Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Parkin practice: add patience.

Over time, the BSG and I have been doing our bit, greedily covering most bases in terms of foodstuffs. Obviously there are exotic ingredients from far-flung places missing from the repertoire…all in good time. I tend to take on the shellfish, whereas he is bolder with all things offal. We adore most things we encounter.

Somehow..somehow… parkin has hitherto eluded us both.

However, in this special report I am pleased to annouce that the dark days are over. We are now blissfully living in the age of A.P (After Parkin). A freshly-baked, auburn slab of it sits happily cooling its boots in the kitchen. As aromatic as gingerbread and more complex and grown-up (nutmeg, treacle, dark brown sugar and oatmeal in it) parkin apparently improves with age. In fact the true parkin pros up North frown on its being eaten before its 3 days old. I can’t believe it gets better than it is now, warm from the oven.

Fact is, I am really, really pleased with it. Perhaps this has something to do with having exactly the right ingredients (SO much butter) or me following the recipe to the letter, but it is perfect. I even managed to keep our temperamental oven from burning it to a crisp. The only thing I'd change next time is to not use a loose-bottomed cake tin - the mixture is nervously runny before it starts to cook and will willingly burn in charred drops on the oven floor. You don't want people to smell burning over the other amazing aromas – it makes you look bad and besides, the gingery cooking cloud is too wonderful to forgo. If there was a smell for a hug, then this is it.

It will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, I’m told. Not sure this baby’s going to make 3 days A.P. I’ll have to make some more…

  • 8 oz/220g soft butter
  • 4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
  • 2oz / 55g black treacle/molasses
  • 7oz / 200g golden syrup/ corn syrup
  • 5oz/ 120g medium oatmeal
  • 7 oz/ 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
Heat the oven to 275°/140°C/gas 1
  • Grease an 8" x 8"/ 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
  • In a large heavy-based saucepan melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you simply need to melt these together.
  • In a large, spacious, baking bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Gradually, beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time. Finally add the milk and again stir well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1 ½ hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
  • Remove the parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool store the parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days if you can resist eaten it, you can even leave it up to a week before eating and the flavours really develop and the mixture softens even further and become moist and sticky. The parkin will keep up to two weeks in an airtight container.