|kentish town fairing!|
Since I have become somewhat obsessive about making and baking things, my friends are quite happy to try the finished result but are less happy with jars of pickles and food in it's uncooked state. I'm guessing why bother when you know someone (well me) would do it for you. And there is just so often that I can turn up a the pub lugging a tower of tupperware to hand out my kitchen largesse . . .
I had just made too much. Of course, I can "lay" some down for next year, or the year after, or the year after that . . . but it will be a case of storing up trouble. Because I know damn well that come the autumn, I'll want to make some up fresh. Which brings me on to my mincemeat problem. I have about my own body weight in the stuff and it needs to be used. What was stumping me was things to do with it.
Last year, after making the obvious mince pies and tarts, I tried making mincemeat crumble traybake. It was lovely. However, not wanting to get stuck in a rut, I wanted to try something new. Which brought me on to my next minor problem. There seem to be very little inspiration out there. I had trawled through my recipe books, and after making a rather nice Dan Lepard Bramley apple and mincemeat pasty (frankly just a posh mince pie) and a sort of financier-friand type thing (which was nice, but would have been much nicer with something to dunk it in, such as a large glass of port!) there wasn't much on offer. I had some leftover puff pastry and ended up making an enormous Eccles-type cake but what I really wanted was something less cakey and with a little more crunch.
Time to experiment I think. So for the past few weeks I have been trying out several different biscuit and cookie recipes . . . the sorts of things that might usually contain dried fruit and spices. And I have finally adapted one that works with the addition of large dollops of mincemeat (I can afford to be generous). Hey, half the time I am doing this, so you don't have to.
So I give you, the Kentish Town Fairing - my version of the famous Cornish ginger biscuit studded with a cornucopia of spices and other goodies.
The Cornish Fairing became popular at fairs, often the hiring fairs, and were considered an absolute treat. If you think that centuries ago, most of the working or middle classes experiences of "biscuits" would have either been ships' biscuits or the medicinal biscuits such as "Bath Olivers" or "Abernathy" biscuits. It wasn't until industrialisation and the rise of the "fancy" biscuit in the late nineteenth century that biscuits became more readily available.
Some of the original fairings would be flavoured with saffron and sweetened with honey, decorated with almonds, marzipan, icing or even edible gold leaf. Other biscuits were flavoured with liquorice or even sandalwood. They were usually highly spiced with ginger and other exotic spices from nutmeg and cinnamon to mace and allspice. Some even contained candied angelica or citrus peel. So I don't think it should be too much of a leap to add a generous dollop or two of mincemeat.
Skill level: Easy
Yield: about 25 to 30 biscuits
230g plain flour
a pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp mincemeat
100g granulated sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
- Preheat the oven to 150C / Gas Mark 2.
- Line and lightly grease several large baking trays.
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. (You can sift them if you want, but I usually don't bother)
- Add a couple of generous tablespoons of mincemeat and combine well.
- Gently heat together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
- Stir the sugar mixture into the flour and mincemeat mix and combine well, until it forms a soft dough.
- At this stage I usually refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours. Chilling makes the dough easier to work with.
- Mould the mixture into walnut-sized balls. (I find it easier to do this with slightly wet fingers. Others prefer to flour their hands to form the dough balls).
- Place them well apart on the greased baking sheet (they will spread considerably).
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Leave the fairings to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack in order that they cool completely.
- They keep well in an airtight container.