Inspiring photo essay: makin’ parkin

In a move not at all nicked from Robbie Hudson, I have decided to inspire you into making your own parkin with this stunning photo essay.

If you don’t know what parkin is by now then either a) you haven’t been reading this blog very long or b) nothing I say goes into that little brain of yours and why do I bother? Parkin, for the uninitiated or stupid, is a ginger cake from the North that gets eaten around bonfire night and, for some unfathomable reason, is completely unavailable down London way. Backed into a corner, I started making my own, from this recipe by Delia Smith.

First off: measure out 110g of self raising flour. Until very recently I didn’t possess a set of baking scales (nor do I own a set of bathroom scales, because they are UNFEMINIST) so I used this measuring jug. For whatever reason it works for parkin. Note: it doesn’t work for anything else, as my attempts at anything else would attest to.

Next, measure out 225g of medium oatmeal. I’ve only ever found oatmeal in health food shops. I enjoy the thrill of buying a packet knowing it’s going into cake, not some virtuous glutinous breakfast. Take that, Holland & Barrett!

Add two teaspoons of ground ginger and a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients. I also like to add a generous grating of nutmeg, but that’s because I’m a baking rebel.

Behold, the liquid sugar! Please don’t think I’m a ponce because I’m using organic black treacle. If you can persuade any of the local supermarkets in Lewisham to start stocking Tate and Lyle treacle again, I’ll happily use it. I even emailed Sainsbury’s to whinge – a sure sign of encroaching middle age – and received a reply assuring me they’d get it in again. I don’t see it. They can find space for agave sweetener but not treacle. For fuck’s sake.

Yummy. This pan holds 110g of margarine – yes, MARGARINE, you middle classes – 110g of brown sugar, 200g of golden syrup and 25g “plus one teaspoon” (Delia’s words, not mine. I don’t really understand why this one extra teaspoon is so important, nor why it couldn’t be incorporated into the measurement) of black treacle. At least, in theory it’s 200g of golden syrup and 25g-ish of black treacle. As I’ve said, until recently I didn’t have any scales so I worked out a complicated system of how many tablespoons that meant. Now I just do it by eye. I am the QUEEN of baking rebels!

Melt the stuff in the pan. Add it to the dry ingredients. Try not to think how much it looks like something that would be produced in the course of some dreadful bowel disease.

Add an egg. Add a splash of milk. At this point you may (if you are me) find this an excellent time to realise you won’t have enough milk for breakfast tomorrow, and that neither do you have any bread left. You still won’t go round the corner to buy some more.

Beat in the egg and the milk. Then, if you like, you can add 100g of mixed peel. Or, since these photos are from before Christmas and not from my most recent parkin-making session, you can add half of tub of what you think is mixed peel but actually turns out to be glacé ginger. They look bloody identical. Apart from, of course, the label, which I, of course, didn’t read until after I’d tipped it into the batter. It’s rather fortunate it didn’t turn out to be a tub of cubed, orangey poison. Though why Sainsbury’s would sell that I don’t know. (Cue barbed comments about lots of other things Sainsbury’s sell.) Also, that premise hinges on my not carrying on with the baking after the discovery that I’d used cubed, orangey poison. But on that note I’d say: don’t underestimate my stupidity.

You’ll have spotted, because you’re much brighter than me, that what we have now is a runny mess. So you’ll need to line your baking tin. I am clearly fucking awesome at that.

Tip the runny mess into the lined baking tin. Stick it into an oven preheated to gas mark 1 (that’s 275F in real money) for one and three-quarter to two hours. The glory of this recipe is that it’s so wet it’s almost impossible to burn it unless you forget about it; but the ginger smell wafting through the flat means you can’t. It is pretty much foolproof. I am the proof of this.

Et voila! You should really wait a week before eating it, parkin genuinely improves with time.

None of you have any excuse now.

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