'Slices' of parkin on a plate

Cut but to be wrapped in foil for about three weeks before eating

Last year I was a bit late making parkin. It improves with age and though most recipes say leave it a couple, or a few, days before eating, I think it’s much better left for two or three weeks, tightly wrapped or in an airtight tin. I don’t have a suitable tin so I wrap in it non-stick baking paper then foil.

This year I’ve managed to fit in making it before going to ‘do my thing’ at the Ilkley Literature Festival. I’ve decided not to read my fairy story as I was not happy reading a cut up version. Read all about it, with the fairy story, tomorrow morning.

It’s not difficult to make, in fact very easy; the biggest problem is resisting the temptation to eat it before 5th November, for which date it is traditionally made. The other traditional foods are potatoes baked in the fire, and ‘plot toffee’, made by boiling dark sugar, and perhaps molasses,  with butter until it will set hard when cooled, and ‘toffee apples’ – apples on sticks dipped in the toffee when liquid.

Guy Fawkes

For non-British readers who may not know the significance of 5th November, we ‘commemorate’ the failure of Guy Fawkes, a Yorkshireman (what else?), to  blow up parliament with the king in 1605 (if you want to know more just Google ‘Guy Fawkes’ and Wikipedia has it).

Traditionally we have a bonfire, the children make an effigy of Guy Fawkes, go with it from house to house calling “Penny for the guy”, the money collected being spent on fireworks. Now it’s more usually adults who spend ridiculous amounts of money competing to see who can make the largest ‘bang’. Nevertheless, many communities still have a bonfire and fireworks.

The tradition is gradually being replaced by a massive money-making event five days before, where supermarkets and other shops sell trashy ‘scary’ costumes and kids come asking ‘trick or treat?” Halloween – a corruption imported from the USA of another tradition. It’s horrible.

Parkin recipe.

I won’t give the recipe for ‘proper parkin’ here as I did that last year. You’ll find it in the post of 27 October last year. This year I changed it slightly, putting 50/50 medium oatmeal and pinhead oatmeal as I like the latter.

'Slices' of parkin on a plate

Cut but to be wrapped in foil for several days before eating

It’s a bit late for me to make Yorkshire parkin for 5th November, the traditional ‘cake’ to eat on ‘plot’, or ‘bonfire’ night as it improves if left to mature, to get the vital moist stickiness. The eight days left now is less than I would usually leave but it’s enough.

I couldn’t remember the quantities of each ingredient but having gone onto internet and seen recipes from various ‘celebrity’ chefs, I didn’t find one who truly understood what makes a ‘proper’ (thus the word in the title of this post) Yorkshire parkin. There are three essential ingredients: oatmeal (not porridge, or rolled, oats); ginger (not mixed spice) and bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder). These three ingredients, including the bicarbonate, are what gives Yorkshire parkin its unique taste and texture. I think also you should use dark brown sugar, not light brown as suggested in several recipes.

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

I took the quantities for a 9 inch (22.5cm) square tin from a BBC recipe, doubled them as I was using a much larger tin (a roasting pan, as used by my grandmother), and where necessary changed the ingredients to bring into line with the comments above.

Recipe (for 9 inch square tin)

200g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large egg
4 tbsp milk
200g golden syrup
85g black treacle (molasses)
85g dark brown sugar
100g medium oatmeal (I substituted a little pinhead oatmeal to make even ‘nuttier’)
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ground ginger

Method

Butter a 9 inch cake tin (or line with baking parchment).
Set oven to 140degC fan (160degC/gas 3)
Gently warm the butter, sugar, golden syrup and black treacle in a pan until the sugar is dissolved.
Mix together very well the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the melted ingredients and mix again very well. Add the milk, mixing well again, and finally add the lightly beaten egg and mix till very well combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven until firm (about 50-60 minutes – it was longer from my larger parkin).
When cool turn out, cut into squares and wrap in nonstick paper then foil (or put in an airtight tin). Try not to eat it for a few days; I prefer a couple of weeks.

By the way, it makes a great pudding; just warm it and pour over a generous helping of custard.

Other parkins

I should say that there are other parkins, notably from over the Pennines in Lancashire. I’ll leave it to others to argue about where it originated.

Other traditional foods for plot night are baked potatoes (in the bonfire, not the oven – taste quite different), and plot toffee (basically parkin without the dry ingredients, boiled till it will set hard).

I was horrified to hear an advertisement for Heinz mustard claiming that hot dogs are traditional bonfire night food. Bull****.