Aunty Mary’s Rhubarb Crumble

 

The humble rhubarb has gone from being known as an ancient cure, to a favourite British dessert, to one that post WWII fell from grace. During the war years the price was controlled so that everyone could afford it and many, like my Aunty Mary learned how to use it in a variety of recipes from tarts to Rhubarb and Ginger Jam.

This article looks at the ever popular Rhubarb Crumble.

So what is it and how did it come to be linked so strongly with Yorkshire?

It is a large leafed herbaceous perennial growing from rhizomes – a vegetable, the stalk of which provides vitamins K and C but lacks sweetness and so is low in calories. However, the leaves are high in oxalic acid which can damage the kidneys.

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Because it is not sweet sugar is used in recipes and this will affect some of the benefits eating the stalk can bring, when cooked properly. It is thought to have been used as far back as 2700 BC as a medicine. Claims that it could treat gut, lung and liver problems kept it popular. In recent years it has come back into fashion and there is still a Wakefield Rhubarb Festival held in February.

Rhubarb was a native crop in Siberia growing on the banks of the Volga.  Marco Polo is attributed with bringing it to Europe. In the seventeenth century it is claimed to have been more valuable than opium.

The Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle began around 1877 when the method of forcing rhubarb was brought to West Yorkshire. Forcing had been discovered by accident in the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, in 1817, but the conditions of the sheltered area  between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford in the shadows of the Pennines provided a perfect growing environment. The rain, cold and the high nitrogen available from ‘Shoddy’ – a by product of the successful woollen mill industry that also thrived in the area – all helped. The Yorkshire coalfields provided an ample supply of fuel to heat the sheds needed to grow the crop in the dark. Then excellent railways in the region linked to London and Covent Garden market as well.

Forced rhubarb was grown in sheds and the first crop early in the year was said to be the best.

The following recipe is for a simple dessert and not a health recommendation for this unique rhubarb crop.

When picking rhubarb go for early and straight, thin colourful stalks. If the stalks are limp they are not fresh. Later in the year you might need to strip off the tougher outer layer before cooking.

Ingredients

6 Stalks of rhubarb
Two teaspoonfuls of ground ginger
1 level tablespoon of Demerara sugar

For the Crumble

7 oz  unsalted butter
7 oz golden caster sugar
14 oz plain flour

Method

Rub butter and the flour together until crumble is fine. You can substitute some flour with oats to make the top crunchier.

Add in the sugar (to taste).

When finely mixed it should clump together when squeezed once and fall apart again a separate time.

Leave in the fridge to chill.

Top and tail the crunchy stalks of rhubarb.

Either soften in a pan with a knob of butter and the ginger and sugar until softer, or bake on a tray in the oven on 170C for ten minutes.

If the pan method is used, drain off some of the fluid. If the oven method is used then transfer to the serving dish once the rhubarb has been tested to make sure it is tender.

I would love to receive any other original recipes for the versatile and unique rhubarb.

Aunty Mary’s Yorkshire Parkin

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Nothing felt more homely and welcoming when I was growing up in my home town of Redcar, North Yorkshire, than entering my Aunty Mary’s old terrace house and smelling the delights being created in her kitchen.

Artie, her friendly black spaniel, also shared my enthusiasm for her cheerful personality and her home cooking hospitality.

One such recipe, Parkin, is a traditional cake (not for the health conscious or diabetic) that is basically a ginger cake packed with oats and treacle. It is mentioned in my books, such as: For Richer, For Poorer, as its recipe has been passed down the generations.

It was certainly made during the Industrial Revolution and gained favour as the ideal snack to partake of in November on a cold Bonfire Night on the 5th. The first Sunday of that month is referred to as ‘Parkin Sunday’.

This rich cake, full of flavour, also helped to keep hardworking folk filled and warmed through the cold winter months.

Lancashire also has its own recipes for parkin, but there are differences between the two versions. Yorkshire includes oats and uses more black treacle (molasses) giving a darker distinct flavour. Lancashire Parkin tends to be lighter and sweeter using more golden syrup (not corn syrup, which is different) instead. Opinions on this vary, as much as the recipes because some people leave out the oats all together, but this version hits the mark when you want to feel re-energized on a cold and dreary day.

The recipe I have included here is the one my Aunty Mary used and the one that when I do indulge takes me back to my childhood, a warm and loving home with my aunt and of course dear old Artie.

Ingredients

5 oz      oats
4 oz      SR flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp     ground ginger
1 tsp     mixed spice
1/2 tsp  nutmeg
Pinch of salt
5 oz       black treacle
3 oz       golden syrup
4 oz       soft brown sugar
4 oz       butter
2 large   beaten eggs
1 tbsp    milk

 

Method

  1. Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking paper or a paper loaf case.
  2. Preheat oven to 150C
  3. Assemble dry ingredients in a large bowl
  4. Melt the brown sugar with the treacle, syrup and butter – DO NOT BOIL THEM – remove from heat once the sugar has melted. Allow to cool slightly.
  5. Pour the hot mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.
  6. Add eggs and milk – stir well. You should have a thick liquid batter mix.
  7. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for between 1 to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. The cake should be firm and springy.
  8. Allow to cool in the baking tin.

The resulting cake should be dark, sticky, and spicy and has a flavour that improves if it is left in an airtight tin for 3-5 days after it has been allowed to cool.

Then enjoy a slice with a nice cup of tea – but in moderation!

If you know any other versions of this old favourite or more about the origins of it I would love to see your comments.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Richer-Poorer-Adventure-Regency-Yorkshire-ebook/dp/B07LCSMG9R/
Availbale now

Jacobean Architecture and Kiplin Hall, Richmond, North Yorkshire.

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Leaham Hall in For Richer, For Poorer is a Jacobean style of country house that provides employment for its estate workers and the small nearby village of Leaham. In reality the image of Kiplin Hall inspired its fictitious counterpart.

Jacobean architecture gained popularity during the reign of King James I (1566-1625) with its love of symmetry and the mixture of gable or flat roofs; these brick built buildings were houses of the well-to-do landed gentry.

The era’s love of colour, Palladian columns, woodwork and carvings, along with the use of granite made them quite unique. The central staircase would be a focal point that lead the family or visitors up to the first and second  floors.

The Jacobean period was one that was tumultuous and the use of heraldry could reveal the owner’s loyalty. These houses, like many of the time, could also have been used as safe havens for those who had Jacobite sympathies.

Kiplin is a treasure to be discovered, tucked away in the beautiful countryside of North Yorkshire near the village of Scorton. It was built by George Calvert who was the Secretary of State to James 1 and founder of Maryland USA.

I borrowed some aspects of this tranquil setting for my plot in For Richer, For Poorer and placed Leaham Hall under threat.  The early nineteenth century was a time of great social, industrial, political and religious change; so I set Parthena and Jerome Fender loose on a quest to save the Hall, the estate and the village.

Here are some pictures of the moorland trods that Parthena and Jerome have to cross. You can find out more about these ancient pathways in my blog post at Sapere Books

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Dead Man’s Pain

Dead Man’s Pain (Book 2 of the Penn Mysteries) is now available in large print!

The early nineteenth century in England was a harsh time of poverty for many. When soldiers and sailors were no longer needed to fight the wars that had dogged England from the end of the previous century, many men returned victorious having fought for their King (or Prince Regent) and country only to face unemployment. With little or no social support they often turned to crime to feed themselves and their families. With the increase in crimes, came new laws and harsher sentences.

One of North Yorkshire’s finest museums is in the little city of Ripon.

Ripon is an unspoilt cathedral city that has maintained its characteristics of a delightful market town with plenty of historical places of interest to visit. It is also an excellent base for venturing into the Yorkshire Dales or the North Yorkshire Moors!

Ripon Museum comprises of three museums, all to do with the city’s historic law and order buildings that have been lovingly maintained. The photos below were taken in the Prison & Police Museum in St Marygate. It was a prison from 1686-1879 and a police station from 1880-1959.

When I first visited the prison I was writing Dead to Sin. Although the existing building was Victorian, the cells hold exhibits which relate to its earlier history and the development of crime and punishment, cruel and harsh as it was. Nowadays, the museum is clean, whitewashed and immaculately presented. Obviously in the time of Nicholas Penn it would be far from this.

Book One of The Penn Mysteries is available in eBook format on Amazon, Smashwords, Nook and iTunes

The first chapter of Dead to Sin begins with Nicholas Penn bracing himself as he enters this dark, fettered world.

Nicholas Penn took one last deep breath of fresh air outside the high stone walls of the Gorebeck lock up. He glanced back at the cobbled square of the market town; wagons rattled, farmers haggled, women bartered, children’s laughter melted into the animals’ pitiful cries, the noise of which was in turn drowned out by the banter of the bidders. All was chaotic, all stank, yet there was colour and life here amongst the continuous whirl of people trading their wares.

A heavy lock was turned in the barrier in front of him. Nicholas breathed deeply, his broad chest glad of what fresh air there was as his mind dreaded the prospect of seeing what he would find within the cold walls – and who. The reinforced wooden door creaked and groaned as the warder pulled it open, grating the edge against the stone.

He pulled the high collar of his coat close, covering the ends of his shoulder length locks. ‘Trapped sunshine’ his mother had poetically described his wayward curls when he was a cosseted child. Now straighter, they had matured and grown like Nicholas himself. No sunshine would filter through behind this door. The rain started to pour down. Nicholas was silently led inside along a narrow stone corridor; he was taken further into the building’s bowels, down a spiral metal staircase to an airless chasm where six bolted black doors lined the dimly lit passage. Disembodied coughs could be heard even through the iron-wood barriers, which incarcerated their prey. Nicholas intuitively pulled out his kerchief and held it over his mouth. Gaol fever was to be avoided by the wise man who had the option to, but the inmates of this place had little chance to do that. The warder turned another key in the door lock at the end of the narrow corridor.

“Ten minutes!” he growled back at Nicholas. The man had a curvature of the spine and did not look up at Nicholas’s straight frame. Instead, he shuffled back.

Nicholas grunted what could have been his agreement or a simple acknowledgement. The turnkey gestured for Nicholas to enter.

With some reluctance, Nicholas stepped into the small dank cell, ducking slightly so that his round hat did not contact the top of the door’s stone frame. What light and fresh air there was from the open grate that served as a window, was lost to the rain water, which now poured in, bringing with it the filth washed down from the market street above. The cell’s air stank of damp and excrement. Nicholas stood equidistant from the slime covered walls, not wanting his new riding coat to touch anything in the place.

The cell was putrid. Under his highly polished boots was a stone-flagged floor strewn with soiled hay. Nicholas fought back memories, bleak, barefooted memories, as he glared at the figure in front of him. Like the cell, the man locked within it was unwashed, unshaven and unkempt. His appearance was in stark contrast to the man’s usually immaculate presence. The figure was seated on a small stool, wrapped in a flea-infested woollen blanket, leaning against the edge of the moist wall. Even in such discomfiture he seemed to be calm in manner, resigned perhaps to his fate. Nicholas wondered if this was true. To most people in his circumstance it would have been the case, or a near breakdown of spirits, but not Wilson. Nicholas knew the man too well. He was as hard as the stone walls which held him, to the depth of the heart that beat strong within his chest.

Ebony eyes looked up at him as the door lock was slammed shut behind Nicholas who was trying hard not to show his inner fear, or his loathing of small airless spaces as much as his abhorrence for the pathetic looking creature in front of him.

“You came, Nick!” the voice announced, louder than Nicholas had expected it to. That tone was almost as if he was annoyed at his late appearance. This was not the whispered breathy word of a dispirited soul. The confidence, the strength and the defiance were still there in his comments even if he looked to be in a physically weakened state.

Phoebe’s Challenge now £1.99!

Phoebe and her brother, Thomas, have to flee the evil regime of Benjamin Bladderwell when an accident results in them being labelled machine breakers. Hunted with nowhere to run, the mysterious Matthew saves their lives.He is a man of many guises who Phoebe instinctively trusts, but Thomas does not. Their future depends upon this stranger, unaware that he is also tied to their past.

Why not follow Pheobe and Love the Adventure!

Available from Smashwords  Nook iBooks and Amazon

Check out my article about the world of a working mill in the early nineteenth century and you’ll see why Phoebe and Tom had to run.