December 4th – National Cookie Day

Who knew it was National Cookie Day? Hands up! Did you know? And you – did you know? Well, i didn’t know, but apparently it is so… Now i grew up thinking cookies were something very different from what we think of as cookies today… here is what I wrote about them a little while ago…

As children, the only cookies we knew were soft yummy biscuity things my mum made. These days cookies are biscuits, and sometimes very big biscuits.

Back to my childhood, and cookies… they were pale, and covered with rolled oats and with a glacé cherry on top, not a whole cherry, but a cut off bit of one. They were really called melting moments, I guess because they melted in your mouth in a moment; they were kept in a biscuit tin, and even when they were a little stale and had gone a little soft, I still really liked them. In those days we would have a cookie, not several, let alone all of them…. these days if there is a plate of biscuits it’s quite acceptable to have two or three, and if you have a packet at home… well, munch away!

I’m not that keen on sweet things, so biscuits are safe with me, but I wonder if I could resist some cookies, aka melting moments? Maybe I should make some and see!

Monica’s cookies

  • 2 1/2 oz lard (or vegetable whitening, e.g. TREX or Flora)
  • 1 1/2 oz margarine
  • 3 oz caster sugar
  • 5 oz self-raising flour
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • quartered glacé cherries
  1. cream fats and sugar, add beaten egg
  2. work in the flour and the essence
  3. roll into balls with wet hands and coat with oats
  4. slightly flatten, place on greased tray, decorate with a piece of cherry
  5. bake for 15-20 mins reg 5, 375F, 190C

Try to resist eating them when they are still warm, or eating all of them at once when they are cool!

My family story in 10 objects… number 3

Obect 3 – my mum’ (or maybe my grandma’s) Be-Ro flour cookery book

This is what I wrote about this handy little book a little while ago:

I am lucky to be able to remember far back into my childhood, my babyhood even because I can remember being in my pram at about a year old! From my first memories I can remember being in our kitchen while my mum,  cooked. She was a great baker and the Be-Ro cookery book was her Bible, along with Mrs Beeton, of course. Mum told me that her mother, my grandma Ida had had a copy of this little book, and as a child Monica had thought the little girl on the front was her.

bero 1 001

The Be-Ro girl

 

Monica aged 11

As soon as I started living on my own, I started cooking; I think the first thing I made was a walnut cake, I’m not sure I used a Be-Ro book, but I remembered the method exactly having watched and helped my mum so many times when I was little.

This edition is the 17th reprint, I now have the 32nd and use it so often I’m on my second copy and in need of a third! I still use Be-Ro flour, I still think it’s the best, and I wonder if either of my children will follow the tradition?

Wholesome, simple and economical, how true!!

Be-Ro was founded by Thomas Bell in 1875, in a little shop and bakery in Longhorsley in the north-east of England, just north of Newcastle in 1875.  He had tried for a long time to make a successful self-raising flour, and eventually after much experimentation he succeeded, and produced the world’s first!

Although I have written here about baking, many of my memories about my family involve producing food in the garden, cooking the food – me with my parents, my children with us, my extended family being together and eating together.  Food, – buying it as well, cooking, and eating are constant topics of conversation, whether at home or in other parts of the country or abroad. Visiting different food shops and markets, to look as well as to buy, is something we do wherever we go. Going to different restaurants and then trying to copy the dishes we have enjoyed at home, adds to the enjoyment of eating out.

I’m sure food has always been important for us going back generations, not just as nourishment and fuel for the often arduous lives of my forebears, working on the land as labourers, working in shipyards and on railways; my dad’s mother in the 1920’s would take a skewer and stick it into a bulb of garlic then thrust it into meat to flavour it – and she left school at thirteen and worked as a servant and cleaner in a convent, so she had no fancy recipe books or tradition of exotic food at home. In my dad’s family there even had to be two varieties of sausage served at breakfast, Dad and his father preferred Powters (the best) his brother, sister and mum preferred Musk’s (also pretty good)

This little book, this little old recipe book,  instructs the baker, but for my family, it represents much more.

To find out more about Be-Ro:

https://sites.google.com/site/longhorsleylocalhistorysociety/thomas-bell—be-ro-flour

and

https://be-ro.co.uk/f_about.html

Simple, easy, tasty

My mum’s standby cookery book was not Mrs Beeton, although she had a copy, it was the BeRo flour book; her own mother, my grandma had a copy and the little girl pictured on the front looked so like mum, she thought it was her when she was little! I’m sure if mum had had a copy of the national Mark Calendar of Cooking she would have made lots of the recipes, and I can just imagine her making these… they sound so simple, I can just imagine her making them when we got home from school! We had our main meal at lunch time but we would have a light meal usually something on toast such as beans, cheese, sardines, fried tomatoes, mushrooms…

I can almost smell the aroma on a chilly February afternoon when we come in from school, as I imagine her making:

Cheese Aigrettes

  • 2 oz grated cheese
  • 2 oz flour
  • 2 eggs, separated – the whites whipped stiffly
  • 1 oz butter
  • ¼ pint water
  • ½ tsp Worcester sauce
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  1. melt the butter in a saucepan with the water and boil
  2. sprinkle in the flour, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps
  3. continue stirring until the mixture thickens and leaves the sides of the pan
  4. beat in the yolks one at a time and add the cheese, Worcester sauce and salt to taste
  5. fold in the egg whites carefully
  6. deep fry by teaspoonfuls, taking care not to fry too many at once
  7. drain on kitchen paper when golden brown
  8. serve while hot with a fine grating of extra cheese

I think I might add dry mustard to the mixture and a few grinds of nutmeg over the finished aigrettes

Monica aged 11

Monica aged 11

Why can’t I make pie like my mum’s?

My mum was an amazing cook – of everything, but mostly I remember her pastry; whether it was shortcrust for pies, tarts and flans, or any other type for every sort of deliciousness, she never had a failure. Light, crispy, no soggy bottoms (apart from the cooked and lovely soggy at the bottom of a pie, which would still have texture and ‘bite’ even though it had absorbed the juices of whatever it contained) not too thick or too thin, and tasty even when it was leftovers from the day before, or even the day before that!

She mostly used the Be-Ro cookery book, which I also use – not just the latest edition, but the actual one she used, and also, I think one which may have been my grandmother’s. However, she would also collect recipes from magazines and elsewhere, and went to cookery classes too, so we had all sorts of different pastries, as well as just her standby. I have never managed to get anywhere near the sweet flan pastry she made, with egg yolks to bind, and a little sugar if it was a sweet filling… mine isn’t bad, but it is just not quite the same or as good.

And yet, and yet, when she was first married it was a different story… it was probably in the first weeks or months of her and dad’s marriage. They lived in rented rooms, and I can’t quite remember what they told me of the arrangement, but the landlady had to walk through where they were to get from one part of her living area, to another – no doubt arranged like that to nosy into the affairs of her tenants! Mum finished work earlier than dad and when he got home they had pie for desert and he criticised her pastry! She had never made it before and had just tried to follow a recipe (maybe Mrs Beeton) My dad wouldn’t have been horrid or unkind, just a typical insensitive young man – and the Elsdens are sometimes quite blunt in talking about food. Mum was a bit cross and a bit upset, but luckily her friend Daphne arrived as they were going out together.

When mum got home after having a nice, and no doubt giggle-filled evening, she found a beautiful golden, sugar sprinkled apple pie waiting on the table, with ‘I LOVE YOU’ written in pastry. She and dad both laughed – he’d realised how unintentionally unkind he had been, and she knew he would never have deliberately said anything mean or hurtful.

I often think of that, in fact every time I make pastry I think of that and i think of both of them!

 

Baking memories

I think I may have shared this post before…, It doesn’t matter… it brings back memories of my mum!


I am lucky to be able to remember far back into my childhood, my babyhood even because I can remember being in my pram at about a year old! From my first memories I can remember being in our kitchen while my mum, Monica,  cooked. She was a great baker and the Be-Ro cookery book was her Bible, along with Mrs Beeton, of course. Mum told me that her mother, my grandma Ida had a copy of this little book, and as a child Monica had thought the little girl on the front was her.

bero 1 001

As soon as I started living on my own I started cooking, I think the first thing I made was a walnut cake, I’m not sure I used a Be-Ro book, but I remembered the method exactly having watched and helped Monica so many times when I was little.

This edition is the 17th reprint, I now have the 32nd and use it so often I’m on my second copy and in need of a third! I still use Be-Ro flour, I still think it’s the best, and I wonder if either of my children will follow the tradition?

Wholesome, simple and economical, how true!!

Be-Ro baking

I guess that these days we are all tempted to be economical and buy cheaper brands or stores own-label food, but usually, if I can, I buy Be-Ro flour… I’m not sure whether it really is better than other flour, I guess it all comes down to preference and familiarity, and I am very familiar with Be-Ro, I grew up with it.

Over a year ago I wrote about Be-Ro, and here is what I wrote:

I am lucky to be able to remember far back into my childhood, my babyhood even because I can remember being in my pram at about a year old! From my first memories I can remember being in our kitchen while my mum  cooked. She was a great baker and the Be-Ro cookery book was her Bible, along with Mrs Beeton, of course. Mum told me that her mother, my grandma Ida had a copy of this little book, and as a child Mum had thought the little girl on the front was her.

bero 1 001

 

The Be-Ro girl
Monica aged 11

 

As soon as I started living on my own I started cooking, I think the first thing I made was a walnut cake, I’m not sure I used a Be-Ro book, but I remembered the method exactly having watched and helped Mum so many times when I was little.

This edition is the 17th reprint, I now have the 32nd and use it so often I’m on my second copy and in need of a third! I still use Be-Ro flour, I still think it’s the best, and I wonder if either of my children will follow the tradition?

Wholesome, simple and economical, how true!!