Category Archives: Fruit cake

ON BEING A GOURMET COOK – OR NOT

When Josh and I got married in 1956, I had two dishes in my repertoire – a simple omelette and minestrone soup. My mother was a plain cook, with a very limited range of dishes – cold fried fish on Friday night, cholent on Saturday and braised or roast beef or boiled chicken on other days. Our main meal was at lunchtime – our dinner –-always a rushed meal, because my father and older sisters had only half an hour for lunch and I had to get back to school. For supper we had egg on toast or sardines on toast so I should add those to my range of expertise and of course from my student days baked beans on toast. Josh on the other hand came from a family of good cooks – his paternal grandfather had been a baker in Poland – and so Josh was a much better cook than I.

I gradually extended my range with the help of recipes in newspapers and magazines but then, when I finished my second post as a house physician and was five months pregnant with Simon, I decided to take a 6 week full time Good Housekeeping Cookery Course held in basement kitchens in Mayfair. It was an excellent course ranging from the simplest dishes – how to boil an egg or mash a potato – to Black Forest Gateaux and a range. of various loaves of bread.

When you have four children, and two of them are ravenous boys, you go more for quantity than variety. I got used to serving a three course meal and then having the boys ask for a ‘sarnie’ – or two. They were still ‘starving’.

After I retired in 1991, I took a wide range of courses at Further Education Colleges including cooking. The very best was Joyce’s course (sadly she’s no longer with us) at Morley College. It was a ‘Cook and Eat’ course. You paid a modest sum for the ingredients that Joyce lugged in each week, and then you paired off to cook a three course meal. I think I took the course three times – Joyce had a huge variety of tried and tested recipes.

I only remember one absolute disaster.

We had one student who was always ahead of herself. Her task was to whip the cream for our Blackberry and Apple crumble and she’d got the cream prepared long before we were ready to sit down for our meal. I had to rush off for my Spanish lesson at the Mary Ward Centre in Queens Square and so was the first to be served with my desert.

I took a spoonful and spat it out. I was sure it was poisoned. The salt and sugar – both white granules – were kept in glass jars and she hadn’t bothered to check the labels. She’d used salt instead of sugar and in that concentration the salted cream tasted vile. Probably a very primitive response to ingredients that – certainly in that quantity – are bad tor us.

I thank all those lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in White Coat’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

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Recipe for my favourite fruit cake

Note how the fruit has remained evenly distributed

Grease and line the bottom of a large loaf tin Continue reading ON BEING A GOURMET COOK – OR NOT

Two for Tea

Yummy – especially with a miniature of brandy poured over the bottom

Our elder son, Simon,  and his wife came to tea on their way to a party and I’m always glad of an excuse to bake a cake.

This fruit cake is one of my favourites. I always toss the fruit in a little of the flour so it doesn’t all sink to the bottom but is evenly distributed through the cake.

Design adapted from a panel by William de Morgan (1839-1917)

We’d been having a bit of a smashing time lately – sorting out the mugs chipped in the dishwasher and we’re always looking out for new designs. I found this one in the V&A gift shop when I last visited . The design is adapted from one of William de Morgan’s.

We have a full Thomas white china tea service but we’ve stopped getting it out even for our poshest visitors!!

Lots of lovely reviews and emails from readers of my memoir Woman in a White Coat. Please do comment or email me.

That Fruit Cake

Had to use a loaf tin after all
Had to use a loaf tin after all

For the very first time ever – just because I was baking my fruit cake to take to Louise’s parents-in-law – my cake stuck in the Kugelhopf mould and, when I finally got it out, the top was too knobbly to give as a present. We ate half at our writer’s circle and I froze the rest.

Glad to say both cakes were delicious. I used a large loaf tin second time around because lunch with Louise’s family is a big affair with children, in-laws and grandchildren. The slices did turn out rather large and I was delighted when Louise’s father-in-law had a second slice. That’s the way to appreciate food. It’s not what you say but what you do – ask for more!!

San Sebastian and my Fruit Cake

Looking out to sea
Looking out to sea

Off to see Louise in San Sebastian in a couple of weeks. Her parents-in-law have invited us to Sunday lunch so I am baking them a rich fruit cake, well-laced with Drambuie. I use a Tefal kugel-type silicone cake mould – I always found my cakes stuck to my Kugelhopf metal tin, even though it was non-stick and well-greased. I  bought the non-stick metal tin originally to make a yeast Kugelhopf cake. I love the slightly sour taste the yeast gives to it but a traditional English-type fruit cake is safer – especially if it is alcoholic enough.