FAT OF THE LAND

My mother was an exceptionally discerning cook, not in the earth mother sense, or as an expression of frustrated creativity, but because good food, properly prepared was a proper part of domestic life. On the eve of her 90th birthday she cooked a venison and chestnut stew for twelve of her demanding family.

I have the small file box of her recipes. In its way, it is a history of the tastes of the gastronomically educated middle classes after the war – Biscuit Tortoni, Pommes Dorée, Coeur a la Créme, Chestnut Mont Blanc, Chicken with lemon, Eggs Soubise, Fish Fillets Provençale, Haddock Scramble, Kidneys Turbigo, Pork, Apple, & Cider Casserole – a fine mixture of the refined and the robust, mostly French (in those days French food was held to be the standard by which all others were judged) but also Italian as well as English dishes. There’s even a recipe for Armenian Beetroot Soup, that was pretty outré for its day.

On the more robust side, there are not one, but two recipes for Suet Cakes made from flour, suet, and milk.On recipe calls for baking powder and an egg as well. Having made the dough, you roll it out, cut it into suitably size rounds and ‘fry in deep fat’ until golden and serve with treacle or syrup. I cannot think of a dietary nostrum this delightful  pudding doesn’t break. 

I’m not suggesting anyone should eat deep fried suet cakes every day, but as an occasional treat, well, why not? Inside, a soft, melting ooze, greasy and slightly dry; outside, a crisp, biscuity veneer, as delicate  rime of ice, but warm. Add tepid treacle and you have that divine harmony of musky animal grease and  turbocharged sweetness. My only addition to the original recipe would be a splash of double cream (unpasteurised Jersey or Guernsey for preference) to add cool balance.

I once asked my mother whether she had really eaten these delights, and she assured me that they had been regular treats when she was young. She died at 97. 

SUET CAKE

(from my mother’s file)

5 oz flour

4 oz suet

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Mix into light dough with milk & 1 egg. Roll out to 1.2 in thick & cut into rounds with cutter. Fry in deep fat. Serve with treacle or syrup.

SUET CAKE OR PUDDING

1/4 lb self raising flour

1/4 lb suet

Little milk & water

Pinch of salt

Oil or lard for frying

Warm treacle

Make a fairly stiff dough. Roll out and make cakes about 1 1/2 ins diameter.Flour and fry in deep hot fat until golden brown.

(My mother credits this second recipe to her cousin, Margery Gatey).

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