|Inspired by St John's Eccles Cakes Recipe|
My idea of mid-afternoon heaven is a pot of strong tea and an Eccles Cake at St John Bread and Wine. Unfortunately I can't live there, but I can make my own juicy little fruit-filled parcels with a little help from Fergus Henderson's wonderfully straightforward book Nose to Tail Eating - A Kind of British Cooking.
The origins of the commercially baked Eccles Cake take us to 1793 when James Birch began selling little currant-filled pastries from his bakers shop in the small Lancashire town of Eccles. The home-baked version appeared much earlier. It's traditional to slash the top of the cake three times to signify the holy trinity. When they came to power in 1650, Cromwell's puritans thought them so rich and delicious that they banned them. Well, no wonder they are so popular!
The recipe is fiercely debated, but if cooking didn't evolve would we find it so interesting? What is certain is that what is needed is pastry, currants, butter, sugar and spices. Fergus deflects any criticism from purists by making it clear from the outset that his recipe is for St John's Eccles Cakes. Instead of lard in the pastry, which surely would have been used originally (and you would expect it to be used at St John if anywhere), he has opted for a classic butter puff pastry, with allspice and nutmeg as spicing. Having made and eaten Eccles Cakes as a child, my vote goes to Fergus every time.