton in 1674 to honour Izaak Walton the author of The Compleat Angler.
Here I am with friends inside the Temple enjoying some champagne before lunch. The gentleman in the middle is Matthew Parris, who writes on politics for the Times of London.
Hartington, the nearest village to the estate, has a wonderful cheese shop which is famous for miles around. Here is their recipe for Stilton and Onion soup
Stilton and Onion soup
From Hartington Creamery
Hartington has a wonderful cheese shop which is famous for miles around. Here is their recipe for Stilton and Onion soup:
• 75g (3oz) butter
• 1 large onion thinly sliced
• 175g (7oz) blue stilton cheese‚ rind removed
• 50g (2oz) plain flour
• 1.2 litres (2pints) chicken stock
• 1 bay leaf‚ salt and pepper
• 300ml (half pint) milk
• chopped chives or spring onions to garnish
Melt the butter and fry the onion until soft. Crumble the stilton into the pan and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the flour and cook‚ stirring for 2 minutes.
Add the stock and bay leaf‚ bring to the boil‚ then reduce heat‚ cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and check the seasoning.
Discard the bay leaf and heat the soup to serving temperature.
Garnish with chopped chives.
the soup will thicken if left overnight in the fridge‚ so it may be necessary to add a little extra milk when reheating.
The day after our sybaritic lunch, David, Jennifer and I visited Kedleston Hall, which is a magnificent house designed by Robert Adam the Scottish architect.
David even found a fine wild boar to pose in front of:
There is a lovely chamber organ there as well as some splendid old timpani:
Having tea at a stately home is de rigueur, so here are Jennifer and I outside the Hall waiting for some treats:
One local recipe for tea time is Ashbourne Gingerbread. Kedleston is only about five miles from Ashbourne, a very pretty town indeed. Here is the recipe from Derbyshire Life and Countryside in 2010:
• 8 oz self-raising flour
• 2 tsp ground ginger
• 1 tbsp golden syrup
• 4 oz butter
• pinch of salt
• 4 oz brown sugar
According to local lore the original recipe for Ashbourne Gingerbread was acquired from French prisoners of war – in particular the personal chef of a captured French general – who were kept in the town during the Napoleonic.
According to local lore the original recipe for Ashbourne Gingerbread was acquired from French prisoners of war – in particular the personal chef of a captured French general – who were kept in the town during the Napoleonic wars (1799-1815). The timber-framed Gingerbread Shop in St John Street, now owned by local firm Birds the Confectioners (founded in 1919), probably dates from the 15th century. Ashbourne Gingerbread is available today from Spencer’s Bakery in the Market Place. There are numerous varieties of gingerbread, cakes and puddings, this version comes from John Dunstan’s book Old Derbyshire Desserts.
1. Preheat oven to 350F/gas 4.
2. Sieve flour, salt and ginger together.
3. Cream the syrup, butter and sugar together then stir in the dry ingredients.
4. Knead the mixture onto a floured surface to a smooth dough.
5. Roll out and cut into shape required.
6. Place on a greased baking tin and bake until brown for about 15-20 minutes – depending on the thickness.
After several days in glorious Derbyshire we drove to York and met friends there for dinner and visited the National Railway Museum which is a must for kids of all ages.
Here is a copy of Stephenson’s Rocket from 1829. The original is currently in London but will move up to York in 2019:
Here is Queen Adelaide’s private coach from the 1840’s:
and here is the Mallard the fastest steam train in the world. Built in 1938 it achieved a top speed of 126 mph.
Part 2 of our jaunt will be up in a couple of weeks!