I grew up in Lincolnshire (home of *Lincolnshire Plum Bread, Grantham Gingerbread, the very best sausages and, ooh, haslet - my very favourite childhood sandwich filling). But with my mother from Lancashire (think Chorley Cakes, Manchester Tart, bread muffins and all manner of warming, steamed puddings) and my father from Hereford/Worcester (everything apple and pear including cider and perry cakes, and cider-steeped casseroles, poached - as in 'nabbed from the woods' - pigeon and rabbit pies) our household was a culinarily eclectic one.
My mother loved all manner of baking and cooking and our family of four children and my father made for an appreciative and un-fussy audience. Food and ingredients were something to be explored and innovated with. Our large garden was brimful with thickets of blackberries, currants and raspberries and so much rhubarb that my oldest brother continually shouted out its name in his sleep one summer. The orchard had ancient varieties of apple and pear trees and fitfully compliant plum and cherry trees. Onions, parsnips, potatoes, carrots and all manner of winter veg were so plentiful that mealtimes were often built around whatever was growing like topsy. I would run out, grab an armful of whatever was plentiful, a fistful of herbs near the kitchen and my mother would create something wonderful and filling, new but somehow familiar as well.
Out of this spirit of culinary creativity and using ingredients 'on hand' grew my true passion for baking and cooking. England is full of many very proud counties and regions and travelling through them as a child and adult was always part scenic appreciation and part an exploration of any new cakes. Bakewell tarts in Derbyshire, Pork Pies in Leicestershire, Ripe tart in Kent, Lancashire Hotpot, Flummery, Lardy Cake, Maids of Honour, Steak and Kidney pie, Cornish pasties, Bubble and Squeak, Toad in the Hole........
Many of these have surpassed regional boundaries and become national favourites (like the Cornish Pasty) but scores more remain highly popular regional dishes whose consumers only realise are regional once they move away and cannot find them. Scotland and Wales have their own huge repertoires of proudly claimed national dishes.
So, all this serves as a brief introduction to the wealth of regional foods from the British Isles. At Birkinshaw's you will find many, many cakes, pies, pastries and other dishes that you will not find anywhere else. We have had a great reception for our Scottish flapjacks (one of our best sellers), Cornish Pasties and Scotch Eggs (note, not in fact Scottish, but from the pork-loving midlands... 'scotch' is a derivative of 'scorch' i.e. cooked at high heat, like ButterScotch), Bara Brith, Parkin, cockaleekie soup, haggis-inspired pies and Welsh ham and leek pies. Look out for more regional specialities and do always ask us about our food, we love talking about our recipes and where our favourite foods hail from.
Watch this space for more on our European and global culinary travels .... even better, come in and taste the results. East European sour cream cake is just one of the delicious bakes that is always on the menu!
* Lincolnshire Plum Bread - a yeasted, fruit cake made with raisins and sultanas (not plums, 'plum' is in fact an old word meaning 'rich' on a fruity sense)
Haslet - a pork-based sausagemeat loaf, served thinly sliced
Chorley Cakes - flattened, fruit-filled pastry cakes
Manchester Tart - a custard tart in a crisp pastry shell, with a jam base and a coconut top (a school dinner favourite for many)
Cider Cake - a light, plain cake with an apple-y tang