I recently visited my grandparents house, a little cottage now occupied by my uncle and his cocker-spaniel. Despite the fact that both my grandparents have passed away, the house will forever be named ‘nan and granddads’…sorry Uncle Paul. In my eyes it will always be there home, and no-one elses. While drinking tea in the kitchen my mother and I came across a bursting folder of little books and scraps of newspaper hidden away in a cabinet. To our joy, and bittersweet sadness, we discovered that the folder contained all of my Nana’s favourite recipes. A Northumberland WI recipe book, a hand written notepad of ideas, as well as an abundance of newspaper clippings and hilariously retro-looking cook books by the likes of Stork, Home Pride, and Be-Ro. We sat a while and pondered; two generations bound together in one moment by recollection, by an appreciation for one woman and her cooking.
I remember as a young child I would often stay at my nan and granddad’s house while my sisters and brother were at school. Nan would always fold out the front of a large kitchen cabinet to make a little table for me (I still drink tea at this table to this very day), and I’d sit alongside it on my stool munching on egg and cress sandwiches. We’d then go down to the walled gardens of the estate and take my granddad some lunch, he’d always be busy; planting vegetables, flowers and fruit, tending to young seedlings. Of course I’d always pinch a few of the delicious grapes, growing profusely on the vines in the green house; big, black and warm from the heat of the sun. Sometimes recalling things from early childhood can be testing; its hard to piece things together, to work out the chronology of different snippits, different experiences. But this memory burns bright, and its one I’m certain I’ll always remember.
Something else I’m certain of; I will never fall out of love of the taste of my nan’s gingerbread. I’m sure everyone’s nan or grandmother (or grandfather?!) has that one famous recipe; whether its for the best Yorkshire puddings, the fruitiest Christmas cake, or the booziest trifle. It’s one that gets past down, remembered and cherished. Well I believe my nan’s gingerbread is the very best; sticky, spiced, and sumptuous, it always went down a treat. I can recall my brother eating slice after slice after slice, each smothered in thick butter. I knew, as soon as I found my nan’s hand written recipe book, that her gingerbread recipe would be scribbled inside. Of course it was on the first page. However, it was not scribbled, but neatly inscribed by the hand of a talented calligrapher. You will notice that this blog post has no photographs of cake. Well, most of you will know that gingerbread is not the most aesthetically-pleasing of cakes; loaf-like, icing-less and somewhat plain to the lense of a camera. I could’ve dressed this sticky loaf up with beautiful tableware and accompanied it with a cup of tea. But instead I decided to embed a few photographs of my grandparents, as for me this recipe would be nothing if it were not for my nana.
- 1 tea cup of sugar
- 2 tbsp of black treacle
- 4 oz of butter
- 1 tea cup of hot water
- 8 oz of plain flour
- 2 tsp of ground ginger
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven at 160C. Grease and line a loaf tin with parchment.
- Melt the sugar, treacle, butter and hot water in a pan over a medium heat.
- When the melted mixture is cool, sieve the flour, salt and ground ginger.
- Mix in the egg and lastly add the bicarbonate of soda mixed in a little of the hot water.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes.
Enjoy with a thick layer of butter and a cup of tea; as my nan always did! And I urge you to share a recipe, a story or a memory, from one of your loved ones. After all, what is food if it cannot be shared with friends and family.