Remember, Remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

I love bonfire night. A black sky punctuated by lights; the thick smell of smoke wending around people with half-hot faces; and the promise of a charred baked potato from the ashes.

My earliest memory of the 5th of November is aged 5, pressing my nose against my bedroom window, watching the neighbours setting off Catherine wheels below. My mum is ridiculously frugal (I think receiving Christmas presents wrapped in Tesco carrier bags turned me into the Martha Stewart fanatic I am today) and scoffed at the idea of spending money on things that would, quite literally, go up in smoke.

In later years we would go to village bonfire parties and pay a couple of pounds towards building an extension to the village hall or whatever the latest good work was. The bonfire would be ablaze, but after a holiday to Disney World, where the million dollar firework shows were choreographed to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the ad hoc rockets and bangers seemed a little limp.

I think my love for the celebration is compounded by the fact that Mr Guy Fawkes himself came from York (yes, I am a true Yorkshire girl). Apparently, St. Peter's School, where the hot-headed anti-monarchist studied, doesn't celebrate bonfire night. Given that Mr Hawkes ended up being hung, drawn and quartered, I guess it makes sense.

Like any celebration, there are certain foods which scream 'Bonfire Night' even more than those screechy rockets which scare the pets. Baked potatoes, toffee apples and most importantly, given my roots, Yorkshire Parkin. Just like dogs and their owners who tend to look alike, parkin and the people of Yorkshire share similarities. It is an unpretentious cake; not as glamorous as its sponge brethren and you have to give it time to develop before you see how great it is. At its best it's a dense, sticky and spicy treat; perfect for a blustery November 5th.
Sadly, I won't be waving my sparkler* on Monday as, not so sadly, I am going to New York for a week. Yay! The Bedmate is doing the marathon and I may well tackle a sporting event of my own (26.2 different New York specialities, starting with bagels, in sub-4 hours is my personal challenge). I have been scouring the blogs to find tips for New York eateries, but if anyone has any must-eats I would be very grateful to hear from you.

So, in my absence, make this warming treat, wrap it in foil and leave it to perfect ready for Monday night.

Traditional Yorkshire Parkin
8oz plain flour
pinch of salt
2 level tsps baking powder
2 rounded tsps ground ginger
2oz butter
20z lard
8oz oats/medium oatmeal
4oz light brown sugar
6oz golden syrup
6oz black treacle
4 tbsps milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a 10 inch x 8 inch tin and line with greaseproof paper if you can be bothered (I didn't and it was fine).
  2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and ginger into a bowl.

  3. Cut the butter and lard into small pieces and rub the fats into the flour to make fine breadcrumbs. Relish the feeling of the cool breadcrumbs running through your fingers.

  4. Stir in the oats and the sugar.

  5. Warm the syrup and the treacle (I do this in the microwave until it is more runny than sticky).

  6. Pour the milk and the treacle into a well in the dried ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are combined.

  7. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the cake has started to shrink ever so slightly away from the tin. Don't worry if it starts to sink slightly.

  8. Cool the cake, wrap it in foil and leave to mature for 3 days to a week.**

* I do love a good sparkler. Last year bonfire night was marred by an official in a yellow vest who told my friends and I that we weren't allowed to light them due to "health and safety". Trying to write your name with an unlit sparkler isn't very much fun. Booo.

** I must admit, only half of my cake made it into its foil wrap, but it is definitely much better once it has matured.


Sasi a.k.a Saz said...


Joy said...

I hope that's a "wow" in a good way! I'm looking forward to having some of the matured cake when I get back from my hols. That is, if the Housemate hasn't eaten it already...

Do try the recipe!

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