We've just been away for a few days to a friend's house in Suffolk, on the East Coast of England. It's about two hours from London but it feels much further away than that, and it's one of my favourite places.
On Friday we took a short drive from her house to the weekly produce market in the church hall at the small market town of Halesworth, and I wanted to share with you these amazing cakes. Well, not exactly share them - I'm afraid we've already eaten them.
But they're lemon cakes infused with honey, of a smooth, firm texture like a madeira cake, and very good. But what caught my eye was the way that one has a bee, and the other has a honey comb, sculpted on the top. They're truly elegant, and could appear on the finest tea tables despite their low price of 60 pence each ($1 US approximately). So I took a picture of them in their white ruffs, and mentally congratulated Mrs. Hopkins, who made them, according to the hand written label on the packet.
Next time I'm in Halesworth on a Friday, I'll buy more goodies from Mrs Hopkins. And if you happen to be in North-East Suffolk, the market is held every Friday between 10.30 and 12.30 at St. Mary's church hall. The produce on sale is very good and very inexpensive.
On the way back to London, we stopped at Tiptree for lunch. This Essex village is the home of Wilkin's Jams
and on our visit, the most delicious scent of cooking strawberries filled the air because they were making a batch of strawberry jam that day.
We stop at Tiptree when we can, because Wilkin's has a good tea room, and an interesting little museum which tells the story of the company and its products. ( "The story of marmalade" - who could resist?)
The factory is surrounded by orchards and a market garden which supplies much of the fruit they use - morello cherry, mulberry, gooseberry, blackcurrant and so on. The oranges and other citrus fruits for the marmalade come from their special supplier in Spain - according to the museum, anyway. And the marmalades are all a bit different - I took this picture in their shop..
I know this sounds like an advert for Wilkin's jams, but not, because they've never heard of me. Perhaps I am well disposed towards them partly because my great-grandmother was so proud of them. She lived nearby in the village of Tolleshunt Major, which was then a very remote place indeed.
I remember visiting her in Tolleshunt Major when I was a very small child and she was in her nineties, a dignified old lady in a long, black dress and black boots - a real Victorian. My mother describes visiting her there when she was a small child, taking the train from London to Chelmsford, then being collected by granny who had hired a local man with a pony and trap to take them back to the village, and seeing the jam factory in the distance. . And granny would point out that the jams were exported from this little corner of Essex, all over the world.
Tiptree itself isn't the most beautiful of villages. Most of its local shops have succumbed to Tesco, but in one little precinct was a bread shop called the Crusty Loaf where I got a very good loaf (yes, it was crusty), and something which the woman in the shop couldn't identify. "We call it a frisbee," she said, doubtfully, "but that's not its real name".
So I bought one. That's it on a dinner plate, so you can see it is quite large. It reminds me very much of an eccles cake, and is undoubtedly made the same way, with puff pastry.
So here's an eccles cake recipe, adapted to show you what this frisbee tasted like. Sorry it's in grams, if you use ounces and pounds or cups. I tried to find a recipe with Imperial measures in my 1911 copy of Mrs. Beeton, which I was sure would have it. But although it has all kinds of strange recipes (parrot pie, eel soup, etc.) it doesn't have eccles cakes or anything like them.
2 tablespoons chopped mixed fruit peel
50g brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon mixed spice
500 grams ready made puff pastry
1 beaten egg white and caster sugar to glaze
1.Preheat oven to 220 C / Gas mark 7 (medium-hot) Melt the butter in a small pan on a low heat, but do not brown it. Stir in currants, mixed peel, brown sugar and mixed spice. Stir until sugar is dissolved and fruit is well coated. Remove from heat. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to about 5mm thickness. Cut out a large circle. spread the mixture over it. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until it is golden.