Recipes from Oats in the North, Wheat from the South


Tottenham Cake

In 1901, pieces of Tottenham cake were given away to children from the London neighbourhood of Tottenham to celebrate the victory of the Tottenham Hotspurs in the Cup. The pink icing is traditionally coloured with mulberry juice and sometimes the cake is finished with hundreds and thousands or desiccated coconut.

John Kirkland writes in The Modern Baker, Confectioner and Caterer that this is an easy and quick cake for children's parties and other occasions for which many pieces must be baked in a short time. His recipe is for a giant cake that is made with more than 5 kg (11 lb) of flour, but it is not tasty at all because it contains no egg, and almost no sugar and butter. It clearly had to be cheap to make! The version that I give here is the version that is still sold today - a simple cake, but also delicious.

'For one penny piece, soft sponge could be bought,
mis-shapen, a ha'penny, a feast that was sought.
Pink icing with colour from mulberry so red,
So sticky, delicious, the people were fed …'

For 12 portions

For the cake
300 g (10½ oz) butter, at room temperature
300 g (10½ oz) white sugar
6 eggs
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
50 g (1¾ oz) baking powder
85 ml (2¾ fl oz) milk
butter, for greasing
flour, for dusting

For the icing
350 g (12 oz) icing (confectioners') sugar
30 ml (1 fl oz) water or redcurrant juice
natural pink colouring (if you don't use redcurrant juice)
desiccated coconut and/or hundreds and thousands, to garnish (optional)

For a 24 x 28 cm (9½ x 11¼ inch) cake tin

Preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F) and prepare the cake tin.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Add a teaspoon of the flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from separating.

Carefully fold the remaining flour and the baking powder into the batter so that the volume is retained. Stir in the milk, a little at a time. Spoon the batter into the tin and smooth the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes. Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the redcurrant juice or the water and the pink colouring.

Put the coconut and/or hundreds and thousands in a shallow bowl. Trim the cake edges. Spread the cake with the icing and cut it into 12 pieces, wiping the knife after each cut. Dip the cake pieces into the coconut or hundreds and thousands or just leave them plain.

It is best to eat this cake on the day it's made or the following day.

Download printable recipe (PDF)


Hot cross buns

For 12 buns

For the buns
15 g (½ oz) dried yeast
300 ml (10½ fl oz) lukewarm full-fat milk
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) strong white bread flour
60 g (2¼ oz) raw (demerara) sugar or white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mace
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground coriander
70 g (2½ oz) butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 egg
5 g (1/8 oz) fine sea salt
150 g (5½ oz) currants
50 g (1¾ oz) candied citrus peel
2 egg yolks + 2 tbsp milk, for egg wash

For the crosses
160 ml (5¼ fl oz) water
75 g (2½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour

For a 39 x 27 cm (15½ x 10¾ inch) baking tin (if you don't want the buns to attach to one another while baking, use a larger tray or bake in two batches)

Add the yeast to the lukewarm milk and stir briefly and gently to activate it. The yeast will start to foam up in clusters, which means it is ready for use. Combine the flour, sugar and spices in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and put the butter on top. Pour half of the yeast mixture over the butter and start kneading. When the milk and butter are completely absorbed, add the rest of the yeast mixture, along with the egg. Knead for 5 minutes, then let the dough stand for a few minutes (at this point it will be very wet). Add the salt and then the currants and candied peel and knead for 10 minutes, scraping the dough off the dough hook and side of the bowl if needed, until the dough has come together in a smooth and elastic dough that is not too dry but also not terribly wet.

Cover the dough and set aside for 1 hour until it has doubled in quantity.

Meanwhile, line the baking tin with baking paper. Mix the water and flour into a thick batter for the crosses and scoop it into a piping bag with a small nozzle and cover until needed.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Take a piece of dough and lightly flatten it on your work surface, then pull the outer parts in like a purse and gently squeeze together like a dumpling so that the dough can no longer split open while rising.

Turn the dough over so the squeezed ends are on the bottom. It should be nice and smooth on top - if not, flatten it and start again. Place in the baking tin and continue shaping the other buns, adding them to the tin to form neat rows.

Cover the tray of buns with a light cotton cloth and wrap it in a large plastic bag (I keep one especially for this purpose). Rest the dough for 1 hour or until the buns have doubled in size. Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).

Brush the buns generously with the egg wash, then carefully pipe a cross onto each bun. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

The buns are best eaten on the day they're made. The next day they can be revived in a hot oven for a few minutes. You can also freeze the baked buns, thaw and then pop them in a hot oven for a few minutes.

These buns are excellent halved, then toasted and spread with copious amounts of farmhouse butter. Left-over buns can be used in the Bun and butter pudding recipe from my book, Pride and Pudding.

Download printable recipe (PDF)



Many English friends really love Flapjacks. You can buy them at almost any bakery, but they are so simple to make yourself that you will never buy them again. A Flapjack is actually a muesli bar made with oats, sugar, syrup and butter. A Flapjack is a blank canvas - often nuts, currants, other dried fruits and chocolate are added, but you can get creative and add whatever you like. I've given some suggestions below.

'Come, thou shalt go home, and we'll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and moreo'er puddings and flap-jacks; and thou shalt be welcome.' From Pericles, Prince of Tyre, by William Shakespeare

For 8-10 bars
220 g (7¾ oz) rolled oats or spelt flakes
200 g (7 oz) butter
100 g (3½ oz) golden syrup, maple syrup or honey
50 g (1¾ oz) soft brown sugar
pinch of sea salt
butter, for greasing
flour, for dusting
chocolate chips (optional)

For a 20 cm (8 inch) square cake tin

Preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F) and prepare the cake tin.

Put the oats in a blender and blitz for 3 seconds (skip this step if you are using fine rolled oats).

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat (make sure it does not bubble). Add the golden syrup, sugar and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the oats or spelt flakes, plus any other optional ingredients, and stir well.

Firmly press the mixture into the tin so the top is even. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes.

For a chocolate topping, add the chocolate chips as soon as the flapjacks come out of the oven. Once they have melted, use a spatula to spread the chocolate.

Leave the flapjacks to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Using the baking paper, carefully lift the flapjack out of the tin and cut it into bars or squares.

Variations: add a handful of chocolate chips, chopped pecans, cranberries, dried blueberries, dried apricots or currants, or replace the oats or spelt flakes with your favourite muesli.

Download printable recipe (PDF) 


Cornish pasties

Pasties are semi-circular hand pies with a distinctive crimped edge. Today they are often sold in British train stations with a range of fillings, but in the past they were only made with meat, potato, onion and turnip. They were eaten by fishermen and other workmen, but especially by the miners of Cornwall in the many tin, silver and copper mines that are still dotted around the rugged landscape of the Cornish peninsula. An 1861 newspaper article from Leeds indicates
that the Cornish pasty was already being sold to tourists in the region at the time. By then the pasty was no longer just food for the working people, and Victorian tourists would buy them as the local delicacy.

At the beginning of the 19th century, many Cornish miners emigrated to the American states of California, Montana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and to Mexico and Australia. Known as the best miners in the world with the most progressive tools and the best techniques, they started working in mines that were sometimes even bought up by British investors. They took their culture of pasties with them and, as a result, a pasty culture emerged in those regions. In 1968, Governor George Romney declared 24 May as Pasty Day in the state of Michigan. There you will now find places that sell pasties as Michigan pasties.

In Mexico’s state Hidalgo, the pasty is the legacy of the mining past. Here the pasty has Mexican-style fillings such as mole, a spicy chilli and chocolate sauce, and tinga, pulled pork marinated in a sauce of chipotle, pepper and tomatoes. In Real Del Monte, Cornish Mexico, auténtico paste is decorated with the flag of Cornwall. There is a Museo del Paste and the city holds an international pasty festival every year.

In 2011, Cornish pasties were granted a PGI status by the EU, which means a pasty can only be called a Cornish pasty if it’s made in Cornwall, has the shape of a D, it contains a minimum of 12.5 per cent raw beef, turnip, potato, onion and a light seasoning, and the dough is shortcrust and crimped on one side, never on top. Where the crimped edge should be is debatable, since I have found a postcard from around 1900 showing the pasties crimped on the top and not the side. That goes to show that what is considered authentic or traditional is often not certain.

For 6 pasties

For the shortcrust pastry
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
½ tsp sea salt
300 g (10½ oz) chilled butter, diced
150 ml (5 fl oz) water
flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks + 2 tbsp milk, for egg wash

For the filling
450 g (1 lb) onglet, skirt steak or hanging tender
450 g (1 lb) floury potatoes
120 g (4¼ oz) turnip
2 onions
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Make the pastry by combining the flour, salt and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse for 8 seconds or until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse again until the dough forms a ball in the bowl. Remove from the bowl and knead briefly. You can also do this by hand by rubbing the butter into the flour and salt until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs, then add the water. Remove from the bowl and knead to bring the pastry together. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

For the filling, chop the meat, potatoes and turnip into 1 cm (½ inch) cubes. Finely chop the onion. Combine the meat and vegetables in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface. Using a plate as a guide, cut out six 24 cm (9½ inch) circles and brush the edges with the egg wash. Divide the filling among the centre of the circles and fold in half. Use your fingers to crimp the pastry in the traditional way.

Lay the pasties on their side on the baking tray and brush with the egg wash. Bake for 40–50 minutes until the pasties are golden brown. Serve hot, or reheat the next day.

Download printable recipe (PDF)