When I was young, our family holidays were spent trawling round a seemingly endless stream of National Trust properties.
The modus operandi of such a visit normally went like this:
- Pile out of car. Dogs escape and chase peacocks.
- Get dragged round stately home. Whinge. Try to touch v. expensive things and set alarms off. Punch sisters.
- Released into garden. Roll down any available slopes and ruin clothes, until it starts to rain.
- Gift shop! Buy rainbow coloured erasers, marbles and Kendal mint cake.
- Teashop! Eat too much cake and drink suspiciously warm squash.
- Back to the caravan, to sit inside watching the rain snake sideways across Hexham racecourse and play complicated board games (Poleconomy, anyone?), ignoring the smell of wet dog and chemical toilet.
All these visits blend into a blur of oak panelling, peacocks, and feeling a bit sick from the combined effects of hill-rolling and cake. But one thing sticks in my mind – an amazing slab of ginger shortcake, with thick, sticky, gingery icing. I can’t remember which NT teashop provided it, but it was one of the tastiest things I had ever eaten in all my tender years.
If I went and rummaged in my bookshelf now I would find a small paper pamphlet containing the recipe (and several more Olde Englishe treats) purchased from the ubiquitous gift shop. But old recipe books are BORING. So I bought a new one: Slices, an anonymous but beautifully bound cookbok from an Australian publisher. It’s currently reduced to £6 on Amazon and seriously well worth the cash.
It’s a gorgeous book – hardbound, with lovely photos to illustrate each of the tasty recipes. I’ve got a few earmarked but I couldn’t resist the lure of the ginger shortbread, which looked like a carbon copy of the National Trust delicacy of my youth. I made it with a few adaptations – I didn’t have any rice flour or crystallised ginger as per the recipe, and I made extra icing 🙂
Ginger shortbread (adapted from Slices, by Murdoch Publishing)
- Preheat the oven to 180C (gas 4)
- Line an 8x8inch tin with baking liner
- Cream 220g butter with 115g caster sugar until pale and fluffy (whatever that means – I bunged it in the Kenwood chef and wandered off to do the laundry for a bit)
- Stir in 300g plain flour and 1 tablespoon ground ginger, to make a dough.
- Push dough into tin, bake for about 20-25mins until golden. Leave to cool down for a bit.
- Make the topping – put 200g icing sugar, 75g butter, 100g golden syrup and 2 teaspoons ground ginger in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until it makes a smooth icing.
- Pour the icing over the shortbread and leave to cool.
- You could top it with chopped crystallised or stem ginger (I didn’t have any)
- I also reckon that it would be AWESOME if you topped it with dark chocolate melted with a bit of butter to make it softer. And if you did that, maybe some cocoa powder in the shortbread would be awesome too.
- Cut into as many squares as you like, depending on how greedy/generous you feel.
- Serve with suspiciously warm squash and a dollop of nostalgia
- *UPDATE* This recipe give a ratio of roughly 70% base to 30% topping. If you want proportionally more topping, and less base, then try the following recipe: For the base, use 150g butter, 80g caster sugar, 230g four and 1 tablespoon ground ginger. For the topping, use 240g icing sugar, 80g butter, 120g syrup and 2 tsp ground ginger. Yummy!