We have got this big house behind us. This isn’t it! It’s across what seems like a large field, which is actually their yard, and I’m a little bit obsessed with it. Around Christmas time I am often to be found staring out of the window yelling to the Pony …
“Babes, the big house has put the Christmas lights up”.
“Babes, they have the nicest lights this year”.
“Oh look, they are having a party”.
“Look at them in their big house, they have just spilled onto the balcony and they have canapés and martinis”. (Yes, I have got binoculars out before).
The response is … “Yes sweetie, let’s stop being bitchy about the big house”.
I’m not even really bitchy about it, but they aren’t gardeners. they just have this huge kind of field that they mow whilst whooshing up big clouds of dust. ‘The big house is mowing” I yell. “Hmmmm” says Pony.
They do have the nicest Christmas lights though. They choose white and not some horrid multi colour display. I’m like “Look how tasteful their lights are”. Pony is like “Let’s stop being bitchy about the big house”.
The man who lives there once had his foot in a moon boot. I spotted this when I got off the train at the same time as him. I thought… oh good, maybe he can’t mow for a while. Pony said ” Let’s stop being bitchy about the man in the big house”.
This morning someone from the big house tipped a palm frond over our fence… Pony said … “Darling, the big house are retaliating because it was clearly you who had tipped the palm frond over to their side first”. I’m like “Hmmmm, I wonder when the big house will put up their Christmas lights?”.
Anyway, I expect they bake lots of lovely Christmas treats at the big house, but it won’t be as good as Nigellas sticky gingerbread which I made today. This is the recipe:
I can’t disentangle the smell of gingerbread from the smell of Christmas: I can think of no better welcome as people come through the door of the kitchen than the waft of it freshly baking in the oven. It is relaxingly simple to prepare, is good at any hour and keeps wonderfully.
I’m happy with it unfrosted, just left plain or perhaps snowily dusted with icing sugar, but if you want you can (as I do if it is for a bake sale) make a sharply contrasting icing by sieving 175g icing sugar and mixing it till thick and spreadable with a tablespoon of lemon juice and one of warm water. Spread this over the cold slab of gingerbread, and leave to set before cutting.
But it is, perhaps, the simplicity of the gingerbread, sticky with syrup and dark muscovado sugar, that makes me love it most. A square of it with a nice cup of tea would make even wrapping-up seem less vile, though I’d recommend having a pack of wipes nearby.
- 150g butter
- 200g golden syrup
- 200g black treacle or molasses
- 125g dark muscovado sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 2 x 15ml tablespoons warm water
- 250ml full-fat milk
- 2 eggs, beaten to mix
- 300g plain flour
1 Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3 and line a roasting tin or ovenproof dish (approx. 30cm x 20cm x 5cm) with Bake-O-Glide, foil or baking parchment (if using foil, grease it too).
2 In a saucepan, melt the butter over a lowish heat along with the sugar, syrup, treacle, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves.
3 Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and dissolved bicarbonate of soda in its water.
4 Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry. This is part of
what makes it sticky later.
5 Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 45–60 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools.
6 Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the tin before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it.
Makes 20 squares
MAKE AHEAD TIP:
Make the gingerbread up to 2 weeks ahead, wrap loosely in baking parchment and store in an airtight
tin. Cut into squares as required.
FREEZE AHEAD TIP:
Make the gingerbread, wrap in baking parchment and a layer of foil then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 3–4 hours and cut into squares
We used to call this Parkin in England and eat it on Bonfire night along with treacle toffee and baked potatoes wrapped in foil poked into the embers of the fire. Many a tooth was probably lost to that treacle toffee. It was the best food ever though, eaten outside smelling all the firework and bonfirey smells. That was in the days where the whole street would get together to put on events. Queens Jubilee, Royal weddings etc. Street parties are not really a thing anymore are they? Maybe everyone’s Mum got shitted about having to make so much Parkin and treacle toffee! Shame.