In January, I feel the need to sort and organise. One year we cleared the bookshelves and took boxes of books to the charity bookshop. Last year, I sorted through my recipes and tried to bring order to the motley collection of cards, newspaper clippings and scribbled notes.
This year I decided to tackle Number 2 Filing Cabinet. Every few years, I purge Number 1 Filing Cabinet in the office and dispose of any paperwork that’s no longer needed. The trouble is that I also accumulate a pile of “not necessarily of any use but I don’t want to throw it away just in case …” along with sentimental things like old family photographs of people whose names I don’t know. All these are carried out to Number 2 Filing Cabinet where I open a drawer and stuff in everything with no regard to alphabet, topic or year. This system has worked incredibly well for the past twenty years but alas, the drawers were full and there could be no more stuffing until at least one drawer had been partially emptied.
Sorting through the old school reports and certificates, I came across an old school exercise book. The wallpaper cover was ripped (why was the first homework of the year to cover all our books?) but Anne Howard – Domestic Science was still clearly visible. This was from an era when the boys learnt manly things like Woodwork and Metalwork while we girls learnt how to sew, cook and hand wash jumpers. In our first practical cookery lesson we grilled a piece of bread to make toast and heated milk in a saucepan to make a cup of instant coffee. Heady stuff. In the exercise book, recipes are painstakingly copied out for Chelsea Buns, Lemon Meringue Pie and Sausage Plait all in pounds and ounces and Fahrenheit. We progressed through shortcrust, suet, rough puff and puff pastry, made sweet and savoury dishes and used an abundance of margarine and lard. There’s no mention of pasta, no pinch of chilli powder or the merest splash of olive oil. How times change.
The cake recipes included Pineapple Upside Down Cake (yeuch), Fairy Cakes and Swiss Roll. We baked the fairy cakes in flowery paper cases (that we were instructed to buy from a stationer) and iced them with a teaspoonful of glace icing. Toppings were optional; half a glace cherry or a scattering of hundreds and thousands with some tiny silver balls, destined to catch the unwary adult with dodgy teeth. Nowadays the fairy cake has been ousted by the cupcake, a monstrous “individual” dry cake beneath an enormous glob of sickly buttercream icing and the Swiss Roll overtaken by roulade, in its many guises. A light bite of sponge and jam replaced by a glorious confection of flavoured sponge or meringue and cream. Chocolate Swiss Roll made from chocolate flavoured sponge with a buttercream filling or a rich chocolate flourless cake rolled around chocolate ganache and billowing cream masquerading as Chocolate Roulade. Hmm, I’m beginning to understand why.
Sometimes though, you just have to see if things taste how you remember, so I made a Swiss Roll. It looked very retro, but it was delicious. It was a fairly plain cake but that’s no bad thing. In keeping with its provenance, I feel it should be served on a pretty china plate and accompanied by a cup of tea. That’s a proper cup and saucer with tea poured from a teapot. Not for you? Then replace the jam with whipped cream, pile in some soft fruit and dust with icing sugar. But would that make it a roulade?
Do you stick to the classic family favourites or are you always trying out new recipes?