Redolent of smoky misty bonfire night, sometimes rainy, sometimes just thick gunpowder-scented fog making you sneeze. When I asked the Seniors’ Lunch Club session about favourite Bonfire Night food, people varied between baked potatoes, dug out of the ashes, and parkin, doled out by mothers in woolly gloves, after the guy had blazed up.
I'm not such a fan of oaty cakes, I must be the only person in the UK not to love a flapjack; but I do appreciate the ginger tang of parkin (not really a hit, not strong enough for that) and the extra texture provided by the oats. Also, the keeping properties are remarkable – the parkin is best made at least a week in advance of eating; and keeps for up to four weeks. It’s ideal for lunch boxes, fishing trips, picnics, and all family outings where a more delicate cake might come to grief.
The Seniors’ Lunch Club meeting this week was a merry game of “Have you Ever?” where I gave a list of ten activities one might or might not have done in life (“won a trophy” “kept a reptile as a pet” “been on a water-voyage”) and asked for memories these might have prompted. The activity most people had done and wanted to talk about was “going on a steam train.” One of our ladies had been regularly entrusted to the guard’s van when a child and visiting her grandparents – you couldn’t do that these days! Another remembered how caring the platform guards were for the regular commuters – they used to hold the train up if you were late.
This recipe is an adaptation from a book I use constantly when baking for large numbers – River Cottage Handbook no 8, Cakes, by Pam Corbin. She’s utterly reliable in providing recipes that always work, even on the first try, and I’ve cooked nearly everything out of it for my Lunch Club. I hope she doesn’t mind me giving my own slant on it here.
Serves 12-16. Timings – 20 minutes preparation, 1 hour baking. Keeps 2-4 weeks wrapped up.
Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a 24cm cake tin by greasing it well and lining with greaseproof paper.
Put the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a small pan and heat to melt and blend. Remove from the heat.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a bowl, add the oats.
Mix the egg into the butter/treacle mixture and then pour into the bowl of flour. Mix well and add the milk – you might not need it all. You are aiming for a thickish but pouring texture.
Scrape the batter into the baking tin and cover with cooking foil. Cook for 35-40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until the smell of warm ginger and the lovely toasted golden colour tells you it’s done. Leave to cool in the tin, then wrap up in greaseproof paper and cooking foil until time to cut it.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.