Sandra’s Taste of Britain – April 2012
“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.
Follow your spirit, and, upon this charge
Cry God for Harry, England and St George”
William Shakespeare, Henry V
AAAH TO be in England now that Spring is here … not sure if that is the same anymore with all the weird changes in the weather, but I do remember April being a delightful month with all the daffodils, tulips and bulbs coming out, especially when I was at Cambridge and seeing the backs covered in a delight of flowers. I always enjoyed April especially as it also my birthday (yeah fellow Aries!), but also St George’s Day on the 23rd, and Shakespeare’s Day the same day. Not that it is a national holiday or anything, which I think a shame, not so much for Will, but certainly for St George. My internet resources say that St George was actually born in Turkey in the Third Century was a Christian, and a very brave Roman soldier. He was made England’s patron saint in the 14th century; some questions lay there as it has not been proved that he actually was ever in England, although some studies say he was in Glastonbury and Caerlon. He is always pictured riding a white horse, with a white shield and red cross, slaying a dragon, apparently trying to save a princess … however we may not be able to prove this, but it is dramatic!. There is not a general celebration of St Georges’ Day (although we at the Sarasota British Club had a few celebrations, but then it doesn’t take much to get a bunch of Brits together for food and libations does it!)
There are several celebrations noted on the ’net including a Michelin star restaurant in London, who is launching a beer and food matching menu, featuring British beers, and foods such as Mussels and smoked haddock appetizer, Cooked Pork Belly and a chocolate fondant dessert with Sam Smith’s cherry beer … I know I should think anything cherry is good (being my last name) but a beer? Other towns doing celebrations are Croydon old Town, Buckingham, Staffordshire have a parade, and Tamworth in Surry. I hope there are more, however the focus this year of course is on the upcoming Jubilee and Olympics.
OK, really a big part of April is Easter, which is pretty early this year, and there are so many traditional Easter dishes, which I have featured several times. I couldn’t think of what to feature this month that was a treat, until yesterday when I had tea with friends and our lovely Scottish hostess who served Empire Biscuits with her delectable delights. Empire biscuits were often requested years ago by early readers, and I just couldn’t find them until we visited a tea room in Lanark, near Glasgow in 2000, where they were available. I explained to the owner that I had been searching for the recipe when an elderly customer kindly commented that I wouldn’t find them in a cook book as Empire biscuits, as they used to be called German Biscuits, then after WWI, the name was changed. So again I present 12 years later my version of this treat using my basic shortbread recipe. I hope you like my version.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp icing ( confectioners) sugar
1-2 tsp water
18 glace cherries cut in half
Cut butter into dry ingredients (can use a food processor) until evenly mixed, don’t overdo though
Spread out and pat firmly evenly into a lightly greased baking sheet. Mark round with a 2-3 inch round cutter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and bake 30-40 minutes at 325 degrees until lightly golden. Remove from oven, let cool slightly then cut again the rounds into the shortbread. When cool, remove rounds to a cooling rack (Save the rest and use as a base for pies instead of graham cracker crumbs). Mix icing sugar and water until smooth, but not too thin, and spread over half of the rounds, top with half a glace cherry. Before serving, spread un-iced half with raspberry jam, and top with the iced half. Yield about 18-24
(I welcome comments, recipes and requests and can be reached at Yourcuppatea1@yahoo.com.)