I love to watch cooking shows … and, based upon the number of shows available on tv these days, I’m not alone. The one I’m enjoying at the moment is a celebrity chef from England, James Martin. His show, HOME COMFORTS (on Amazon Prime), showcases comfort foods that Martin loves to cook at home when he’s ‘not working’. In this series, James speaks lovingly of being the son of pig farmers from North Yorkshire, and, as a child, cooking alongside his mother. From the classic “Toad in the Hole” with onion gravy to a variety of ‘jacket potatoes’ to a Swiss roll and prawn cocktail, this show features British comfort food at its best.
In one recent episode, Martin made a cake called PARKIN. I honestly had never heard of this cake, but hubby said it was a dish he grew up with. Although served all year round, this very popular regional North Yorkshire dish is traditionally served in November on Bonfire Night. I’m not really sure if its a cake or a pudding, but I do know I have to give it a try. Made with oatmeal and molasses, this dark, spicy ‘gingerbread-like cake’ could be rather stodgy.
As always I did a bit of research to find what is, hopefully, the best and most authentic PARKIN recipe. Apparently, it dates back to the 14th century. And in 1728, a homemaker by the name of Anne Whittaker was accused of stealing oatmeal to make PARKIN. Unlike wheat, oats were the staple grain in the north of England, and used in most of their local dishes from breakfast to dessert.
“When Arthur, to make their hearts merry … Brought ales and parkin and perry.”
Because it is a British recipe, I’ve converted the grams and milliliters to cups and ounces, but it wasn’t too difficult. I’m ready now. So, let’s give it a go!
Bake 325° – 40 to 50 minutes – One 9 x 9 baking pan – Serves 6 to 8
1-1/2 cups self-raising flour
1-1/2 cups oatmeal* (uncooked)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick butter, cubed
2/3 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup cane sugar syrup (Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
* I used Old Fashioned oatmeal, which is very coarse. To break the oats down a bit, I pulsed the oatmeal for a few seconds in a food processor. If you use ‘fast cooking’ oatmeal, you don’t need to do this.
Preheat the oven to 325°. And grease a 9″ x 9″ square pan (or round pan, or loaf pan … whatever pan you’d like to use). In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, spices and baking soda. Stir together until well blended and then stir in the oatmeal.
Put the molasses, golden syrup, brown sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan and heat until the butter is melted. Then take it off the heat and cool until lukewarm. Beat in the eggs.
Add the liquid ingredients from the saucepan to the dry ingredients. Stir in quickly and beat until the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into a greased 9″ x 9″ pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or til it pulls back from the sides and is cooked through. A tester should come out clean from the middle. Cool in the pan for a few minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack to continue cooling.
PARKIN, a strange name for this very homey, old-fashioned, gingerbread-like cake, and I’m still not sure where the name came from. But this traditional cake was very easy to make. It is fairly dense, much like a brownie, with the heat from the ginger and cinnamon very prevalent. I served it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Hubby loved it and it sent him right back to his school days. What’s better than that!
(Note: On quite a few other sites, I’ve read where Parkin gets even better after three days. As always the skeptic, I left one, wrapped tightly in the cupboard, for three days. And, yes, they are correct. The flavors developed. It did not dry out and it was much better.)