This one goes out to my friend Carole. She pointed out that I’d been missing in action – that I hadn’t blogged very consistently lately. Actually her words were nicer than that…She told me that she missed reading about what I was up to in my kitchen. So Carole – for you – I’m back. Thanks for the prod.
I know I’ve been remiss – I’ve been away from my blog for nearly a month and prior to that, for the past six months, I’ve been, at best, erratic.
My life got a little unmanageable in ways both wonderful and also sad. I haven’t managed to spend one entire week at home since the beginning of last September. Between work, a surprisingly extensive book tour, and visiting my elderly mother in hospital six hours drive away across the province – I’ve been on the road constantly. Aside from the fact that my mother is seriously unwell and I’ve had so little chance to get anything done at home – it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve seen bits of countryside that I didn’t know existed. I’ve driven thousands of kilometers on highways and back-roads – seen forests, and cities, and sunsets over Ontario’s beautiful northern lakes. I’ve listened to hour after hour of CBC radio, endless Adele mixed up with Joan Baez, and a whole load of 99.1 Jazz FM. I’ve seen so many old friends, even ones from grade school who showed up and warmed my heart at various events I’ve been at. I’ve met some fabulous new people. I’ve faced a stack of fears. I’ve spent time in Toronto and Ottawa and places I haven’t been to for years. Rode my friend Susan’s husband’s bicycle around Waterloo with her as we grocery shopped at fabulous little stores and then cooked dinners together afterwards. And discovered new places too – charming old hamlets like Almonte and Millbrook where it feels like graciousness perseveres.
And I spent time, not enough, but still hours and hours, with my mother, in her hospital room. She likes it when I read to her. And I like it too because there’s never enough time to get through all the books I both should and want to read. Reading out loud to someone is such a way of slowing down. Of sharing. We read a beautiful story about the real life Alice of Alice in Wonderland. And we read other things too. On one of my last trips, I read to her from A Taste of Haida Gwaii. This is a new food book by much revered Canadian writer, poet, and novelist, Susan Musgrave.
Haida Gwaii, for those of you unfamiliar, is the archipelago formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, on the North Coast of British Columbia, Canada. It takes its new name for its original population – the Haida people.
I can hardly begin to express how much I love this book. Part memoir, part cookbook, part photography album – it is such a rare and substantial treasure. At times revealing, at times touching, at times funny, and constantly real – this book is a brilliant reminder about the significance of food to life. I read chunks of it out loud to my mother. When I got to the Welsh Griddle Cakes, I first read her the section of text and then stopped when I got to the recipe. “Please read me the recipe,” she said. So I did. And she knows her griddle cakes, my Mum, she came from the North of England. When I finished, she said, “It’s right – that recipe. Exactly right. How I wish I could have one.”
So for my Mum – here you go – Susan Musgrave’s perfect recipe for Welsh Griddle Cakes. I adapted the recipe ever so slightly. I didn’t have any candied peel and so made them with just the currants. I made half the quantity. I also didn’t have any mace. They were wonderful even without the peel and mace but if I’d had them – I would have used them. I also don’t own a griddle or an electric fry pan. So I made them on the stove top, where they took slightly longer than the recommended four minutes per side but my pan was probably not hot enough.
This book – A Taste of Haida Gwaii – is simply wonderful. A joy to read and cook from. Probably my absolute favourite food book. I’m devouring it.
Susan Musgrave's Welsh Griddle Cakes
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 scant cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1 cup butter
- 3/4 cup currants
- 1/4 cup finely chopped candied peel
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 6 tbsp milk
Sift dry ingredients together and cut in the butter until the texture of fine bread crumbs is achieved.
Add the currants, peel, eggs, and milk; mix to form a stiff dough.
Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness, handling the dough as little as possible. Cut in 2 inch rounds with a cookie cutter, preferably a fluted one (see A Taste of Haida Gwaii for more on this…).
Cook on low heat on a lightly greased preheated griddle, cast iron frying pan, or electric frying pan set at 250 deg F. Cook four minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve hot, by themselves, or with butter, jam, or cheese. Or serve them any way you like – warm, cold – with whatever you see fit. I served them warm with butter and red wine jelly. They were just as my mother expected, exactly right.