Appetite 66 – January/February 2022

Alright, treacle?

Editor ponders a recipe missing a vital ingredient, which she has never noticed

Where, dear reader, does the time go? Yes, obviously I realise it passes in the shape of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months years etc, but where, really, does it go?

Take a cookbook I gave to my mother years ago (circa 1982) which I assumed must be terribly fine because it bears the name of a well-known food writer of the time and I know my mother used it, and she was a superb cook. But looking up treacle tart in it the other day (to double check my mother’s handwritten recipe from her kitchen notebook) I realised (aghast) that the recipe in the book omitted the essential breadcrumbs. 

Now, I have used this book’s recipe for treacle tart numerous times and have never noticed that the breadcrumbs aren’t actually there (though obviously I always include them), which tells me what while following this recipe, I am not following it at all. It is simply there, as it has always been, and I’ve never consciously noticed the lack of this essential ingredient.

Which brings me on to how hard it is, as a cook, to write an accurate recipe down. Most of us who cook regularly do so by rote. I weigh ingredients for cakes and patisserie, but everything else is done by eye, smell and taste, and if I pick up a recipe for, say, treacle tart, which misses an essential ingredient, I probably won’t consciously notice it, because I know it has to be there anyway.

It is often really hard for the chefs who contribute to this magazine to write down their recipes accurately; something which becomes clear when I read them, cook them in my head, and realise something is missing. This has at times, I admit, made me pretty fed up, but then if I can follow a treacle tart recipe for decades and only realise the breadcrumbs aren’t in it when I properly look at it, who am I to talk?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, save to say, the old recipes are the best and if all the ingredients and steps aren’t there, forgive the writer. The best cooks don’t always know what they do because they just do it, and who are the rest of us to talk? 

Alternatively, take all the work out of it and join us in eating out as much as possible this NE1 Newcastle Restaurant Week – full details on pages 18-21!

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